Bullets' Larry Stewart was targeted, police say

January 08, 1994|By Jerry Bembry | Jerry Bembry,Staff Writer Staff writer Michael James contributed to this article.

Washington Bullets forward Larry Stewart escaped serious injury after being shot in the neck during a break-in at his Baltimore County home early yesterday, but several questions remain about the attack.

Baltimore County police said the four intruders had apparently staked out Mr. Stewart. "We think he was targeted due to the nature of the ransacking," said Sergeant Stephen R. Doarnberger, spokesman for the county police. But he declined to describe how the house was ransacked.

Police also refused to discuss any motives in the attack, but they are investigating whether there is a link between yesterday's attack and an attempted break-in on Oct. 23 at Mr. Stewart's house in the 900 block of Oakmoor Drive in Relay. Mr. Stewart, who is engaged and has a daughter, was alone at the time of the attack. Police have no suspects.

"There weren't any suspects seen in that one," Sergeant Doarnberger said. "But we're trying to see if the two incidents might be related."

Mr. Stewart, who played at Coppin State, was doing well last night "at an undisclosed location," said Coppin basketball coach Ron "Fang" Mitchell, who spent most of the day with Mr. Stewart.

"He's doing good, and his spirits are up, considering what happened," Mr. Mitchell said. "When you love somebody, you don't want to see anything like this happen. It just goes to show that violence is all around us. It's a shame."

Mr. Stewart, 6 feet 8 and 240 pounds, "was extremely lucky," said Dr. Roy A. M. Myers, who operated on Mr. Stewart at the Shock Trauma Center. He said the bullet missed Mr. Stewart's spinal cord by one inch. Mr. Stewart, who was also stabbed

in the thigh, walked out of the center less than six hours after being flown to the facility.

According to Sergeant Doarnberger, several pieces of jewelry were taken from Mr. Stewart's home, including a personalized gold chain that had five quarter-sized, diamond-studded gold basketballs on it. The necklace, worth about $3,000, has the letters "L. Stewart" engraved in the chain. The middle basketball on the chain bears the number 33, which is the number Mr. Stewart wears on his Bullets uniform, police said.

Other pieces of jewelry were also taken by the attackers, although it is unclear what they were, said Sergeant Doarnberger.

Police said the intruders, who entered through a rear sliding glass door, ransacked the house while Mr. Stewart slept in an upstairs bedroom. Later Mr. Stewart was bound and gagged. He was then shot and stabbed, and the intruders fled.

Clad in his underwear, Mr. Stewart -- already recovering from a broken right foot -- was able to hop to the home of his next-door neighbor, Dr. Paul Rogers.

"He was ringing the bell and banging on the door, and he said in a muffled voice 'I'm your neighbor, and I've been shot,' " Dr. Rogers said. "I untied him, bought him in, put pressure on his wounds and called police."

Dr. Rogers said that Mr. Stewart had been bound with duct tape and that rags had been stuffed in his mouth.

Officers arrived within minutes, and a short time later an ambulance transported Mr. Stewart to a MedEvac helicopter.

"The wound went in through the back of his neck from left to right, and it seemed superficial," Dr. Rogers said. "The way the wounds were, it seemed like he was lying on his

right side when he was shot and stabbed. He's pretty lucky. He must have been targeted because I've been here five years and nothing has ever happened. He's been here about a year."

Dr. Myers, who operated on Mr. Stewart, said the bullet went through the neck, requiring the doctor to simply clean out the wound and let it drain. Within a half-hour after Dr. Myers held a news conference describing the injury, Mr. Stewart was being released from the hospital.

That word came as welcome news to his Bullets teammates. Many were awakened with phones calls about the shooting, or had heard the news while driving to a practice session in preparation for last night's game against the Chicago Bulls. Most feared the worst after hearing that Mr. Stewart, nicknamed "Noise" by his teammates because of his quiet demeanor, had been shot in the neck.

"I heard about it on the radio, and, something like this, it makes you stop and think that it can happen to anybody," said Bullets forward Don MacLean. "Larry Stewart is one of the nicest guys you can know, and wouldn't hurt a fly. Yet somebody breaks into his home and shoots him. It's unfortunate that things in this world have to be like that.

"I just can't believe that somebody can get shot and leave the hospital the same day," Mr. MacLean added.

"I think it's great for him, but I think it will probably leave some longer-lasting effects than just a scar on the neck."

Bullets guard Doug Overton, who was a high school teammate of Mr. Stewart's at Dobbins Tech in Philadelphia (the late Hank Gathers, of Loyola Marymount, also played there) described the events yesterday as "overwhelming."

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