Christopher Murray returned home to find his operation a shambles, police said. Poachers were dealing dope all over Hoffman and Holbrook streets and a street dealer nicknamed "Pig" was claiming the territory as his own.
The rivalry between the two upped the bloody ante in the neighborhood almost overnight.
On Feb. 13, 1992, James Timothy Arrington, a 31-year-old crack addict who had bought cocaine from two teen-age Murray runners earlier in the day, was on the corner griping in public about the poor quality of the drugs.
That offense, which might have gotten him a baseball bat beating in better times, would cost Mr. Arrington his life.
One of the runners raced around the corner to the Old Man's Bar on East Hoffman Street, where Chris Murray was drinking with a Jamaican friend from New York named Chad Larmond. The two men strolled out of the bar and stepped from an alley a few feet from Mr. Arrington, a witness told police.
"They opened up on him with two guns right there on the street," Detective Scott Keller recalls. "James Arrington was shot to hell right where he stood. Maybe 15, 20 rounds. . . . There were bullet casings all over the intersection."
In August, Chris Murray was sitting outside a house on East Hoffman Street when two of Pig's boys approached and opened fire, police say. One bullet hit him in the left shoulder. Another passed through the flesh above his right eye. Neither was fatal.
Then, on Sept. 16, 1992, James Cooper, 24, was sitting in a rental car with his girlfriend at Poplar Grove Street and North Avenue. Mr. Cooper was a trusted ally of Murray; the two shared a house and a circle of friends in New York.
"Something like 30 shots were fired into the car. They just filled it with bullets," Detective Barlow says, recalling the double slaying.
On Oct. 27, Chris struck back, witnesses said.
A car sped past the Old Man's Bar just as Pig was heading for the door. Gunfire erupted from the car. Pig ducked. Two bystanders were hit.
Once again, the Murray family name was ringing off the walls in the Homicide Division.
The circle was tightening.
A week before the botched hit on Pig, Carlos Murray was finally taken out of circulation.
Acting on a tip from a bail bondsman, a SWAT team had crashed through the door of an Atlantic City hotel where Carlos was living with a new girlfriend.
Police arrested him in the 1990 murder spree and drove him back to Baltimore in chains.
Jamie Barnett -- the Pimlico woman who had brought him to Baltimore and given birth to his child -- was not around to visit her man in jail. She had died of a drug overdose awaiting his return.
On Oct. 16, 1992, Carlos signed a deal admitting to second-degree murder in the killing of Mary Giles, the federal informant. His sentence: 15 years.
Chris was now the only brother left on the street. Dozens of cops were looking for him: Homicide, Eastern District patrol, the INS. All they needed was one lucky break.
Two Baltimore County cops provided it.
Mark Watkins and Gerry D'Angelo, patrolmen on the night shift in the Woodlawn area, began noticing something strange on their beat.
A lot of cars with New York license plates and driven by people with Jamaican accents were moving into their sector. Apartments and motels were filling up with kids from Baltimore. Drug dealing was breaking out all around them.
"We just kind of opened our eyes and started paying attention to it," Officer Watkins says. "And then we finally said to ourselves, 'Enough is enough.' "
After months of compiling names, addresses and license plate numbers, the two cops went to their bosses and told them what they had. County narcotics investigators hit the red alert.
"When they first called us, we told them we weren't interested," recalls Agent Jimmy Orr of the FBI. "We had our hands full. Same with the DEA. But they kept shopping the case around, trying to get some federal help."
Then they contacted Agent McGraw at Immigration.
"They said the name 'Murray' and that's all we needed to hear," he says.
Informed of the Murray gang's history, the FBI field office in Baltimore immediately made it a priority case for the new Violent Crimes Task Force.
The unit was created in response to a huge shift in federal law enforcement philosophy at the U.S. Justice Department. With the Cold War grinding to a close, agents were being told to spend less time chasing spies and more time helping local cops chase violent gangs. No longer did the FBI require a federal crime to get involved in a local case.
In a series of meetings in fall 1992, Agent Orr circulated through city and county police departments, collecting data and deputizing local cops as temporary federal marshals.
In a musty little office in the basement of the Eastern District, Officer Bochniak greeted him like a long lost brother.