Police arrest four in drug raid at O'Donnell Heights 30 sought are tied to gangs suspected in shootings

April 05, 1996|By Peter Hermann | Peter Hermann,SUN STAFF

More than 100 police officers swept through the troubled O'Donnell Heights public housing complex last night, seeking 30 people linked to drug gangs believed to be responsible for a recent spate of shootings.

Heavily armed officers raided eight suspected drug houses in the Southeast Baltimore development of 900 rowhouses.

The raids started about 8 p.m., and in minutes police had arrested four people and seized substantial amounts of suspected cocaine and heroin at two houses and were searching other residences late last night. At one raided house, police seized a large amount of cash that was being flushed down the toilet.

Police hoped that the raids would shut down the drug markets that have thrived in O'Donnell Heights in the past two months.

Police Maj. John E. Gavrilis, commander of the Southeastern District, said he will follow up the raids with a daily presence of officers in an effort to stabilize the community, which opened in 1943 and is one of the oldest public housing developments in the city.

"A lot of time we will get complaints that the police sweep into neighborhoods and then forget about them," Major Gavrilis said. "I don't do anything cosmetic. I think the shootings are isolated. I believe the raids will bring safety to O'Donnell Heights."

In preparation for last night's raids, police arrested James Tudor, 41, of the 900 block of S. Clinton St., and charged him with selling drugs in the complex. Major Gavrilis described him as a major supplier of drugs to the area.

The investigation has been going on for two months and had led to the arrests of 50 people before last night.

The last crime surge that the neighborhood experienced was at the end of 1994, and it prompted a police raid in February 1995 that resulted in 63 arrests and the seizure of $20,000 in drugs and 11 guns. Crime in 1995 dropped 23 percent compared to 1994 figures.

Police say that on average, violence has not increased in O'Donnell Heights during the first three months of this year, but they are concerned with the recent surge in shootings, which have left one bystander dead and five other people wounded.

Major Gavrilis blames nearby Interstate 95 for an influx of drug buyers and the razing of the Lafayette Courts in East Baltimore last summer, which he said "brought hoodlums into O'Donnell Heights. We have new people trying to take over turf."

Councilman John L. Cain, D-1st, who witnessed last night's raids, said the city seems to be shifting drug dealers from one public housing complex to another. "It undermines this community. We're not addressing the problem," he said.

Pub Date: 4/05/96

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