Dancer mugged, shot after performance Cast member of show about Al Jolson might be paralyzed

December 01, 1998|By Peter Hermann | Peter Hermann,SUN STAFF

A New Yorker in Baltimore to tap dance in a musical profile of Al Jolson was mugged and shot late Friday on a downtown street outside his hotel after one of his performances.

James Branford Pace was recovering at Johns Hopkins Hospital from a bullet wound to his neck. He was in serious condition. Police said he might be paralyzed.

"Everybody, including my staff, we're all down," said Robert M. Pomory, president of Lyric Theatre, where the show "Jolson: The Musical" ended its six-day run Sunday before heading to Florida yesterday. "It hit us like a ton of bricks."

Pace, 27, was one of the lead tap dancers in the musical, which profiled the noted singer and Broadway performer whose starring role in the 1927 movie "The Jazz Singer" propelled him to fame. Pace's parents, H. C. Pace and Carolyn Pace, were en route to Baltimore yesterday and could not be reached for comment.

The shooting occurred about 11: 30 p.m. Friday at West Saratoga and St. Paul streets. Police said Pace was confronted by an armed mugger as he walked from the Lyric on West Mount Royal Avenue to Tremont Plaza Hotel, where he was staying.

He was one of 20 people who were shot in the city between late Friday and early Monday. Six more were killed during that time, three of them by gunfire.

Last month, 73 nonfatal incidents were reported -- more than two a day. But the number of killings this year is 282, one less than at the same time last year.

About a week ago, according to police, the Central District had increased foot patrols and other police presence within several blocks of the scene of the shooting. Police said the moves were in response to residents' concerns about safety.

Pomory, who has been president of the Lyric since 1970, said the only other incident involving a cast member that he can recall occurred a few years ago when a young man was robbed and beaten in Mount Vernon Place.

Friday's shooting, he said, "could happen in any city. It's not just Baltimore."

City police said yesterday that they knew of no suspects in the incident, which occurred on a street just north of the Tremont. Investigators said Pace was approached by a man holding a handgun who demanded his valuables.

"The victim refused and a struggle ensued," said Agent Ragina L. Cooper, a police spokeswoman. She said that Pace's friend and fellow cast member, Derek Duane Iseti, 24, ran up and tried to persuade Pace to give up his money.

That is when the mugger fired one shot from an unknown-caliber handgun, striking Pace in the left side of his neck. He collapsed on his back. Cooper said the mugger grabbed Pace's backpack and fired one shot at Iseti as he ran down the street. That shot missed.

Iseti, who could not be reached for comment yesterday, called police. Cooper said the mugger and another man were seen getting away in a dark colored four-door car, possibly an Audi or a BMW.

Pub Date: 12/01/98

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