Large crowd mills after shots are fired in Easton, but police contain incident State and city officers disperse hundreds

June 30, 1998|By Chris Guy | Chris Guy,SUN STAFF

EASTON -- Residents of Easton's West End were cleaning up yesterday after a near-riot among 1,000 or more people following an annual community parade and festival over the weekend.

Reinforcements from police agencies throughout the middle Eastern Shore were called to the normally placid Talbot County seat Sunday night to quell an alcohol-fueled disturbance that apparently was touched off when police shot and wounded a man they say had pointed a gun at an officer.

Yesterday, Easton authorities said a restrained response and the presence of 25 officers from the town's 42-member force, backed by at least 50 officers from the Easton and Centreville state police barracks, the Maryland Department of Natural Resources and the towns of St. Michaels and Oxford, helped prevent violence Sunday night.

Although large crowds milled about for several hours, police made only one arrest during the disturbance, charging an 18-year-old Easton man with disorderly conduct, inciting to riot and resisting arrest.

No property was reported damaged.

"I think what we had was a mixture of alcohol and a lot of young people out on the street," said Easton Police Chief George M. Harvey. "We got tremendous cooperation from nearby police agencies, and we gave people ample time before we began to disburse the crowd around 11: 30 p.m."

The only injury was to Steven Maurice Lewis, 31, who was released yesterday from Easton Memorial Hospital after treatment for a gunshot wound to the wrist.

Lewis was charged with first-degree assault, reckless endangerment and two handgun violations and is being held in the Talbot County Detention Center on $250,000 bond, according to Sgt. D. B. Sears, a spokesman for the Easton Police Department.

The trouble began around 7: 45 p.m. Sunday, when shots were reported near the intersection of Washington and Port streets, just a block from the town's trendy downtown business and shopping district. Police say several hundred people were attending an annual parade and fair sponsored by the Samuel T. Hemsley Elks Lodge 974 when two bicycle patrol officers responded to a complaint that a man was shooting in the air.

As the pair entered the front and rear of a Washington Street house, police say Lewis pointed a handgun and ran toward one of the officers. The officer fired seven shots, hitting Smith in the wrist. Police say they confiscated a loaded and cocked 9 mm semiautomatic handgun with seven rounds remaining in its 15-round magazine.

As police converged on the shooting scene, the crowd grew larger and by 9: 30 p.m., Harvey ordered nearby liquor stores closed for the night. Two hours later, police began dispersing the crowd.

"We found debris -- empty beer, liquor and wine bottles -- all over a two-square-mile area afterwards," said Harvey, a retired Baltimore County precinct commander who took over the Easton department eight weeks ago.

"The Elks parade meant that we already had a lot of people outside. Sometimes the rumor mill on the street gets operating and things can escalate. A significant police presence prevented anything further," Harvey said.

Yesterday, Elks club members were taking down the bandstand that had been the center of what they described as an annual "organizational" day and parade. None would agree to give his name, but one man said the club should not be held responsible.

"We've been doing this for years and we've never had a major problem," he said. "The Elks can't be held responsible for what some individuals might or might not do."

"The parade has been going on for a number of years, but it has gotten so a lot of older people don't want to go any more," said Joan Banks, who owns a Port Street coin laundry. "It's just gotten to be too much."

Easton is in the first year of a $106,000 state-supported crime "Hot Spot" program -- one of 35 around Maryland.

Pub Date: 6/30/98

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