Three men arrested in dance hall shooting

Five people are wounded when gunfire erupts in Southeast Baltimore

April 13, 1999|By Peter Hermann | Peter Hermann,SUN STAFF

Three New York men were arrested and charged with opening fire and wounding five people early yesterday morning in a Southeast Baltimore dance hall packed with 450 patrons who came for a fashion show and dance.

Police said one of the suspects might be a member of the New York-based rap group Pitched Black, which had been performing. The three suspects were arrested in a 1999 Mercedes-Benz in which police said they found two semiautomatic handguns.

None of the victims was seriously wounded in the shooting, which occurred at 1 a.m. yesterday at Sher-Wes Gardens, a former bingo hall in the 1700 block of Dundalk Ave.

All were released from area hospitals by yesterday afternoon.

Police identified the victims as Elizabeth Grant, 28; Joel Smith, 26; Sherrie Brewer, 30; Vernon Yellowdy 32; and William Roberts, 27. All are from Baltimore.

The shooting has angered those involved in the production, which began Sunday night and cost $25 a ticket.

Patrons from Washington and Baltimore attended the show, billed as "DC's & Baltimore's hottest salons."

Tony Lobin, 40, hired to help at the show, said he was across the room and hid behind his sound equipment when the shooting began.

"I heard a pop," he said. "I thought it was balloon. Then there were two more pops louder than the first one. I saw the crowd scattering and people screaming. I don't know why anyone would go to a show with a gun."

Show promoters, Baltimore-based Just Us Productions, declined to comment yesterday.

Wes Souders, owner of Sher-Wes Gardens, said someone bumped into one of the performers on the dance floor, didn't apologize and started a fight.

He said the Nation of Islam provided security, and everyone except the performers was patted down when they entered.

The event started as a fashion show about 9 p.m. and ended with dancing. "It was a good show," Souders said. "Everything went smoothly. Then you get these goofballs from New York who ruined it for everybody."

It was the second shooting at a Baltimore club this month. The owners of the Paradox nightclub on Russell Street stopped Sunday night shows after four people were shot outside the nightspot April 5. A week earlier, a security guard was grazed by a bullet as he stood outside the Paradox.

Despite the large crowd, police said they had few details of the shooting yesterday. Detective Kevin Turner said, "All we know [is] it was an argument."

Turner said three shots were fired, with the some of the bullets ricocheting and hitting more than one person.

He said some victims were grazed, while others were hit in the leg or arms.

Police identified the suspects as New York residents Marcus McLaughlin, 26, Michael Johnson, 30, and Steven Boyd, 28. Each was charged with five counts of attempted murder, and they were being held last night at the Central Booking and Intake Center awaiting a bail hearing.

Turner said at least one of the suspects was performing with the group.

The group's promoters could not be reached to comment. Darrin "Butterman" Brin, music director of Baltimore radio station 92Q-FM, said one of the singers for Pitched Black has approached him on the street and asked him to play the group's music over the air, but never sent anything in.

Brin said that although the group is based in New York, its members live in the Baltimore area.

"They never got any radio play," he said. "They always told me they were doing stuff out of state."

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