Ralph E. Simms was fighting several men and losing badly in the early morning of Dec. 21 when he took a handgun out of his pants pocket and fired a couple of warning shots. He then took aim and shot one of the men, Leon Surgeon, in the groin.
Several of Mr. Surgeon's friends chased Simms from Annapolis' Robinwood public housing community into the adjacent Annapolis Overlook condominium complex. Simms took refuge in the homes of two families, smashing windows with an ax and terrorizing the families.
Simms, 18, of the 700 block of Bay Ridge Ave. in Annapolis, pleaded guilty yesterday in Circuit Court to assault with intent to main for shooting Mr. Surgeon and reckless endangerment for using a woman as a shield as he was being beaten with a piece of wood. He also pleaded guilty to charges of handgun possession and cocaine possession.
Simms had faced charges of attempted murder and the use of a handgun in a crime of violence, which could have brought him 30 years in prison. He also faced a possible 20-year sentence for burglary on charges of breaking into the homes of Bryan and Jayne Carlson and Ellen Bump that night.
Prosecutor Frederick M. Paone said he offered Simms a plea agreement, under which he will likely receive a sentence of four or five years, because of the circumstances of the fight and the subsequent pursuit.
"It was a compromise. I think it was right down the middle," Mr. Paone said. "I think it will be enough to make up for some of the terror the Bumps and Carlsons went through that night and since that time."
Simms' attorney, Timothy D. Murnane, said his client had a good case for self-defense, pointing out that if he had wanted to kill Surgeon, he would have fired at him more than once.
"So there was never any intent to kill. There was an intent to protect himself from severe bodily injury," Mr. Murnane said. "I feel really sorry for those people in the Annapolis Overlook who were terrorized. But the fear they felt was the same fear Ralph felt."
He said Simms decided to accept the plea agreement rather than take a chance on a trial.
"I explained it to Ralph, and it's a roll of the dice," Mr. Murnane said.
It is unclear what started the fight sometime after 3:30 a.m. that morning, but what is clear is that Simms was losing.
"Surgeon and the others, to put it mildly, were getting the best of the fight," Mr. Paone said during yesterday's hearing.
Simms pulled out the gun and fired the warning shots before shooting one time at Mr. Surgeon, who has since recovered.
"The defendant was not a very popular individual, and a crowd gathered around at this point," Mr. Paone said.
At least two men chased Simms onto the patio of the Carlsons' condominium in the unit block of Greystone Court, court records show. Simms was thrown through the window into the Carlsons' living room, where Mr. Carl son's visiting parents were sleeping. The Carlson family, which includes two boys, 8 years and 15 months old, was awakened by the noise and huddled in the middle of the room. Simms stayed with them.
When they heard the pursuing men breaking the windows to their condominium in search of Simms, the Carlsons went into a hallway and sought refuge with their neighbor, Ms. Bump, who was there with her 6-year-old daughter. Simms followed.
Simms ordered Ms. Bump to lock the door, but she refused and phoned police.
Moments later, the two men pursuing Simms broke into Ms. Bump's condominium. The Carlsons had escaped, but Simms was holding Ms. Bump, using her as a shield while one of the men, identified in court records as William R. Savoy Jr., began striking them both with the piece of wood. Ms. Bump was hit several times in her head and left hand.
Police arrived and arrested all three men. They found Simms in the bathroom, flushing cocaine down the toilet.
Mr. Savoy, 26, of the unit block of Monument St. in Annapolis, was charged with assault with intent to murder and burglary. Also charged is Benjamin D. Kirby Jr., 19, of the 100 block of Rosecroft Drive in Annapolis. They are scheduled for a hearing Tuesday in Annapolis Circuit Court.
Simms will be sentenced July 24, when he also will be sentenced on an unrelated cocaine distribution conviction.