New questions arise about NOI

March 28, 1995|By Peter Hermann | Peter Hermann,Sun Staff Writer Sun staff writers Norris P. West, Robert Guy Matthews, Eric Siegel, Robert Hilson Jr. and Jay Apperson contributed to this article.

The day after four Nation of Islam security guards were charged with pummeling a man with a flashlight in a fracas outside a public housing high-rise, new questions are being raised about the private security force and its controversial city contract.

Baltimore is under scrutiny by the federal government for allegedly violating federal rules in awarding the $4.6 million contract to NOI, the highest bidder.

* Yesterday, the state police said they would launch an administrative review to determine whether NOI Security lied in a standard affidavit when it stated that it did not owe outstanding federal withholding taxes.

* Two of the four guards -- all of whom were released on bail yesterday -- have been charged with violence in the past. One was fired by the Baltimore Police Department after being convicted of assault.

* Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke called for a "very thorough" investigation. "I'm not going to tolerate the use of excessive force by any security operation."

But NOI lawyers, in their first public comments on the issue, defended the guards' actions, insisting that the security guards were defending themselves and the residents of the George B. Murphy public housing high rise in West Baltimore.

"It was prompted by the attack, unwarranted, on our men, by a drug gang," said Abdul Arif Muhammad, an NOI lawyer. "In our attempts to repel a drug gang from getting into a complex that we are contracted to serve, our men were beaten with bats and weapons were fired."

According to police and court documents released yesterday, the incident began about 12:15 a.m. outside Murphy Homes in the 1000 block of Argyle Ave. Police said Tyrone Smith, 24, was part of a mob trying to enter the high-rise and was being handcuffed by NOI guards when seven shots rang out.

During the commotion, Mr. Smith escaped, the handcuff still attached to his right wrist. NOI guards poured from the building and gave chase, catching him at the corner of Preston Street and Pennsylvania Avenue.

The court papers allege that the four security guards then beat Mr. Smith in the head with a flashlight. The men stopped only when residents pulled them off.

Prosecutors said Mr. Smith, who also was charged with assault, was knocked unconscious. He suffered a fractured skull, a 3-inch cut over his left eye and a swollen mouth and nose. He was listed in serious condition yesterday at the Maryland Shock Trauma Center.

The guards charged with assault with intent to murder were identified as Malachi Wilson, 29, Tyrone Toran, 23, Norman Carroll, 35, and Anthony Sampson, 25. All but Mr. Wilson were released on an unsecured $25,000 bond. Mr. Wilson was released on an unsecured $10,000 bond.

During the court hearing, attorney Randolf O. Gregory asked that his clients to be released without bail. On the courthouse steps, Mr. Muhammad said Sunday's incident was the third time a security guard had been attacked by a member of the drug gang.

"We are not going to stand here and say we are going to allow that to happen a third time," Mr. Muhammad said. "Our lives were in jeopardy. We took what is the responsible action.

"Obviously, there are those who have determined that they don't want to abide by the laws and they don't want peaceful surroundings," Mr. Muhammad said. "They have opted to take a stand . . . but so have we. And we intend to stand firm in our resolve . . . and bring tranquillity to the community that we serve."

Residents at city public housing developments citywide said yesterday that they are concerned about the amount of force and tactics used by NOI guards, but still feel more secure than when city housing police officers patrolled their buildings.

Many residents said the guards' neat appearance and polite manner brings a positive image to their low-image neighborhoods.

"They have done a good job out here," said Murphy Homes resident Latonya Jones, 24, who said she was astonished that the guards were arrested. "They don't have guns. But they are the ones who are getting shot at. They did what they did so they wouldn't get killed. That's how you have to be out here."

Mayor Schmoke agreed. "The big thing I'm told is that there's almost a war going on between the drug dealers and NOI for control of the building," he said.

Baltimore Housing Commissioner Daniel P. Henson III said he did not know the details regarding the prior criminal charges against two of the guards.

Assault charges against Mr. Carroll were dropped in 1990. He was charged with beating a woman and threatening her with a knife. Court documents say he only stopped when she wrestled the knife away from him and stabbed him in the side.

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