Retiree killed in cross-fire

April 17, 1995|By Kate Shatzkin | Kate Shatzkin,Sun Staff Writer

A 70-year-old man who loved to while away the day talking with his friends outdoors was shot to death doing just that yesterday afternoon, caught in the cross-fire of several gunmen running along an East Baltimore street.

David Fitzgerald had come to visit with a friend outside a small garage and car wash in the 1600 block of Normal Ave., near his home in the 2200 block of Aiken St.

He was sitting on one of a collection of unmatched chairs that he often used for chats in good weather, when the shooting started a street away, on Cliftview Avenue, about 2:30 p.m.

"When he heard the shooting, he stood up and was struck," said Baltimore police Lt. Wendell France. "This is very unusual, very tragic."

Police questioned a possible suspect late last night but had not charged him.

Chatting on Normal Avenue was something the friendly man known as "Mr. Dick" did nearly every day, friends and police said.

James Doswell, who rents the garage and runs the car wash, learned upon returning from Easter church services that his best friend had been killed.

Mr. Doswell, 74, said he had known Mr. Fitzgerald since they were children in Blackstone, Va. Both had moved to Baltimore to work at Bethlehem Steel Corp., from which both were retired, he said.

"He'd come out here nearly every day," Mr. Doswell said, standing in his garage, looking at the chairs where all those conversations took place.

"He was a nice fellow," said Andrew Williams, who said he often dropped by to listen in. "They got good information to feed a young man like me."

Neighbors described the street, where children frequently play on rowhouse porches, as a quiet oasis in the middle of a danger zone where drug dealing is common.

Eva Bennett, who lives on Cliftview Avenue, said she heard the shooting begin near her house, though she did not see the gunmen. "There must have been at least 10 to 15 shots in this alley," she said, pointing at cars and walls hit by bullets.

"This is not the first time," Ms. Bennett said. "My nerves are so bad because of this."

Three to four men wielding guns reportedly ran up Normal Avenue past the garage, shooting Mr. Fitzgerald in the upper body. He was killed instantly, Lieutenant France said.

Police checked hospitals on the theory that one of those involved might have been struck by a bullet as well, Lieutenant France said.

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