Parking dispute ends with fatal shooting ncident at 32nd St. bar renews neighborhood ire

February 06, 1996|By Peter Hermann | Peter Hermann,SUN STAFF

A security guard at a North Baltimore nightclub was fatally shot early yesterday in a dispute over a double-parked car, sparking a neighborhood furor among residents who have complained about the bar's rowdy customers for more than a year.

Laroy Keith Hopkins, 34, who worked for the New 32nd Street Plaza in the 400 block of E. 32nd St., was shot once in the chest about 1:30 a.m. after he approached the driver of a blue Lexus that was double-parked in front of the bar's main entrance.

The driver got out and argued with Mr. Hopkins, then asked a back-seat passenger for a gun, said Agent Robert W. Weinhold Jr., a police spokesman. "The passenger opened the rear door and shot the victim once in the chest," the spokesman said. The driver got back in the car and drove south on Greenmount Avenue.

The guard, of the 4500 block of Springdale Ave. in Forest Park, was pronounced dead at 2:05 a.m. at Johns Hopkins Hospital. Police had made no arrests yesterday.

"We have been concerned about something happening like this for a year and a half," said Grenville B. Whitman, president of Abell Improvement Association, which represents a nine-square-block neighborhood west of the bar.

"We will continue to seek the closure of this establishment to prevent anyone else from being killed," Mr. Whitman said.

The owner of the bar, also called the Phase III nightclub, could not be reached for comment yesterday. George L. Russell Jr., the lawyer representing the establishment, said he did not know anything about the shooting and refused to comment.

The community association first complained to the city's liquor board in early 1995, prompting a public hearing and a ruling April 10 that ordered the bar, which can hold several hundred patrons, to close each Sunday at 7 p.m.

Aaron Stansbury, executive director of the Board of Liquor License Commissioners, said that the bar attracted hundreds of people, many of whom hung out in the parking lot or on residential streets off Greenmount Avenue.

And after the bar closed at 2 a.m., Mr. Stansbury said the patrons were "rather hyped and did not want to leave the neighborhood. The party would continue. The board issued a ruling that found this establishment was creating a definite problem."

But in June, a Circuit Court judge reversed the board's ruling, saying the bar's owners could not be expected to control acts of patrons once they left the building.

The liquor board has appealed the ruling and the Court of Appeals has agreed to hear the case, though a date has not been set. Meanwhile, the bar can open Sunday nights.

The community association's complaints include loud music, revving motors, screeching tires, speeding traffic, fighting, broken bottles and public urination. More than 100 people have petitioned the liquor board seeking to revoke the club's license.

"We're just going to be insisting that the place be shut," Mr. Whitman said. "It's not a case of even asking anymore. We're protecting children. We're protecting residents. We're protecting the neighborhood."

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