School's final basketball games to be private Fans banned after shots were fired at halftime

February 23, 1996|By Robert Hilson Jr. and Lem Satterfield | Robert Hilson Jr. and Lem Satterfield,SUN STAFF

The painful reminders of the last basketball game at Edmondson-Westside High School to be seen by fans this season are on the wall of the school's front lobby.

The three pock marks are remnants of a shooting at the West Baltimore school Wednesday during halftime at a basketball game with Dunbar High School. Hundreds of fans scurried for cover and the remainder of the game was canceled. The shots were fired from outside the building around 6:30 p.m. No one was injured.

Because of the shooting, Edmondson-Westside's last home games of the season -- a double-header on Tuesday against the girls' and boys' teams of Broadneck High School of Anne Arundel County -- will be closed to the public.

Both games are Maryland Public School Athletic Association quarterfinal playoffs that had been expected to draw large crowds. Broadneck's teams will have police escorts to their buses after the games.

The gunfire erupted after a series of fights on the gymnasium floor led security officials to escort the troublemakers outside, according to police and school officials.

"It was just a neighborhood rivalry that happened inside the school," said Irby L. Miller, Edmondson-Westside's principal, who was in the gymnasium during the fights preceding the gunfire. "None of the kids involved in the fights were students here."

No arrests have been made, police said.

Mr. Miller said a decision has not been made on whether to close next year's home games.

"I don't want to have closed sessions, but we're doing this for the sake of safety. It'll be just the players and coaches in an empty gym" Tuesday.

Broadneck assistant athletic director Tim McMullen said the decision to close the games Tuesday was made jointly by Broadneck's and Edmondson-Westside's principals.

"It's a real shame that our parents and fans can't watch their team in a playoff game," Mr. McMullen said. "The whole thing is unfortunate."

The shooting occurred less than a week after the school honored Erica Jefferson, who played for the girl's varsity basketball team, by retiring her jersey number. Erica, 16, was fatally shot in December while walking home late at night.

When halftime began Wednesday at Edmondson-Westside, five or six small fights broke out in a crowd of about 300, including one scuffle in which about six young men were beating another young man, according to school and police officials.

Police were summoned, but before they arrived a crowd of about 50 to 60 people had gone outside the building where the four shots were fired, police said. The shots penetrated a Plexiglas window in a door before striking an inside wall near the gym.

At the time of the fights in the gymnasium, two security workers, three school administrators and about 20 parents were patrolling the crowd.

One student who was in the gymnasium said later several youths had threatened to "blow each other" away during the first half of the game.

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