Shooting at bar leaves 2 men hospitalized Suspect in police custody, but motive, events leading to attack are in dispute

October 20, 1998|By Peter Hermann | Peter Hermann,SUN STAFF

David Steele had just closed his Harford Road bar, Dead Freddies, when a regular customer returned and began pounding on the door. Steele reluctantly opened up, afraid his friend wanted to continue drinking.

"He said, 'I've been shot,' " Steele said yesterday, recalling the early Sunday shooting outside his tavern in Northeast Baltimore. "I thought he was kidding. Then he lay face down on the sidewalk."

Police said a man who lives across the parking lot from the bar aimed through a scope and fired nine shots from a rifle as patrons emerged, hitting Michael Ferro, 33, and his brother, Stephen Ferro, 27, who were about 60 feet away. Both survived.

Michael Ferro collapsed at the door, lying on top of a sidewalk advertisement for the bar -- a chalk outline of a body holding a frothy mug of beer.

Stephen Ferro fell in the lot near the north side of the building. Steele said he used a bar rag to stop the bleeding.

Police arrested George Stuart Wallace, 28, and charged him with two counts of attempted first-degree murder and two counts of reckless endangerment. Steele and other bar workers held the suspect until police arrived.

A District Court judge ordered Wallace held in lieu of $50,000 bail yesterday. Court officials said he had not posted it yesterday and was being held in the Baltimore City Detention Center.

The Ferros' friends called the shooting in the 7200 block of Harford Road an unprovoked attack. But the owner of a hair salon who rented a basement apartment to Wallace said his tenant was scared by the Ferros. He said they walked toward the gunman and shouted threats moments before the shooting.

Police, however, said witnesses they interviewed do not support that story. "These two guys were coming out of the bar and they saw a man with a rifle," said Lt. Richard J. Long, of the Violent Crimes Task Force.

Police said the gunman might have thought the Ferros had parked in his space. But they had parked across the street.

"Very rarely do we get somebody who for no apparent reason just comes out and shoots somebody," Long said.

Police said a search of the suspect's apartment, beneath Umberto's Total Look Salon, turned up an M-16 rifle, two other military-style assault weapons, ammunition and a cross-bow.

Bert Tunzi, the owner of the salon and a friend of Wallace's for years, said he didn't know about the weapons.

"He was trying to get himself together," Tunzi said of Wallace.

Stephen Ferro, who lives in Perry Hall with his wife, was in stable condition yesterday at Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center. He was shot in the left leg.

Michael Ferro, an ex-Marine who lives in White Marsh, was in stable condition at Johns Hopkins Hospital, recovering from wounds to the right arm and stomach.

"Michael got hit first and hollered to Stephen to take cover," said Carole Schaefer, Stephen Ferro's mother-in-law. "He dove behind a car and that's when he got shot."

Tunzi said the Ferros had walked across the parking lot, exchanged words with Wallace's girlfriend, and had gone inside Wallace's apartment to use the bathroom. He said the brothers left, and then returned and advanced toward Wallace from across the parking lot.

"He felt he was protecting his territory," Tunzi said.

Pub Date: 10/20/98

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