Bullets defy safe areas' reputations, easy solution

This Just In...

January 21, 2000|By DAN RODRICKS

BY YESTERDAY morning, snow covered the bloodstains in the parking lot in the 5100 block of Lodestone Way, which is in Northeast Baltimore, off Sinclair Lane, across from the wide strip of parkland that runs along the old creek called Herring Run. This is the pleasant outer city, where middle-class families live in apartments and brick rowhouses on neat, narrow streets. Some take their kids to school each day, some go to church on Sundays, some walk their dogs in the park. This is where Baltimore's 16th and 17th homicides occurred on the 18th night of the year.

Two more homicides occurred the next day, Wednesday, on Mount Street in the bleaker inner city, creating a deadly pileup early in the administration of the new mayor, the new police commissioner and his new deputies.

By the time you read this, Baltimore could have recorded its 20th homicide of 2000. At this rate, we'll certainly have another year of more than 300 killings, most of them, of course, related to the commerce of illegal drugs to which thousands of city residents are addicted. In this age of national prosperity and local optimism -- a young and ambitious mayor in Baltimore, a governor giddy with a huge budget surplus -- we still have a culture of poverty, drugs and death in our midst, a parallel world that runs like a poisonous, underground river through Baltimore.

It is demanded of the new commissioner and his deputies that they "do something" to stop the killings, but just how they can put themselves between those who would kill and their victims remains an enormous unanswered question.

Consider what happened Tuesday night, when Nos. 16 and 17 clicked on the city's homicide register. What happened would have seemed wholly astonishing if we had not seen and heard of this particular species of crime so many times over so many years -- young men, guns, and the night.

Police record the time of the incident as 11:07 p.m. That's when most of Baltimore would have been in bed, or headed there, maybe watching the news shows on television. You could have gone to Little Italy, or Charles Street, or the Inner Harbor, and seen people stepping out of restaurants or into hotels at that hour. At police headquarters, Detective Mike Glenn and his squad had just arrived for duty in the homicide unit.

In the 5100 block of Lodestone Way, in the parking lot between low-rise apartment buildings, a man named Calvin Henderson sat at the wheel of an Acura. Henderson had turned 22 the previous Wednesday.

Nearby, perhaps on Lodestone Way or just around the corner from it, two other young men sat in a Honda. One was Aaron Edwards, from Valley Street in East Baltimore, and just a week shy of his 22nd birthday. There was another young man in the Honda, Milton Tillman. Tillman was behind the wheel.

Henderson, in the Acura, and Tillman, in the Honda, were friends.

What they were doing in Parkside Gardens at 11 o'clock Tuesday night is not clear.

But this is:

A few minutes after 11, a fourth man stepped from the darkness or from another car with a gun capable of firing many bullets in rapid succession. He shot Henderson several times from behind, possibly from the back seat of the Acura. Henderson died in the car.

Then the gunman -- or perhaps another person -- sprayed more bullets into the Honda.

Several bullets hit Edwards.

Edwards died in the car.

A few bullets hit Tillman, but did not kill him.

Tillman pushed on the gas pedal and managed to drive the Honda out of Lodestone Way.

He likely turned onto Parkside Drive, which runs along Herring Run Park. He then turned onto Mannasota Avenue and drove several blocks until he reached Erdman Avenue. He steered the Honda into the Exxon station there. He saw someone pumping gas. Remarkably, this person knew Tillman and, seeing the blood from his wounds and hearing him cry, agreed to help. Tillman left the Honda with the dead man at the Exxon station. He got in his friend's car. They drove a block and located a police officer on Belair Road.

The call for the shooting came to Glenn's homicide unit downtown, and he and Detective Don Gordon spent the next several hours trying to piece the incident together. At first they thought they had three separate shootings, then realized the violence had started on Lodestone Way, or near there. They've been working on the case since Tuesday. They hope to question the families of the dead men and Tillman, who remains hospitalized. Glenn and Gordon have to figure out what happened and why, and that's a difficult task.

But not as difficult as stopping the killings in this poor, sad city.

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