Harborplace merchant killed at shop

Witnesses capture suspect in struggle as shoppers run

Apparent domestic row

Fatal stabbing is third homicide of day as city violence continues

November 09, 2001|By Richard Irwin and Michael Scarcella | Richard Irwin and Michael Scarcella,SUN STAFF

A Harborplace merchant was fatally stabbed last night outside her upper-level accessories shop in the Light Street Pavilion as horrified witnesses tried to stop the attack -- capturing the assailant in a violent struggle as shoppers ran screaming for safety.

The homicide was the second in the history of the twin waterfront shopping pavilions, which opened in 1980 as the centerpiece of an Inner Harbor renaissance.

It was the third homicide of the day, continuing a surge in city killings that has frustrated an O'Malley administration pledge to reduce Baltimore's homicide rate.

Shortly before 7 p.m., two city police officers raced to the pavilion's upper level, where several male shoppers and workers from nearby businesses were wrestling with a man.

The victim lay dead on her back, a large butcher knife protruding from her chest, a few feet from her accessories shop, Hair Phrenzy.

The suspect -- who police said was her husband -- suffered multiple injuries from the struggle and was under treatment and police guard at Maryland Shock Trauma Center late last night.

Some of his injuries resulted from his being struck with a baseball bat by one of the witnesses.

The names of the victim and the suspect were not immediately divulged. City police spokeswoman Ragina C. Averella described them as South Baltimore residents in their mid-20s. The attack appeared to be the result of a domestic dispute, she said.

Police said the woman had obtained a restraining order against her husband.

The suspect, recently released from jail, went to Harborplace with his brother and confronted his wife inside the store or just outside, police said.

Words were exchanged, and the woman was stabbed as the pair argued about three feet from the store's entrance, in full view of shoppers and other merchants, police said.

Cheryl Chalk, 20, who was working at a kiosk 50 feet from the site of the attack, said shoppers fled in terror, screaming.

"It's crazy," said Chalk. "It seems like nowhere is safe anymore." Blood was splattered on the floor near her kiosk.

Chalk said she was sitting at her kiosk near the second-floor escalator landing when she saw a scuffle and heard screams, and people began streaming past her. Chalk said she thought someone had let a dog loose and that it was chasing people.

Police described the scene as chaotic, with workers and shoppers who witnessed the stabbing turning away in tears at the sight of the woman dead on the floor.

A man who declined to identify himself said he gathered up his wife and children and quickly left the pavilion. "When I heard that someone had been stabbed, we all walked over to the Gallery across the street," he said.

Averella said some witnesses were taken to police headquarters for interviews. She called the actions of those who subdued the suspect crucial. "They prevented him from escaping," she said.

The Harborplace killing followed the fatal shootings of two unidentified men before dawn.

At 2:30 a.m., a caller to 911 reported shots in an alley in the 3700 block of Towanda Ave. in Northwest Baltimore, where police found a man dead of a head wound.

About 3:30 a.m., a Western District police officer was stopped by a male pedestrian reporting that a man was lying on the pavement in the 700 block of N. Pulaski St. in Rosemont. Police said the victim, who appeared to be in his 30s, had been shot at least once in the head and died a half-hour later at Maryland Shock Trauma Center.

Detectives had no suspect and knew of no motive in either shooting. They asked that anyone with information call the homicide squad at 410-396-2100.

The only other Harborplace killing occurred Oct. 8, 1997, when a cook at Phillips Harborplace Express was fatally stabbed by a kitchen supervisor.

With homicides occurring at a rate of more than one a day -- a dozen since last Friday -- Baltimore clergy members and Mayor Martin O'Malley announced plans yesterday to hold a "Peace for the City" rally against violence.

The mayor signed a proclamation yesterday designating Nov. 16-18 as a period of citywide fasting and prayer.

At noon Nov. 16, clergy members will gather in War Memorial Plaza to pray for an end to violent crime and for the safety of police officers.

On Nov. 17, prayer services will be held in churches and parks in each of the nine city police districts. Another will be held in Baltimore County.

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