Cabbie charged in shooting gets colleagues' support

February 23, 1994|By Melody Simmons and Jay Apperson | Melody Simmons and Jay Apperson,Sun Staff Writers Sun staff writer Robert Hilson Jr. contributed to this article.

Fellow cabbies rallied yesterday to the cause of a Royal Cab Co. driver jailed in the shooting of a teen-ager who allegedly robbed him Monday of $69 in West Baltimore.

"We all need to be armed," said Gail Weinblatt, a cabbie who was held up at gunpoint and robbed of her cab and $100 Feb. 7 in the 4500 block of Hayward Ave.

"You just want to go back and kill the guy who threatened you," Ms. Weinblatt said.

Cabbie Harry H. Lewis Jr. remained at the Baltimore Detention Center last night, charged with battery and a handgun offense in the shooting of 16-year-old Ian A. Berry early Monday on Garrison Boulevard.

Mr. Lewis, 38, was expected to be released this morning on $10,000 bail. A bondsman hired by Royal Cab failed to secure his release last night before the Baltimore Detention Center's 8 p.m. deadline.

The Berry youth, of the 2400 block of Roslyn Ave., suffered a gunshot wound in the spine. He was listed in critical but stable condition last night at the Maryland Shock Trauma Center.

Agent Doug Price, a city police spokesman, said the Berry youth would be charged as an adult with assault, robbery and a handgun violation after his release from the hospital.

Court documents state that the Berry youth threatened Mr. Lewis with a semiautomatic pistol and robbed him of $69 about 1:30 a.m. Monday in the 2100 block of Garrison Blvd.

Mr. Lewis drove around the block and spotted the Berry youth standing outside an apartment building in the 2100 block of Garrison Blvd, police said. The driver was sitting behind his steering wheel when he shot the youth, police said.

At a bail review hearing yesterday, District Judge Martin A. Kircher ordered Mr. Lewis' bail reduced from $30,000 to $10,000.

Mr. Lewis, a bearded man who is 5 feet 10 inches tall and weighs about 300 pounds, said nothing during his brief hearing. But he shook his head angrily when an official from the state Division of Pretrial Detention Services termed him a potential threat to public safety and recommended that bail remain at $30,000.

The pretrial services official said Mr. Lewis had no prior criminal record and had worked at his cab-driving job for six years.

Judge Kircher, who received a summary of the allegations facing the cab driver from the pretrial official, ordered the bail reduced, saying, "I want security that you'll be back for trial. With the stability you have, I assume you will be back for trial."

Mr. Lewis' trial was scheduled for March 23 in District Court.

A lawyer for Royal Cab said the company has taken the position that Mr. Lewis did "nothing wrong" and it is the company's "civic duty" to defend him against the charges.

"They [Royal Cab] feel that nothing was his fault and there are enough cab drivers getting shot, wounded and murdered," said Gilbert Rosenthal, the attorney for Royal Cab who is defending Mr. Lewis.

Meanwhile, fellow cabbies backed Mr. Lewis during interviews at the company's offices in the 2500 block of W. Lexington St. Many, like Ms. Weinblatt, said they had been robbed on duty.

Arnie Goldfadim, a cabbie for four years, said Mr. Lewis was "determined to seek justice."

Dwight Kines, general manager of Royal Cab, called Mr. Lewis a man who had never drawn a complaint in six years.

"This stinks," Mr. Kines said of the arrest. "This guy is not a cowboy. He's not out to show off. He's a sensible guy."

Royal Cab employs more than 500 drivers who operate 370 cabs -- about one-third of Baltimore's taxi fleet, Mr. Kines said. In 1992, there were fewer than 30 robberies of Royal Cab drivers, he said.

He called the shooting "a reflection of the streets -- cabbies are in danger as much as anything else being out there with cash," Mr. Kines said. "He did what a lot of people would love to do, but that's another story."

Carolyn Burridge, spokeswoman for the Maryland Cab Association, which represents more than 2,000 of the state's 3,000 cab drivers, said she was outraged that Mr. Lewis was even arrested.

"There is something wrong when one of our drivers, who is trying to protect himself, is in jail and the juvenile . . . hasn't even been charged," Ms. Burridge said yesterday.

"He was a victim. Taxi cab drivers are getting tired of being victims. This action is a lot of frustration over the high crime rate and the uncaring attitude by a lot of juveniles for human life and property."

Ms. Burridge said the message behind the incident is not vigilantism, but "frustration that there is such a disregard for human life and property."

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