Three killings bring police in force to Pen Lucy area

Officers seek to avert strife among drug gangs

May 15, 1999|By Peter Hermann | Peter Hermann,SUN STAFF

Shootings this week have left three people dead in or near North Baltimore's Pen Lucy neighborhood, raising fears about a resurgence of drug violence in an area singled out by police for extra enforcement.

Community leaders and officers had hoped that the arrests of 14 suspected members of the Old York and Cator Avenue gang in December would help quell brisk cocaine sales in the Old York Road corridor.

Police said yesterday that those suspects remain in jail awaiting trial on drug and shooting charges, but officers are concerned about upstart dealers possibly trying to fill the void.

"We are raining police in that Pen Lucy community and trying to hold it," said Maj. Robert F. Biemiller, Northern District commander. "It was a lucrative drug market. When you remove the suppliers, the demand still comes. We are trying to guard against some other group coming up there and establishing itself and to keep warring factions out."

Robert Nowlin, a Pen Lucy community activist who for a decade has spoken out against crime and led marches to disrupt drug dealers, said he wants stronger police enforcement to keep corners clear of loiterers.

He said area dealers are trying to test police to see what enforcement action they take. The activist also complained that some of his neighbors in the community between Govans and Waverly might be involved in the illicit drug trade.

"I know there are a lot of people who call themselves good people who are involved with these hoodlums," said Nowlin, whose house was riddled with bullets in 1996 after he began speaking out.

Local dealers call Nowlin "Blind Five-O." Drug-corner lookouts shout "5-O" to warn dealers about approaching police cars, a code taken from the police drama "Hawaii 5-O."

"I call that a compliment," said Nowlin, who is blind. "I tell them thank you."

The latest violence began Tuesday, when Troy Anthony Cohen, 21, was shot once in the head on the front porch of his home in the 4000 block of Wilsby Ave. Police said drugs were found near his body.

Thursday about 11 p.m., Tyrone Lewis, 24, was found shot dead in a van parked in the 4800 block of Old York Road, north of Cold Spring Lane in Govans, just outside Pen Lucy. Biemiller said a "substantial quantity" of cocaine was found in the van.

About three hours later, at 2 a.m., an unidentified man was shot and killed in the 3900 block of Old York Road. Police said it appeared to be a robbery. Biemiller said police are investigating whether the three slayings are linked.

Police were particularly concerned after the arrests in December because one of the prime suspects and gang members posted bail, despite having a prior conviction for murder.

Officers rearrested the man in January on a charge of attempted murder after he allegedly shot at Officer Robert Brooks, who had arrested him in December.

Police said he was found filling vials of cocaine at his kitchen table and that they seized three guns, one linked to four shootings and a killing, in the course of the arrest.

Biemiller said yesterday that he has saturated Pen Lucy with dozens of extra officers and undercover detectives.

Nowlin said drug dealing has become "a game."

"When you play it," he said, "it ends in death."

Pub Date: 5/15/99

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