Police seeking witness in killing of Maine native

December 05, 1993|By Michael James | Michael James,Staff Writer

Baltimore police are looking for a mysterious witness they believe holds the key to finding the killer of a Bangor, Maine, native shot to death Nov. 20 during a robbery on the edge of Fells Point and Little Italy.

Laurence A. Jones Jr., 24, was shot in the left eye as he was returning to his Bank Street home after a night of drinking at several Fells Point bars. Police believe the killer may be a robber who has committed other late-night robberies of bar patrons in the area.

Mr. Jones, who had moved to Baltimore from Bangor about three months before his death in the hope of enrolling in Johns Hopkins' graduate psychology program, was shot in the eye about 3 a.m. His gold ring and wallet are believed to have been taken.

Minutes before he was killed in the 1400 block of Bank St. -- one door from his apartment -- he was in an unrelated fistfight with two other men, police said. That fight was broken up by an unidentified man in a baseball cap claiming to be a police officer.

"The individual came up and identified himself as a police officer, but didn't display a badge or any identification," said city homicide Detective Donald K. Ossmus. "We don't think he really was an officer. Maybe he said he was because he thought it was the best way to break up the fight."

The so-called officer succeeded in breaking up the fight, and the men separated. Mr. Jones walked toward his home.

A woman who was walking her dog said she watched Mr. Jones disappear around a corner. She said the stranger in the baseball cap continued to watch him from the end of the street, police said.

Then she heard a gunshot, police said. The man claiming to be an officer ran out of sight.

Police were called to the scene by an unidentified man who dialed 911 and reported a man lying on the sidewalk with a gunshot wound.

Investigators suspect the caller was the man in the baseball cap, Detective Ossmus said. Police, who have few leads in the case, are urging the man to come forward because he may represent their only chance to find and convict the killer.

"Evidence suggests that this guy was too far away to have inflicted the gunshot wound, so he probably saw the killer or killers," Detective Ossmus said. "We're looking to talk to him not as a suspect, but as a witness. We need his help."

The man is described as white, about 24 or 25 years old, about 5 feet 9 inches tall and weighing about 175 pounds. He had dark brown hair and a round face. He was wearing a two-toned baseball cap and a dark coat.

Police said the area where Mr. Jones was shot -- primarily Bank and Eden streets, across from the Perkins Homes public housing complex -- has been the site of other robberies.

The robber or robbers seem to target people walking to their cars or homes after leaving Fells Point bars, police said. Investigators advised people not to walk alone in the area.

"We've had some robberies of people walking back from the bars. They're being stalked possibly because they're perceived as easy targets," Detective Ossmus said. "That's what's sad about this. This poor guy could have been anybody. Someone was just looking for a victim."

Mr. Jones graduated in 1992 with a bachelor's degree in abnormal psychology from the University of Maine-Orono. He grew up in Maine, the son of employees of local paper mills. Jay Chung, a cousin of Mr. Jones who lives in Bangor, said his family is anxious for any news about the killer. The story of the slaying has been reported extensively in the Bangor Daily News, the local newspaper.

"It was a senseless killing. It doesn't matter if it was in Bangor or in Baltimore. No matter where it happens, no killing is ever insignificant," Mr. Chung said.

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