SALISBURY -- Virginia police officers arrested two men yesterday and charged them with murder in Saturday night's shooting in the Eastern Shore's largest shopping mall -- an incident that left one man dead, two wounded and some in the city bemoaning a lost sense of security.
The incident disrupted Christmas shopping for thousands of Eastern Shore residents at the region's busiest mall, The Centre at Salisbury. One of the men shot was a bystander shopping with his wife.
Combined with a series of violent crimes in recent weeks, including two at the mall, Saturday's shootings have also shattered the sense of small-town comfort that draws many people to this urban pocket of 26,600 people about 30 miles west of Ocean City.
"It's a sign of the times," said Salisbury Mayor W. Paul Martin. "Anything can happen anytime, anywhere. I never thought it would happen in Salisbury."
Gabriel A. Cannon, 23, of Norfolk, Va., and Terry Teagle, 19, a Salisbury resident, were detained pending an extradition hearing Wednesday in Norfolk. When Mr. Cannon and Mr. Teagle were arrested at Mr. Cannon's mother's home in Norfolk, police found Mr. Cannon with a .380-caliber semiautomatic gun -- the same caliber as the bullets recovered at the mall shooting scene. They are being held without bail, Officer Larry Hill of the Norfolk Police Department said.
The men, who are cousins, both are charged with one count of first-degree murder and three counts of attempted first-degree murder.
Salisbury, a growing college town long reliant on agriculture and poultry farming, has started to attract to the region a diversified economy based on mid-sized industry. Sadly, some city elders now say, the region also has drawn the drugs, crime and violence previously associated only with bigger urban centers like Baltimore and Washington.
"It is our worst-case scenario," said Salisbury Police Chief Coulbourn M. Dykes. "If it can happen in the big city, it can happen here."
Shot in the attack Saturday evening were Roy Davis, 21, of Salisbury, who later died in the emergency room at Peninsula Regional Medical Center; Mr. Davis' roommate, LyBrant Graham, 19, of Salisbury; and Anthony Waters, 26, of Salisbury. Mr. Graham and Mr. Waters had improved from critical to serious condition and were resting comfortably, a hospital spokesman said yesterday.
Mr. Waters is believed to be an unwitting bystander to the attack. With the crowds packing the mall Saturday night, several witnesses said it is a minor miracle that more people were not hit by bullets that flew through the shopping center's corridors.
Police have been given conflicting reasons for why the attack occurred at the mall, an upscale enclosed shopping center north of the city off Route 13.
Whether it involved a months-old violent dispute over a gold chain, as some accounts indicate, or a fight over Mr. Cannon's former involvement with Mr. Davis's sister, as another version had it, remains unclear.
In any event, Mr. Davis and Mr. Cannon knew each other. And, according to accounts provided by police and witnesses, Saturday night's chance encounter turned fatal within a few minutes:
Mr. Davis and Mr. Graham took a taxicab with another friend to the mall about eight miles north of their Patrick Avenue home. Mr. Davis' girlfriend, who is also Mr. Graham's sister, said the men, like several thousand other residents of the region, headed to the mall to purchase some last-minute Christmas gifts.
At approximately 7:50 p.m. Saturday, Mr. Davis and his friends were walking by a small plaza with fountains at the central hub of the mall, from which three major hallways emanate. It was the busiest shopping day of the year, merchants said, and many families had brought children and friends along for one last push before unwrapping presents today.
But Mr. Davis spotted Mr. Cannon, Mr. Teagle, and another man near The Body Shop, a store with sculpted soaps and scents.
Witnesses said harsh words were exchanged.
Mr. Davis yelled at Mr. Cannon, saying he wanted to talk to him. Both groups came together and began arguing as they walked toward Boscov's Department Store.
Mr. Cannon, police officers said, pulled out a silver-plated, .380 caliber, semi-automatic handgun, and began firing shots toward Mr. Davis.
Bullets struck Mr. Davis and Mr. Graham in the abdomen. Both of them staggered away and then collapsed several hundred feet away on a bridge over the fountain. Mr. Davis died at the hospital soon after.
Another bullet lodged in the stomach of Anthony Waters, who was shopping with his wife.
The newlyweds had just bought a cup of coffee and were walking toward the Boscov's end of the mall when they found themselves surrounded by the two groups of rival men.
"We started walking trying to get away. All I saw was a silver gun firing shots," said Donna Waters, 28. "I think my husband stepped in between me and the gun."