By stander slain by dealers' gunfire

December 01, 1993|By Gregory P. Kane and Michael James | Gregory P. Kane and Michael James,Staff Writers Staff writer Eric Siegel contributed to this article.

An article in The Sun Dec. 1 reported incorrectly the name and age of murder victim Elzie Wood, Jr., 39, who was fatally wounded Nov. 29 in the 700 block of E. 21st St.

The Sun regrets the errors.

For the second time this year, an East Baltimore neighborhood around 21st Street and Greenmount Avenue has been ravaged by drug dealers' gunfire -- this time leaving a bystander dead, two men injured, and bullets lodged in cars and buildings.

The corner is just down the street from where 12 people were injured April 10 in a spray of gunfire after a heated craps game. And just last Friday, citizens and politicians were only a block away staging a rally in an attempt to reclaim a corner from drug dealers.

FOR THE RECORD - CORRECTION

Police said the latest shooting occurred about 9:15 p.m. Monday, when an argument between a half-dozen people on the street culminated with two men wildly firing 17 shots from .45- and .25-caliber semiautomatic pistols.

One of the shots struck 38-year-old Elize "Buddy" Wood in the head as he walked down the steps of the rowhouse in the 700 block of E. 21st St., where he lived with his 73-year-old mother. He collapsed on the sidewalk and died seven hours later at Johns Hopkins Hospital.

"He was on his way to the store to get some cigarettes," said Mr. Wood's cousin, Walter "Pete" Robinson, 54. "As he stepped out the door, he got shot. The bullet went in his mouth and severed his brain stem."

The homicide is the city's 324th of 1993 -- 21 more than at this time last year and 11 away from the record number of homicides set a year ago.

Two other men -- George Milburn, 38, of the 400 block of E. Lanvale St., and Norman Williams, 18, of the 5600 block of Loch Raven Blvd. -- were each hit twice. Mr. Milburn was struck in the groin and leg and was listed in serious condition at Johns Hopkins.

Mr. Williams, shot in the arm and buttocks, was treated and released at Union Memorial Hospital.

Stray bullets sent residents scattering for cover. At least one parked car was struck and another bullet lodged in the light pole at 21st and Boone streets. Yet another shot struck the side of a brick rowhouse.

Philip Haskins, 84, who has lived in the block for nearly 42 years with his wife Janie, 85, was sitting in a chair when a bullet smashed through his window. The couple said yesterday that drug dealers have taken over the streets and that no one can feel safe anymore.

"It's just in the last three to four years we've been having so much trouble," said Mrs. Haskins.

"Then it went crazy," Mr. Haskins continued, "and it's getting crazier."

The motive for Monday's shooting appears to have been an argument the men were having over drugs in front of Mr. Wood's home, said Agent Doug Price, a city police spokesman. Several witnesses reported hearing the men arguing loudly, "presumably over drugs," Agent Price said.

L No suspects had been arrested as of last night, police said.

Relatives and friends of Mr. Wood said they planned to try to take care of his mother, Virginia Lowery, who has lived in the same house on East 21st Street for over four decades.

Janette Wynn, 51, one of Ms. Lowery's daughters, said, "She will not be there alone. . . . She may have to move in with one of us."

Shootings over drug turf this year have taken the lives of several bystanders, including children. Ten-year-old Tauris Johnson was fatally shot in the chest Nov. 4 when suspected drug dealers shot it out near the corner of East Oliver and Regester streets. Police are still looking for the killer.

Angered by the Johnson killing and those of other bystanders caught in the cross-fire of drug dealers, city officials organized Friday's "Going Out of Business" day to rally residents to take back their streets. With hundreds of community residents standing from noon to midnight at 22 drug "hot spots" throughout the city, the project drove off the dealers -- for one day.

The sound of more gunfire on East 21st Street was a deadly reply from the drug dealers, according to City Councilman Anthony J. Ambridge.

"It's just another example of an innocent victim falling prey to ruthless drug dealers fighting over turf. As long as you have these open-air markets, you're going to have innocent victims," he said.

"We were one block away from where this shooting was last Friday. We can take the corner for one day. But we need to take them every day."

The question of stationing police officers around the clock at the drug hot spots came up Monday at a hearing on the Police Department budget before the City Council's Budget and Appropriations Committee.

Committee co-chair Joseph J. DiBlasi, D-6th, noted that for the 12 hours of the Going Out of Business rally, crime was cut. He asked police officials, "Why can't you assign two officers around the clock to the 20 worst problem hot spots?"

But acting Police Commissioner Melvin McQuay said the department doesn't have the personnel.

Police said they are still investigating the April shooting that left 12 people injured, none fatally. In that incident, one man fired into a crowd of people playing craps. Drugs also likely played a role in the shooting, police said.

"I guess the police do what they can," sighed a frustrated Pete Robinson, the cousin to Mr. Wood. "But it's bad. Drug dealers stand right on the corner. They're out there now. The 500 block of 21st St. is murder."

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