Bullets bring worry to Morgan campus

New incident comes as school recovers from death last month

October 02, 1999|By Tim Craig | Tim Craig,SUN STAFF

Baltimore police have stepped up patrols around Morgan State University's campus after a two-minute burst of gunfire Thursday night sent more than a dozen bullets whizzing near a dormitory, leaving one man dead and another injured.

The gunfire came hours after a school-sponsored candlelight vigil for a 19-year-old accounting student killed Sept. 3 a few blocks from the Northeast Baltimore campus.

Some students said they felt terror as shots rang out and are now frightened -- though neither of the victims in Thursday's shooting was identified as a student -- to walk through the neighborhood around the campus.

"I'm ready to go home, now," said Nia Wilkes, a freshman from Yonkers, N.Y. "I came here to escape violence, and I am now scared and unsettled."

One student's car had its windows shot out, and some bullets landed less than 100 yards from the Harper-Tubman dormitory, which is adjacent to Hillen Road.

"It's senseless," said Dionne D. Joyner, a sophomore who lives in Harper-Tubman. "We just had a vigil and came home to something like this."

Gary Allen Smith, 23, of Chinquapin Park was driving south on Hillen Road before midnight when a gray vehicle pulled up beside Smith's car. Someone inside the gray car fired at Smith's car, police said.

Smith and his passenger, screaming for help, ran from the car to nearby homes in the 1600 block of Pentwood Road as the gunman continued shooting.

The passenger, whom police have declined to identify until his next of kin are notified, collapsed on a porch on Pentwood. He was pronounced dead at the scene by Baltimore paramedics.

Smith fell a few feet away. He was at Johns Hopkins Hospital last night and was reported to be in good condition.

Six gunshots

"I heard six consecutive gunshots, tires screeching and then came out to confusion," said Natalie Vincent, a freshman from New Jersey.

Some of the students said they had seen violence, having grown up in Baltimore, Detroit or Washington. Others were visibly shaken.

"I don't feel safe -- it's not a safe campus," said Nimata Bangura, a freshman from northern New Jersey. "I will not be off campus after 9 at night."

School officials said that Thursday's incident came as the college community was recovering from the death of Elward J. Alexander III, a junior from Burtonsville.

Alexander, described by students as a shy person, was shot in the head about 11: 45 p.m. Sept. 3 in the 4400 block of Marble Hall Road, near Northwood Apartments. He is the fourth Morgan student to be killed since 1995.

High priority

Police have no suspects in that case, but Northeastern District Commander Maj. Arthur Smith called the case a high priority and said it was being investigated.

Smith said it does not appear that Alexander's death is connected to Thursday night's incident.

"They may turn out to be isolated incidents, but until we know for sure, we are taking it very seriously," Smith said. "Any time bullets are flying, people have the right to be concerned."

Smith said the two shootings are "worrisome" because they happened blocks from each other.

School officials also are concerned by the violence but caution that the 6,000-student university is safe.

"Unfortunately, there are occasional incidents from time to time throughout the city, and it's a concern to all of us," said Morgan State President Earl S. Richardson. "But I don't think there is a feeling of alarm on campus."

Some students agreed, but many said the campus is visited by groups of youths -- who are not students -- who cause mischief.

Pub Date: 10/02/99

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