Rosemont residents tired of watching the bodies fall

August 20, 1991|By Ginger Thompson and William F. Zorzi Jr.

An article in The Sun yesterday incorrectly reported that a shooting Sunday in which a 3-year-old girl and a 20-year-old man were killed happened in the Rosemont neighborhood. The shooting occurred at Clifton Avenue and Garrison Boulevard.

tTC * The Sun regrets the error.

Residents in West Baltimore's Rosemont neighborhood wanted desperately to believe that their involvement in block-watch programs and meetings with police would help rid the streets of the scourge of drugs and violence.

But the killing of a child caught in an apparent drug shooting Saturday night -- the second such murder in a month -- has all but broken their spirit.


"We have a block watch, and people cooperate, and the police come if we call -- to pick up the bodies," said Leo Burroughs Sr., who has lived in the poor, working-class community of row houses for 35 years.

"But to prevent this sort of thing, there's nothing you can do," said the angry and frustrated president of the Walbrook Civic League. "I've been out here 35 years. Nothing can be done. What else are you going to do?

"I'd like to move," Mr. Burroughs said. "You got a place?"

Moving out seems to him like the only answer to the increasing drug traffic and blood-letting that have plagued the neighborhoods near Walbrook Junction for years.

In the most recent tragedy, 3-year-old Shanika Day and Steve Allen Cochran, 20, the young man shielding her in his arms, were shot to death by at least two gunman in front of a row of businesses at Clifton Avenue and Garrison Boulevard. Two of the shots passed through Cochran's body and struck Shanika as he tried to shield the girl from the gunfire, police said.

The girl's mother and another man were also wounded in a burst of semiautomatic gunfire before the suspects fled in a waiting car.

It was one of the city's most brutal murders this year -- not only in Shanika's senseless death, but in that witnesses told police that Cochran's friends took money from his pockets as he lay in a pool of blood.

Homicide detectives have worked with little rest since the shooting but have not yet turned up the murder weapons, the suspects or the getaway car, believed to be an old Burgundy or rust-colored Toyota Corolla, police spokeswoman Agent Arlene K. Jenkins said yesterday.

Police believe the shooting "is possibly drug-related," Agent Jenkins said.

Cochran, who was on probation from a May conviction on a handgun charge, was well known to Southwestern District police officers who patrol the area and who chased him from neighborhood corners where drugs are often sold.

Just last week, Sgt. Paul L. Abell, who was the first officer at the murder scene, stopped Cochran near the same corner where he was shot to death in the back five times.

"He had a good amount of money on him and a beeper, but we weren't able to locate any drugs," Sergeant Abell said. "We know he's a regular up there."

The second man who was wounded, Bryant Jones, 18, was put on probation last month after being convicted of drug possession, according to Division of Parole and Probation records.

Saturday night's killings came as the neighborhood was still reeling from the death of 6-year-old Tiffany Smith, who was struck in the head by a stray bullet July 8 during a shootout between two men as she played on the sidewalk in front of a friend's house.

"Coming right off the killing of the other little girl makes the Walbrook area really seem terrible," Sergeant Abell said. "But I don't think it is. There are a lot of people up there who are good people.

"The violence is all over the city," he said. "It just so happens it struck up there twice."

Sergeant Abell credited residents with making a difference in police anti-drug efforts and said he hoped the tragedy would not discourage residents from continuing to help.

"The community is the real backbone to the whole thing," Sergeant Abell said.

But Mr. Burroughs and other residents say they have heard it before and are frustrated by continued drug dealing and drug-related violence.

"I wish we could get some more constructive efforts from someone that can do something," Mr. Burroughs said. "We talk and talk, and the news media talks, but it doesn't do any good.

"When I say nothing can be done, there's nothing that I or a great many people at my level can do," he said. "The people at the top have to take strong measures, but that's not happening.

"A great many people I talk to don't care. They don't care. They care for a few minutes, but then they forget. It's all talk," Mr. Burroughs said.

"I can buy a gun three blocks from my home -- don't need a permit, don't need any ID -- I can buy a gun. And turn around and shoot you, or shoot the guy down the street. It's a shame, but it's the way it goes."

Dorothy Dixon, president of the Walbrook Neighborhood Community Council, echoed Mr. Burroughs' frustration -- and the fear that so many of the area's older residents have of the violence that accompanies the drug trafficking on their street corners.

"It's just sad. These are innocent children," Ms. Dixon said. "But I'm skeptical about the young man that was holding her. I'm skeptical about all the young people. They're all drug-infested."

Asked how she thought the problem could be solved, Ms. Dixon said: "I think if we would all get together and plead and ask for these changes from our government.

"Well, we're not really asking for change. We're asking for help, because we don't know where else to turn."

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