New police official greeted by more killing

January 13, 2000|By MICHAEL OLESKER

AS A grand welcome to Edward T. Norris, the city of Baltimore this week offered Daryl Gamerman and a man who faked a holdup with a toy. Norris is the new police arrival from New York trumpeted as one of the brains behind that city's miraculous drop in crime. Gamerman is the poor soul forced to fatally shoot a man in Northwest Baltimore.

The shooting occurred Tuesday, about three hours after Norris said hello to Baltimore. He arrived for a police news conference at about 10: 45 in the morning and said, "You are going to see a big difference throughout this city. You are going to see a reduction in shooting incidents."

Instead, as ill circumstance would have it, we immediately saw more familiar gunplay.

At about 2 in the afternoon, a man walked into Target Appliance Co., in the 6300 block of Reisterstown Road, with a pistol in his hand. The pistol was a phony, but the man's motives were not.

He said he wanted a microwave oven and knocked an elderly store employee to the floor.

"That was me," Arthur Krouss said yesterday morning, standing in the appliance store showroom a few feet from the shooting spot. "I saw a gun, I thought it was a revolver. When I hit the floor, I thought, `At least I'm out of the line of fire.' "

Then the gunman grabbed a female employee, pressed the gun to her head and clicked the trigger several times.

"She screamed terribly and fell to the floor," Ted Gamerman said yesterday. He is the owner of the store and the father of Daryl Gamerman. When the woman fell down, the gunman hovered over her and kept pointing his gun at her, and Daryl Gamerman went for his own gun.

It was not a toy. Yesterday, Gamerman did not come to work. His father said he stayed at home, badly shaken. When he reached for his own gun, the younger Gamerman had no idea he was facing a man with a toy. He only imagined lives were at stake.

He emerged from a back room with a 9 mm Glock handgun. The gunman pointed at him. Gamerman pointed back, and fired and fired.

"And now we have this," Ted Gamerman said yesterday, "which we have to clean up."

He meant the gunman's blood, still splotched across the floor where he fell by a cash register. It looked like a child's finger painting. The city welcomes a new brain trust in the police department and spins a nice, clean phrase known as "zero tolerance," but it still comes down to blood spilled on a floor.

In New York, where Norris made his reputation, homicides were cut from 2,200 in 1990 to less than 700 a year ago. Nonfatal gunplay also dropped dramatically. On Tuesday, Norris said there is no reason why Baltimore can't do what New York did.

This is nice to hear, but we are a city grown skeptical of talk. The educators promise reform, but the kids still can't read. Neighborhoods crumble, and the city council votes itself a pay raise while nobody's looking. The police talk of a new day, but homicides topped 300 in the year that just ended, and the new year opens with a bunch of killings.

In the aftermath of the Target Appliance store shooting, the Northwest District police commander, Maj. Zeinab Rabold, called that area of Reisterstown Road "very safe."

"We've never had a holdup," Ted Gamerman concurred yesterday. He opened the place 28 years ago. "And my neighbors say the same thing."

That's the sad irony. It's not a neighborhood in constant alarm. It's a neighborhood where you don't particularly expect trouble. There's a Pratt Library branch next door, and Reisterstown Road Plaza shopping center a block away.

But it's a fact that Daryl Gamerman felt it necessary to carry a gun, and to wear a bulletproof vest for deliveries he made in the area. If this is considered "very safe," then what's the police definition of dangerous?

If the new deputy police commissioner wants to see real trouble, he should try another part of the Reisterstown Road-Park Heights twin corridors of Northwest Baltimore, and the residential side streets between them, from Belvedere Avenue down to Park Circle.

There, he will get a better idea about crime in his new city, and more than that. He can see narcotics traffic that fuels the crime, and entire blocks that will make his eyeballs bleed from abandoned homes, busted windows, boarded-up doors, peeling paint, porches falling down and trash lying all over formerly lush lawns.

Maybe Edward T. Norris is right, and he can help Baltimore the way he helped New York. We long for such a change. In the meantime, though, we have Daryl Gamerman wearing a bulletproof vest and pulling a gun on a man looking to hold up his appliance store.

There was blood still on the floor yesterday, and now it runs through this neighborhood that the police refer to as "very safe."

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