Police find few willing to speak of shooting

1 of 12 victims dies, patrols increase, neighbors worry

May 30, 2001|By Del Quentin Wilber and Kimberly A. C. Wilson | Del Quentin Wilber and Kimberly A. C. Wilson,SUN STAFF

Fearing retaliatory violence after Monday's shooting of 12 people at an outdoor party in East Baltimore, police said they were increasing patrols in the area and trying to persuade worried residents and victims to talk about what they saw.

About 60 people were attending the "Gone but not forgotten" party thrown by the mother of a man slain there last year. Yet, police said they had gotten few leads into the shooting, which claimed its first life last night: Lakeisha Moten, 24, died at Johns Hopkins Hospital.

"This is very frustrating," said Police Commissioner Edward T. Norris, who acknowledged that he was "very concerned" about potential retaliation for the shootings outside 2032 E. North Ave. and had been meeting with commanders about ways to prevent it.

Several residents, also fearful of further violence, declined to speak to reporters, saying they did not want to be harmed.

Norris and other police officials released few details about the shootings yesterday but said they believed they were prompted by earlier shootings or stemmed from "drug-money disputes."

The North Avenue area near Chester Street is known for drug trafficking and violence, police officials said. Since January, five people have been shot and two people killed near there. On Friday, two men were shot, one of them the brother of a man wounded in Monday's shooting, police officials said.

Two months ago, police said, they seized two handguns from 2032 E. North Ave., 19 bags of marijuana and 50 gel caps of heroin being carried out of the house by several people.

Police said 2032 E. North Ave. was among several places being used by a drug organization as stash houses for drugs.

Police charged Shirley Evans, 40, and Javon Holmes, 17, with possession with intent to distribute drugs and drug trafficking with a handgun.

Both were released on bail. Holmes was wounded in the Monday shooting.

Shirley Evans is the sister of the woman, Sharon Evans, who threw Monday's party.

Sharon Evans, 40, said in an interview she was not sure why anyone would open fire on such a large group of people, which included many young children.

About 60 people were milling about, packing away tents and food when the shooting erupted about 10 p.m., Evans said.

Evans suffered a minor wound to her head. "It felt like somebody hit me with something," she said. "I grabbed my grandbaby and hit the ground. I got hit before I even heard the shots."

Evans said she then called police on her cell phone.

Gary Heggie, 14, was at the party and said he heard gunshots and found himself shot in his left hand. "I thought it was firecrackers at first," he said, while still wearing his bloodstained T-shirt yesterday afternoon.

When he realized his mistake, Gary said, he dropped to the ground. Gary's mother, who declined to be identified, said she wasn't angry about the shooting.

Evans got a permit last month from the city Department of Public Works to throw the party from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m. In the permit application, Evans wrote that she planned on "having a nice time with family and friends."

Monday would have been the 23rd birthday of her son, Keith "Bone" Hamlet, who was shot and killed last November inside 2032 E. North Ave., the home of Shirley Evans, his aunt, Sharon Evans said.

Police arrested Tavon Dixon, 20, of the 900 block of Collington Ave. and charged him with first-degree murder in Hamlet's death.

Dixon is being held at Central Booking and Intake Facility without bail, pending trial in that case.

Yesterday, fliers and photographs still clung to the walls of 2032 E. North Ave.

One flier announced "It's Bone's Birthday!!! He's Gone But Not Forgotten, R.I.P." There was also a collage of photographs of Hamlet with his toddler son, Keith Da'mon.

One photograph showed him riding a personal watercraft, and another showed him sticking the middle fingers of both hands into the air.

"I was mixing a memorial and his birthday," Evans said. "We were having a nice time. Then some crazy [man] came shooting. I don't have the words to describe a maniac like that."

Evans said she had no idea who fired the shots but urged potential witnesses to call police.

Police tried to break up the party about an hour before the shooting because it was supposed to have ended by 7 p.m., said Maj. Elfago Moye, commander of the Eastern Police District.

An officer spoke to people organizing the event, Moye said, and told them to pack their stuff away. The officer then left to deal with other matters, he said.

Evans confirmed that account, saying that an officer told them to put everything away.

Organizers had just taken down one party tent and were working on the other when the shooting happened, Evans said.

Police said they believe two men got out of a car near the party and approached on foot.

The pair then opened fire from about 50 feet away.

Police said they found more than 40 shell casings that came from at least two guns.

The gunmen then fled the scene, likely in a car, police said.

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