Gunfire -- then silence Murphy homes pauses after shootout

February 05, 1992|By Robert Hilson Jr.

Something was wrong. The hallway was quiet -- usually it's noisy. Children usually play in the hall, and neighbors usually talk to each other as they wait for the elevator.

But yesterday no music blared from the apartments, and no one was in the fifth-floor hallway of the 1058 Argyle Ave. building of the George B. Murphy public housing development.

"It's always this way for a while after someone gets shot or they have a raid. People just don't know what to do yet," one resident said, adding:"And we had us some shooting here last night."

The resident, a small, frail woman who lives on the floor with two young children, stayed in her doorway yesterday and pointed to the end of the painted, cinder-block hallway where a large splotch of dried blood stained the floor.

Chalk outlined areas where police had recovered evidence.

Hours earlier, plainclothes police officers had killed one man and wounded five other people.

Police said Wayne D. Watts, 25, of the 700 block of West Saratoga Street, died after being taken to Maryland Shock Trauma Center.

Mr. Watts and four others were allegedly involved in drug activity in the hallway about 8 p.m. Monday when the officers attempted to break up the gathering.

Mr. Watts fired at least four shots from a .357-caliber Magnum revolver at the officers, police spokesman Dennis S. Hill said. The officers returned 15 shots.

The gunfire also hit a sixth person, a woman, an apparent innocent bystander, who wandered into the hallway as the gunfire erupted, Mr.Hill said. She was treated for a leg wound at the University of Maryland Medical Center and released.

Four other people wounded were taken to the University of Maryland Medical Center, where they were admitted for gunshot wounds.

Mr. Hill said that the shooting is still under investigation but that the officers appeared to have followed police procedure during the shooting.

Mr. Hill said the officers did not shoot into the crowd until one of the suspects fired at them. "The officer's first responsibility is to get out of the situation alive," he said.

The building has a long history of drug activity, and some residents said they had learned to cope with it. They said it was not unusual to see children on riding toys in the hallways while dope dealers transacted business.

The "druggies," as some residents call them, and the children seem oblivious to each other.

"They have no problems with each other," said Pamela Emerson, who lives on the fifth floor with her 5-year-old son and sister.

"The children play, and the drug people get high. All on the same floor, sometimes right next to each other. You can call it togetherness."

Ms. Emerson was on the telephone when she heard the shots Monday night. They were rapid, and she was unsure if the yelling she heard was from people who had been shot or were trying to flee.

"When the shooting started last night, the first thing I thought about was Tyrone [her son]. I thought for a second he may have been out there playing. I started crying before I remembered that he was staying with his father," Ms. Emerson said.

"There was just a lot of yelling. It was bang, bang, bang and then screaming and yelling and everyone trying to talk at once. I went into the kitchen away from the door and just hoped and prayed I didn't hear any children's voices."

Ms. Emerson said scores of armed police offices arrived on the floor within minutes of the shooting, which she said lasted no longer than 20 seconds.

"They were in the hall telling us not to come out, as though anyone wanted to come," Ms. Emerson said.

Residents said they have often called police about drug dealing in the hallways and stairwells. Since the summer, drug activity has increased, many tenants said.

"It is a nightmare," said Phyllis Smith, who has lived in the building since 1979. "At one time I could tell you who sold dope, now everyone sells dope."

Baltimore Sun Articles
|
|
|
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.