Mystery bullet shatters a night on the town

August 30, 1994|By Tanya Jones | Tanya Jones,Sun Staff Writer Staff writer Peter Hermann contributed to this article.

Scott A. Davis came to downtown Baltimore Sunday night with his girlfriend, Mia Luff, for a change of pace from his job as a corrections officer in the Harford County Detention Center.

The couple of five months had enjoyed dinner at Slapstix Comedy Club on Market Place and a walk around the Inner Harbor before heading home in Mr. Davis' Jeep.

They were having a nice evening until a bullet grazed Mr. Davis' temple as he was driving in the 900 block of E. Pratt St.

"I came into the city to get away from it all, which is kind of stupid," said Mr. Davis, 23, who needed three or four stitches before being released from Johns Hopkins Hospital at 11:30 the same night.

The Harford County sheriff's deputy was injured when an apparently randomly fired bullet passed through the passenger window of his Jeep, in front of his girlfriend, and caught him in the right temple above his ear before exiting through the window.

Yesterday, news of the incident surprised some residents and business owners in Little Italy south of Pratt Street. A series of muggings in and around Little Italy in 1992 aroused some residents' fear and anger toward the public housing community just north of the ethnic enclave.

Those concerns surfaced again yesterday as some people in the tightly knit neighborhood looked northward for the cause of serious crimes.

"Young kids from the projects come here and want to be rowdy every once in while," said Ronald Smith, 39, who has rented a first-floor apartment on High Street for 11 years.

But Mr. Smith said the streets have been pretty quiet lately except for some aggressive panhandlers.

"Every once in a while from in them projects they do quite a bit of shooting," said Pepino's Tavern owner Joseph Serafini, 65, as he puffed on a cigar behind the counter of the bar he has owned for 26 years.

Flag House Courts residents and officials, however, said their public housing community no longer deserves the reputation of being crime-ridden.

Last year, the city Housing Authority conducted a massive raid at Flag House Courts that cleaned out the drug dealers and squatters who were responsible for much of the criminal activity there. The raid was followed by a cleanup campaign to beautify the complex.

"Some of the drug dealers I used to see around here, I don't see no more," said Leslie Melvin, 27, who moved to the community with her eight children about a year ago.

She points to a fenced in court yard where she said drug users used to line up to make their illegal purchases and where brightly colored laundry now flaps in the breeze.

Zack Germroth, the Housing Authority spokesman, said Flag House Courts residents are not responsible for most of the trouble in the area.

"A very, very small percentage of people on the lease living there are the problem people," Mr. Germroth said.

While the communities puzzle over the source of crime, though, Mr. Davis is just glad to be alive.

"I'm trying not to think about how lucky I am," Mr. Davis said yesterday, still suffering from a headache. "I'm just trying to chalk it up to a learning experience" -- learning what it's like to be on the receiving end of a firearm.

"It's one thing to be on one end of the gun, but it's totally different sound when it's being fired at you," Mr. Davis said. "Everything just stopped. It was loud, like a cannon."

While he said he knew he had been hit, he kept driving, bandaging himself with supplies from a first-aid kit he keeps in the back seat and turning right on Broadway.

"I drove down to Fells Point because I knew that's where all the police were," he said.

Mr. Davis, who lost a brother to a drunken-driving accident several years ago, said he knows he was fortunate to walk away with a few stitches in his head and blood stains on his Jeep's upholstery. "I'm just frustrated because I would never think about doing this to somebody, just taking random shots," he said.

Members of the Southeastern District felony follow-up squad were trying to find witnesses to the shooting, yesterday, a police spokesman said. But they have made no arrests and know of no motive for the shooting.

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