City teacher shot in robbery attempt

February 02, 1994|By Gregory P. Kane and David Michael Ettlin | Gregory P. Kane and David Michael Ettlin,Sun Staff Writers

A kindergarten teacher was shot and seriously wounded yesterday as she tried to flee from a carjacker near Baltimore's Malcolm X Elementary School, authorities said.

The victim, Julie A. Lombardi, 41, of Timonium, had just left the school in the 2800 block of Shirley Ave. about 4 p.m. and was stopped at a red light at Reisterstown Road when a gunman approached her Acura Legend automobile and told her to get out, police said.

Mrs. Lombardi refused, and the assailant opened fire with a large-caliber, semiautomatic handgun as she hit the accelerator. Her car darted into the path of a southbound car that hit and spun her Acura around on Reisterstown, police said.

At least six shots were fired, one of them shattering the driver's side window and hitting the teacher in the face.

Another shot pierced a passenger door, and one hit the rear of the Acura, rupturing the gas tank, according to Agent Doug Price, a police spokesman.

"We heard some popping sounds and then we saw the teacher running," said Sylvia Otukoya, who noted that her two children and two grandchildren had been taught by Mrs. Lombardi. "We recognized her and got out of the car and assisted her. We took her down to the school."

The gunman fled, running west on Shirley Avenue toward the Towanda playfield and the woods near the Metro tracks beyond it. He was described as black, in his late 20s, wearing a green knit cap, a blue coat and jeans.

Mrs. Otukoya said her friend, Kathleen Pettus, a professional home care worker, administered first aid to Mrs. Lombardi before paramedics arrived. The teacher was carried out on a stretcher, with bandages wrapped around the wounds -- the bullet having passed through her left cheek and out the right cheek, police said.

"She stated that she was driving her car," Mrs. Otukoya said. "She had come to the red light stop at Reisterstown and Shirley. The guy came over with a gun and told her to get out of the car. She said no. He told her again and she said no, and he shot her."

Mrs. Lombardi, who is married and has an elementary-school-age son, was listed in serious condition last night at Sinai Hospital. The gunman remained at large.

The incident stunned Mrs. Otukoya, school officials and neighbors of Mrs. Lombardi -- all of whom described her as a loving, dedicated teacher.

Mrs. Otukoya said Mrs. Lombardi apparently began teaching at Malcolm X "right out of college" and has been there nearly since its opening two decades ago. "To me, that's history. She's a young, good, old teacher."

Public schools spokesman Nat Harrington said a crisis team will be at Malcolm X "first thing in the morning" to offer psychological counseling to students and staff members.

"It's almost hard to be shocked any more, but we are shocked that these kinds of things can happen to a teacher so near to a school," Mr. Harrington said.

Mrs. Lombardi was described as "a teacher's teacher" by Malcolm X Principal Myrtle Washington. "The youngsters loved her. She was a very, very friendly person."

Mike and Debbye Kight, who live across the street from the Lombardis and have known them for eight years, found the attack hard to believe.

"This is just awful," said Mrs. Kight, 43. "She'd never say anything not nice about anyone. She'd rather not say anything at all."

"They are really just nice people," said Mr. Kight, 40, "the kind of people you'd want for a neighbor."

Mrs. Lombardi would give her son's old clothes to a needy child at Malcolm X, Mrs. Kight said.

Cathy Correnti, 30, a neighbor and close friend of the Lombardis who said their sons play together, was "devastated" by the news. "She loves teaching and she loves the kids," Mrs. Correnti said.

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