Shooting victims had pockets rifled Police say thefts added to the tension

April 13, 1993|By Michael James | Michael James,Staff Writer

After 12 people were shot in an East Baltimore neighborhood during a Saturday night craps game, looters rifled through the pockets of the more seriously injured, stealing money, jewelry and other belongings, police said.

The thefts compounded an already tense situation in the community, said Maj. Alvin Winkler of the Eastern District.

"It is a very difficult neighborhood for us, because the good citizens there are so afraid," Major Winkler said. "What bothers me is that people didn't call us and tell us there were people shooting craps in their neighborhood. We could have stopped the game."

Instead of getting a call about the game, police responded to a call of a mass shooting at East 21st Street and Greenmount Avenue, arriving to find an often-angry crowd.

Some victims, lying in their own blood, complained that their wallets and belongings were stolen by a group of men who went through their pockets, police said. Their identities aren't known, police said.

Tension flared over the weekend between police and some residents, who felt that police went into the chaotic scene too aggressively, arresting five people for disorderly conduct and other minor charges.

"Basically we need to bring the two sides, the police and the community, together," said Sylvia Fulwood, the director of the East Baltimore Midway-Barclay Community Association.

"Personally, I think the police did as best they could with the crowd the other night," she said. "There were 300, maybe as many as 600 people, and bullet casings were lying all around. Police couldn't mess around. People's lives were hanging in the balance."

Craps games are not uncommon among high-rollers in the neighborhood, she said, but a lot of people are often scared to report anything to police.

"People are sometimes even scared to come to our monthly community meetings, because they're afraid they'll be fingered out for getting involved," Ms. Fulwood said.

The shooting occurred when four men, armed with an assault rifle and other guns, fired about 40 shots into the crowd after the craps game.

One of the men had lost money in the game and opened fire after demanding his money back, police said.

Police have arrested one suspect, Sean Levin Brooks, 23, of the 2000 block of Greenmount Ave., and are seeking three other unidentified men. Mr. Brooks is being held at the Baltimore City Detention Center on $1 million bond, charged with 12 counts of attempted murder and handgun violations.

He was arrested Sunday at the Citibank office in the first block of St. Paul St., where he is employed by a private security firm as a guard, police said.

Of the 12 victims -- all of whom are expected to survive -- eight have criminal histories ranging from arrests for possession of cocaine to handgun violations to heroin trafficking, according to criminal records.

Major Winkler said he was aware of the criminal background of several of the victims, noting, "They were victims, but many of them are also part of what's going on with the problems out there. They're part of the culture."

One investigator said the group of men had been playing for a pot of "several hundred dollars."

Although community patrol officers occasionally walk along East 21st Street, they did not notice the game, probably because the players were tipped off when an officer was approaching, police said.

The community association will hold a meeting May 3 at 7 p.m. in the Kirk Multipurpose Center to discuss ways to improve relations between residents and police.

Also to be discussed will be ways to get more citizens involved in crime-watch activities in their communities.

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