Police officer shot, wounded at Flag House high-rise Plainclothesman ambushed at Southeast Baltimore complex

September 19, 1992|By Michael James and Roger Twigg | Michael James and Roger Twigg,Staff Writers Michael A. Fletcher and David Simon contributed to this article

A plainclothes police officer was shot in the head and critically wounded yesterday after being ambushed in a Southeast Baltimore high-rise where sniper fire pinned down police less than a month ago.

Officer James E. Young Jr., 26, was shot with his own gun. He remained in critical but stable condition last night at Maryland Shock Trauma Center, hours after paramedics and a fellow police officer brought him out of cardiac arrest.

Two men and a teen-ager were charged in the shooting last night, and "We're still piecing together what led up to the shooting. The officer had been in some type of struggle with the suspects," police spokesman Sam Ringgold said.

The officer was shot about 11:45 a.m. in the hallway of a high-rise at 127 S. Exeter St., in the Flag House Courts public housing complex. Within minutes of the shooting, more than 50 police officers had arrived at the scene. They sealed off the building and took positions on balconies during the hunt for the officer's assailant.

At 11:30 a.m., police said, Officer Young and his partner went to investigate a report of a man armed with a gun at the complex, which is behind the Corned Beef Row area near Little Italy.

After arriving at Flag House Courts, the officers went to a high-rise near Watson and High streets and then to the building at 127 S. Exeter. When they reached the third floor of the second building, the officers separated. They were at opposite ends of the hallway when the shooting occurred, police said.

At least one attacker jumped Officer Young, wrestled his gun from him and shot him in the head. His partner, another plainclothes officer, ran to assist him and the attacker fled, police said.

The officer's 9mm Glock handgun was later recovered on a second-floor ledge, police said.

Arrested inside the building were Sean Lamont Little, 21, who lives there; Kevin Lamont Green, 23, of the 200 block of N. Colvin St.; and Vernon Silver, 16, of the 2400 block of Callow Ave. The Silver youth was charged as an adult.

Each was charged with attempted murder, use of a handgun in a crime of violence, possession of a handgun, and armed robbery. They were being held at the Central District lockup pending a bail review today.

Police said the armed robbery charge relates to the taking of Officer Young's gun and other personal belongings, which investigators refused to identify.

Officer Young, who has worked in the Southeastern District for three years, was on assignment yesterday for the robbery and narcotics detail.

At roll call at the district yesterday, his fellow officers were told that the bullet passed through his head and that bone fragments pierced his brain. Officers were told that he was able to respond to some commands and that he came out of surgery in stable condition.

The motive for the attack is unknown, but the violence and aggression toward police are not unusual at Flag House, where 10 police officers were pinned down Aug. 20 by snipers firing from one of the buildings. No suspects were charged.

No officers were injured in that incident, but they had to be rescued by an armored car brought in from Prince George's County, a rescue that underscored the rising crime problems in public housing.

Drug activity is prevalent in Flag House, a housing project with three high-rise buildings, said Bill Toohey, a spokesman for the city Housing Authority. There are 500 apartments in the development, which is home to 1,200 people, 60 percent of whom are under 18.

Thursday night, in the same building, a four-person plainclothes drug unit chased a drug suspect from a hallway, he said. The suspect eluded arrest, but not before he dropped 163 vials of suspected cocaine, 19 capsules of suspected heroin and two hand guns, a .38-caliber and a .22-caliber. Both guns were loaded.

And, just 15 minutes before yesterday's shooting, police made a drug arrest in the building, but specifics of that case were unavailable.

Accompanied by Housing Commissioner Robert Hearn, Mayor Schmoke toured the shooting scene yesterday afternoon. He walked into a dingy stairwell and up into the building at 127 S. Exeter St.

He returned to the front of the building and shook his head as he looked up at the high-rise, which is pockmarked by broken windows. "What we have is every social problem imaginable concentrated here,"the mayor said to Mr. Hearn.

As residents gathered around him, Mr. Schmoke repeated his call for federal money that would allow the city to convert high-rise public housing units into senior citizen housing. Families, he said, should live in low-rise or scattered site units because they are easier to police.

As the mayor was making his way out of the project, he was stopped by Ursula Brooks, a Flag House resident. "We need something to help our children's lives," she said to the mayor. "We need help."

CITY POLICE SHOT/KILLED/ASSAULTED/INJURED

L Officers. ... Officers. ..... Total. ....... Total Year. . ... shot. ....... killed......... assaulted. ... injured

1980. ...... 5. ........... 0. .......... 1,369. ........... 233

1981. ...... 2............. 1............ 1,386. ........... 193

1982........ 1. ........... 0............ 1,562. ........... 179

1983........ 1. ........... 0............ 1,468. ........... 141

1984. ..... 10. ........... 1............ 1,595............. 219

1985. ...... 3. ........... 2. .......... 1,667............. 201

2. ........... 2. ...........1,665............. 225

1987. ...... 6. ........... 0. .......... 1,822. ........... 240

1988. ...... 4. ........... 0. .......... 1,855............. 358

4. ........... 1............ 1,804............. 306

1990. ...... 8. ........... 0............ 1,737............. 329

Totals. ... 46. ........... 7. ..........17,930. .. . .... 2,624

xTC Averages. .4.2.......... ...6.............1,630. ......... 238.5

So: Baltimore City Police Department, Planning and Research Division's Crime Analysis Section, April 1991

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