Teen-age suspect sought

August 25, 1994|By Norris P. West and Peter Hermann | Norris P. West and Peter Hermann,Sun Staff Writers Sun staff writer Robert C. Hilson Jr. contributed to this article.

Baltimore police obtained an arrest warrant last night for a 15-year-old boy accused of shooting two people, including a 4-year-old girl who was apparently hit by a stray bullet as she played in the 2700 block of Pennsylvania Ave. late Tuesday night.

Police are searching for Varion Romeo Simms of the 2200 block (( of Roslyn Ave., West Baltimore, who faces two counts of attempted murder and handgun violations, said Sabrina Tapp-Harper, a police spokeswoman.

The Simms youth will be charged as an adult when apprehended. Ms. Tapp-Harper said the motive for the shooting has not been determined, but investigators say the girl was not the intended victim.

Jacquette Bianca Dennis of the 900 block of Druid Park Lake Drive, Reservoir Hill, was in critical but stable condition at Johns Hopkins Children's Center with a gunshot wound to the left side of her head, a hospital spokesman said.

Also injured was Ronald Alexander, 21, of the 300 block of S. Dallas Court in the Fells Point area. He was shot once in back of his thigh and was listed yesterday in fair condition at Sinai Hospital.

Jacquette, who has a twin sister, experienced seizures yesterday in her right hand while in the hospital, which was indicative of a left-brain injury, said Dr. David Nichols, director of the pediatric intensive care unit.

"These seizures were treated with medication. She has responded to pain stimuli, but she is no longer opening her eyes," Dr. Nichols said in a statement read by a spokeswoman.

Jacquette was with her father, Charles Dennis III, stepmother and three other young children when the shots were fired at 10:55 p.m. Tuesday, witnesses said.

Leslie Fauntleroy was at Earl Frisby's Old Granddad Social Club, at 2710 Pennsylvania Ave., hanging out with friends. The girl was in front of the club.

"I heard one shot, and I snatched one of the kids," he said yesterday while leaning forward in a chair and holding a cigarette just inside the club's front entrance. "I went to grab the other [girl], and another shot rang out. The girl fell to the ground."

He said he was about 5 feet from Jacquette when she fell.

Mr. Fauntleroy said the stepmother, Pearl Dennis, was inside the social club, and the twins were playing outside near their father, 8-year-old brother Tavon and 1-year-old cousin.

A clerk at the Penn Station North Liquor Store, at 2714 Pennsylvania Ave., said Jacquette had come there moments before the shooting. He said he gave her a lollipop, and she left. Shortly afterward, he said, he heard shots and then commotion. He said he called 911.

Tamar Johnson, 10, a cousin of the young victim, said she was in a store across the street and saw someone chase Mr. Alexander and shoot as he ran by several people on the street.

She said the family had visited relatives in the area.

"My aunt was crying, 'What did they shoot my little girl for?' " Tamar said.

The 2700 block of Pennsylvania is lined with businesses, such as the liquor store, bars and a barbershop. It has boarded-up houses and storefronts. One resident said only two families live on the block. Despite the area's decrepit appearance of trash-filled lots, however, people say it is not particularly dangerous.

Lamont Edwards, said he doesn't live in the neighborhood, but often has visited at night for the past 10 to 15 years. He said he has seen "the 'crazies' around here, but nothing like a shooting."

Karen C. Gladden, 24, lives around the corner on Elgin Avenue. She said she never allows children to come to the area alone. "There is always so much traffic around here," she said. "Am I surprised that something happenned? No."

Jacquette was the 20th child treated for gunshot wounds so far this year at the Johns Hopkins Children's Center. Of the 19 other victims, 18 have survived.

Thirty-three children were injured by gunshots in 1993, 19 in 1992 and 13 in 1991. In those three years, seven of the victims died.

Jacquette was described by her grandfather, Charles Dennis II, as an energetic girl who likes to make friends and enjoys dancing, singing and playing with her kitchen set in the cramped apartment with her twin sister, Jasmine.

"She is very outgoing, oh yes indeed," said Mr. Dennis. "One of [the twins] was introverted and the other was kind of extroverted. She was the extroverted one. If she saw you sitting here now, she would come over and talk to you."

The twins live in the fifth-floor apartment with their father, stepmother, grandfather, cousin and one of their two half-brothers. Mr. Dennis said the twins' mother, Jacqueline Talley, lives a few blocks away with their half-sisters.

Jacquette's father, stepmother, and mother went to the hospital early yesterday and efforts to reach them were unsuccessful.

Mr. Dennis said Jacquette's stepmother prepared a meal of pork chops, greens and rice Tuesday night, but she decided to take the children for a walk about 9 p.m., before dinner. He said the family often goes outside late, usually in front of the apartment building, which he said is safe. He said the children usually are inside by 10 p.m.

The grandfather said he was optimistic that his grandchild would survive. And he said he hoped the shooting would send a message to state legislators.

"If you write an article, make sure the legislature understands about these handguns," he told a reporter. "They can tell us that we can't smoke in restaurants, but on the other hand they won't pass a strong gun bill. We don't know for sure that second-hand smoke kills, but one thing we do know for sure is that these handguns kill."

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