No sign of relief for victims of everyday gun violence

October 27, 2002|By MICHAEL OLESKER

AMERICA BREATHES a sigh of relief over the capture of two suspects in the sniper case and their Bushmaster semiautomatic rifle. Now we can all settle back to routine American gunplay, such as Ian Mitchell standing in his parents' driveway in Glyndon, Baltimore County, where a couple of guys with a handgun show up one night and start firing away.

Mitchell, 24, a student at Catonsville Community College and a part-time land surveyor, had gotten home from class and was changing the oil in his car when two guys approached, forced him to his knees and said they wanted money. Then one fired shots at his head as Mitchell tried to run away.

The good news: The first bullet only grazed Mitchell's head, leaving him dazed and bloody as he stumbled into the house and his parents came screaming from their bedroom.

The bad news: When the two suspects were caught, Baltimore County Circuit Judge Norris Byrnes overruled two other judges who had ordered the suspects held without bail. He released one man on home detention. The man lives just a few blocks from the Mitchell home.

"By the grace of God, my child's alive only because he ran," Frances Mitchell said last week.

"What happened was horrifying. The whole house shook from the noise," she said. "And then, to see your son come flying into the house, and he's screaming, `I've been shot in the head,' and there's blood everywhere - and now this [suspect] is back living just a few blocks from our house."

"It's scary," Ian Mitchell said. "These guys shoot me, and now they're not behind bars? I don't think that's right."

Within hours of the shooting, Baltimore County police arrested two suspects - Jeremy Alisaid, 23, who is accused of firing the shots, and David Sies, 23, who police say accompanied him. While the two await trial, Alisaid remains behind bars, but Sies is at home. And Judge Byrnes' decision has prompted outrage - from the Mitchells and from many of their neighbors.

"Yes," the judge acknowledged last week, "some people are upset. I understand it. But, on balance, I think I did the right thing."

On the night of Sept. 17, Ian Mitchell says, he was working on his car when the two suspects approached him. It was about 9:30. He saw the two men talking at the foot of his driveway.

"They asked me if I had any beer," Mitchell remembered. "I said, `No.' As they approached me, I could smell alcohol on their breath. I said, `You gotta leave.' So they did, but then they came back. I said, `Can I help you?' The one guy said, `You want us to leave?' I said, `Yeah.'

"So they did. I was putting my stuff away, going in and out of the house. And they came back a third time, and one of them says, `Get on your knees and face the house.' He kept saying, `Who's in the house?' And they wanted money. It felt like I was about to be executed. They were getting frustrated, because I said I didn't have anything. I was getting scared out of my pants. They started throwing things around. And then I started running."

He felt the first shot graze the left side of his head, just above his eye. The second shot missed. He tried opening the back door to the house, but it was locked. He ran to the other side, by the kitchen, and ran in, screaming, "I've been shot."

He felt a burning sensation, and saw blood on the floor. His father, Joe Mitchell, tried to stop the bleeding while Frances Mitchell locked all doors and called 911.

David Sies was found later that night, about a mile from the Mitchell home. Police say he admitted taking part in the incident, and gave them Alisaid's name.

When the police found Alisaid the next morning, they also found a .45-caliber handgun.

At bail hearings later that week, first Sies and then Alisaid were denied bail by two judges.

But then Sies' attorney asked for a bail review before Judge Byrnes. He reduced bail to $150,000, over the strenuous objections of prosecutor Sue Hazlett, and released Sies to home detention - except to go to "work, counseling, medical appointments, religious services, legal/probation/home detention appointed and approved leaves by ... the court."

At this point, the case reached the attention of Deputy State's Attorney Steve Bailey. "This is a family with a real complaint," said Bailey, who will prosecute the case. The Mitchells "have every reason to be frightened and concerned. All indications are that this was a premeditated robbery. Sies didn't pull the trigger, but he reached into [Ian Mitchell's] pocket looking for money. It's an outrageous case that instills fear in an entire community."

Judge Byrnes knows this. Since his decision, he's gotten letters from Glyndon residents, and from a homeowners association there.

"I'm aware that they live pretty close," Byrnes said last week. "I know there's concern. But people are presumed innocent until proven guilty. And as a judge, I have to balance citizens' concerns with treating defendants fairly."

"We've lived here 26 years and raised three boys here," Frances Mitchell said. "Now I can't even walk out to that driveway. I told my husband, `Let's put the house up for sale and get out of here.'"

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