2 shootings in 24 hours at village 17-year-old boy, man, 38, hurt in unrelated incidents

Suspect, 18, sought

Residents worried Harper's Choice is a crime magnet

September 22, 1998|By ERIKA NIEDOWSKI AND NANCY A YOUSSEF | ERIKA NIEDOWSKI AND NANCY A YOUSSEF,SUN STAFF

A teen-age boy and a 38-year-old man were shot in unrelated incidents in Columbia's Harper's Choice village within a 24-hour period beginning early Sunday, in a community where police and residents have made an effort in recent months to stem the rise of petty crimes such as loitering and burglary.

The 17-year-old, whose name was not released by police, was shot in the upper abdomen at 1: 06 a.m. Sunday in the 5400 block of Harpers Farm Road. John Jackson, 38, of Columbia was shot in the arm and chest at 1: 50 a.m. yesterday in the 5500 block of the same road, a block-and-a-half away, police said.

Both victims were listed in stable condition yesterday at Maryland Shock Trauma Center.

Police have issued an arrest warrant in Jackson's shooting, which police said occurred in the parking lot of the Fall River Terrace apartment complex, for Roberto Joseph Brathwaite, 18, of Ellicott City. When he is apprehended, police said, he is expected to be charged with attempted first- and second-degree murder, attempted first- and second-degree assault and reckless endangerment.

Brathwaite is scheduled to appear in District Court Sept. 29 on five unrelated charges, including first- and second-degree assault, in connection with another incident at Fall River Terrace last month; he is also set to be arraigned Thursday in Circuit Court on charges of drug possession and distribution, after his arrest Aug. 5 and indictment Aug. 28.

Gary Blake, a 33-year-old Fall River Terrace resident and Brathwaite's alleged victim in last month's assault, said he heard a "big boom" early yesterday and ran into his bathroom.

"I know gunfire when I hear it," said Blake, who went back to sleep only after police arrived.

Blake said he sometimes calls police a dozen times each week to report crowds of teen-agers loitering outside his one-bedroom apartment or the rear of the apartment complex. Sometimes officers come, he said, and sometimes they don't.

"I got damn-near killed in front of my apartment, and nothing is done," he said, referring to the night of Aug. 15 when he said he was beaten unconscious outside his home. "What else can I do? Get a gun and start acting like them?"

Because of the concern over crime -- including loitering and drug trafficking -- in the area, Harper's Choice was chosen as the site of a two-day, 10-hour community forum on crime in May, sponsored by the Community Policing Consortium and county police. Although police statistics show a decrease in crime during the first few months of this year, assaults increased from 129 in 1996 to 199 last year; burglaries doubled and thefts rose from 168 to 187.

In the first shooting, police are searching for two men last seen in a gold-colored station wagon, said Sgt. Morris Carroll, a police spokesman. Police said the men confronted a group, including the 17-year-old, on a footbridge spanning Harpers Farm Road behind the Harper's Choice Village Center, and then shot and vTC robbed the teen-ager.

Police said they know of no motive in the shooting, but they said they had not ruled out the possibility that it was drug-related. The evidence "leads me to believe that [the assailants] were involved in something they shouldn't have been," said Carroll.

Meanwhile, as word of the shootings spread, residents expressed concern that their neighborhood had become a magnet for crime.

"The neighborhood is not nice," said Monica George, 49, a resident of the nearby Fenland Fields apartment complex. George said she heard a gunshot early yesterday before police arrived. "It's depressing, because I come in [from work] at 11: 30 at night. It's kind of scary that somebody could come in and shoot at you."

But Sgt. Karen Shinham -- who yesterday visited Kahler Hall, the village's community center, to discuss the shootings -- said residents don't need to worry about being attacked.

"We don't want them to think there is some kind of gunman out there," Shinham said. She said officials have added more patrol officers to the area to calm residents' fears.

But some say they continue to live in fear despite the increased police presence.

A 51-year-old woman -- who heard the shot that allegedly wounded Jackson -- said she simply stays in her home to avoid danger. She was so worried that she refused to give her name.

"A lot of gangs hang out around here -- that's what usually happens," she said. "If there is that danger and killing here, I don't want them knowing my name."

Pub Date: 9/22/98

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