City gun-toters hail arrival of new year with a bang Police car window is shot out, and a van is blasted repeatedly

January 03, 1996|By Peter Hermann | Peter Hermann,SUN STAFF

Holiday revelers celebrating the dawn of a new year with firearms got out of hand, shooting out a window of a police cruiser, blasting cars parked on a West Baltimore street and firing countless rounds into the air.

"I was shocked," said Maj. Robert Smith, commander of the Western District, commenting on the handfuls of shell casings that were recovered from the 800 and 900 blocks of W. Lexington St. a day after a scene reminiscent of the Wild West.

Sadie Blackwell, who lives in the 900 block of W. Lexington St., was in church about midnight Sunday.

But the holiday service could not drown out the disturbing sounds from the street.

"There was a lot of shooting," said Ms. Blackwell, who attends Mount Olive Freewill Baptist Church at North Fremont and West Saratoga streets.

"Most of the people just don't care," she added. "Some people do, but what can you do about it? It's out of control."

Gunshots on certain holidays are nothing new in Baltimore.

In 1994, city police received more than 100 calls reporting the random discharge of guns on New Year's.

And in 1992, during the July 4 holiday, a 50-year-old man was killed by a stray bullet while watching fireworks on a rooftop on East Baltimore Street.

"In Baltimore, they shoot off guns at 12 o'clock" on New Year's, said Major Smith, trying to explain what happened on West Lexington Street.

"Basically, that's what this was," he said. "Police were called for a shooting. There was no shooting, so they left. Evidently, [the shootings] must have started up again. A van was hit repeatedly."

Major Smith said the shooting started about 11:45 p.m. when police got several calls for discharging firearms.

Calls stopped about 1 a.m.

More than 100 rounds of spent shell casings were recovered, from .32-caliber to .44-caliber bullets and empty shotgun shells.

One van was hit more than a dozen times and had several windows shattered.

On Monday, officers took damage reports and notified owners.

No arrests had been made.

Elsewhere in the city, an officer driving in the 2100 block of Orleans St. heard two blasts about 11 p.m. and saw his passenger-side rear window shatter.

The side of the car was hit by several pellets.

No arrests had been made in that case.

In Southeast Baltimore, police arrested eight people and seized 11 firearms shortly after midnight Monday after several residents and an off-duty police officer who lives in the area complained of gunfire in their neighborhood.

Police searched the house in the first block of Potomac St. and said they seized 11 guns, including a 12-gauge shotgun, a .22-caliber rifle, a 9 mm Uzi and a .45-caliber semiautomatic handgun.

Eight people in the house were arrested and charged with various firearm violations.

Investigators said they weren't sure why people were firing into the air, but said it most likely was to celebrate the new year.

"What else would they be shooting off for?" said Maj. John E. Gavrilis, commander of the Southeastern District station.

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