Home of anti-drug warrior is raked by gunfire

December 18, 1992|By Robert Hilson Jr. | Robert Hilson Jr.,Staff Writer

The gunfire crackled as Robert Nowlin slept. It shattered the early morning quiet and sent bullets crashing into the living room walls and ceiling of his North Baltimore rowhouse.

One bullet broke a window near a tinseled Christmas tree.

Another punctured the wall of a stairway near the area where Mr. Nowlin's four young children slept.

"It was like bullets were bouncing around everywhere down there," said Mr. Nowlin, who is blind.

"It sounded very, very close. It seemed like an eternity. I was

wandering when it would cease."

No one was seriously injured during Tuesday's 3:30 a.m. attack.

Mr. Nowlin spoke about the incident yesterday while seated in the living room of his home in the 600 block of Cator Ave. in the Pen Lucy community.

Mr. Nowlin's wife, Erlene, cut her foot on broken glass while walking in the living room shortly after the shooting.

The Nowlins' children -- ages 3, 7, 10 and 14 -- were shaken but unharmed.

At least 12 shots were fired from semiautomatic weapons aimed at the Nowlin home and that of a neighbor.

Police found .45-caliber and 9mm shells in the street about 100 feet from the two houses.

No arrests have been made in connection with the attack.

Mr. Nowlin, 53, the president of the Pen Lucy community organization, said the shots may have been retaliation for his efforts to rid the neighborhood of drugs.

Lt. Walter Tuffy of the Northern District noted that many drug arrests have been made in the area, but he declined to speculate on the reason for the attack.

On Monday afternoon, a house in the block of Cator Avenue where Mr. Nowlin lives had been raided by narcotics investigators.

Afterward, Mr. Nowlin said, he heard people on the street linking his name to the raid.

"They were out there saying 'that blind five-0 [slang for police] did this,' " Mr. Nowlin recalled. "They think I called police on them. How could I possibly be involved in a drug bust. So them hoodlums came back and shot the front of my house up."

Although he has called police to the area on numerous occasions for suspicious activity, he said he did not call before Monday's drug bust.

In the little more than a year that he has been president of the community organization, Mr. Nowlin has led anti-drug rallies, passed out fliers, held candlelight vigils and urged residents to turn on their porch lights at night to deter drugs and crime.

During that time, he said, the neighborhood has improved, but it is still plagued with drugs.

In recent months, rival gangs have had gunbattles on nearby Old York Road, and residents said the skirmishes have spilled into the surrounding neighborhoods.

"They shoot and try to kill each other and anybody who might want to stop them," said a resident of Frisby Road and a longtime resident of Pen Lucy.

L "It's called trying to intimidate people. It usually works."

But Mr. Nowlin said he will not slow his effort to make the neighborhood safer.

"I'm trying to make a better quality of living in this neighborhood," Mr. Nowlin said.

"This is very disruptive for the community. The neighborhood is a lot for the better, but it still has a terrible drug problem -- and now fear."

A police car has been stationed in front of the Nowlin house each night since the shooting.

Pockmarked by bullet holes, the front of the house serves as sobering reminder of the gunfire.

"When it happened, I was frightened, I was angry and I was sad. I couldn't believe that anybody could be cold and thoughtless," ,, said Mr. Nowlin.

He described the gunmen as "hard-core thugs."

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