Probe continues of shooting at hall

One killed, two injured in private party held at American Legion post

August 14, 2002|By Julie Bykowicz | Julie Bykowicz,SUN STAFF

A fatal shooting over the weekend at the American Legion Cook-Pinkney Post on Forest Drive has Annapolis police revisiting a place they had considered dormant as a trouble spot.

"Years ago, there were some problems there," said Annapolis police spokesman Hal Dalton. "But it has been really good in recent memory."

Turbulence at the hall rarely, if ever, involved Legion members, Dalton said.

"It was always the people they leased the building out to for private parties," he said. The Legion has been screening more carefully in the past few years, Dalton said.

The Saturday night shooting happened during a private party of least 50 people ranging in age from their late teens to early 40s, Dalton said.

Police have not uncovered a weapon or a motive in the shooting, Dalton said. It was the city's second homicide this year.

Several shots were fired inside the building Saturday night, including one that struck Damon Michael Rhodes, 32, in the neck, killing the Baltimore man.

Two others, James Leroy Downs, 22, and Sidney Reed, 31, both of Annapolis, were wounded during the gunfire. They do not appear to have been intended targets, police said.

Police arrested Calvin Watkins, 22, of Annapolis and charged him with first-degree murder and other offenses after several witnesses spotted him at Anne Arundel Medical Center early Sunday, police said.

The victims' family members and others from the party were gathered in the emergency room area when Watkins walked in asking for medical treatment for a knot on his head, police said.

Witnesses there identified Watkins as having been involved, and police arrested him after calling an eyewitness, Dalton said.

The charging document states one of the witnesses told police she had known Watkins since childhood and had identified him as the shooter.

But Watkins' lawyer, Daryl D. Jones, said police have arrested the wrong person.

"I am not 100 percent certain of the circumstances of the shooting, but I am 100 percent certain police do not have the person they should be looking for," Jones said yesterday.

A majority of witnesses interviewed by police said they had no idea what happened because of the commotion at the time of the gunfire, Jones said.

Watkins "has never been involved with the police," Jones said. Court records do not show any previous convictions for the suspect.

Watkins was being held without bail at the Jennifer Road Detention Center last night.

Some at the party told police they thought Watkins and Rhodes had been fighting earlier that evening, Dalton said.

Watkins' lawyer said there is no connection between his client and Rhodes.

The American Legion has been cooperating fully with the investigation, Dalton said, but members apparently had little knowledge about the party.

No one at the Legion would comment yesterday. The building is secured with card-entry lock doors, and several signs warn that drug activity will not be tolerated.

In the early 1990s, several fights erupted outside the Legion post.

During the most violent of the fights, a 23-year-old man was shot in the neck and seriously wounded in April 1991 when several men opened fire in a crowd of people at the post. Two others also were wounded.

Dalton said the Legion has regularly worked with police to control crime in the area, which is not close to any homes.

"They're a good establishment," he said. "We work closely with them, and I feel sorry that they're having to go through this."

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