2 teens hurt, one critically, by unidentified gunman

5 Balto. County schools locked down after incident

Area residents say crime rising

February 23, 2005|By Anica Butler and Laura Barnhardt | Anica Butler and Laura Barnhardt,SUN STAFF

Baltimore County police were searching for a teenager who they say shot two boys, wounding one critically, yesterday morning in Lansdowne.

Five schools were locked down after the shooting about 7 a.m. on a street lined with townhouses and single-family homes, less than a mile from the area's high school.

The boys, both students at Lansdowne High School, were walking on Fifth Avenue toward Fourth Avenue when they were approached by a teenager with a handgun who told them to walk with him, according to Officer Shawn Vinson, a county police spokesman.

The boys turned and ran toward their homes in the Circle Terrace Apartments, and they were shot, Vinson said. Police said the gunman fired four to five shots.

William Branch Alston, 16, of the 2900 block of Lakebrook Circle, was shot twice in the back and was in critical but stable condition at Johns Hopkins Hospital, authorities said. Lemar Derrell Williams, 14, also of the 2900 block of Lakebrook Circle, was shot in the hip and was in good condition at Johns Hopkins Hospital, police said.

Police were trying to determine whether the attacker knew his victims, and said they were investigating a possible motive but would not release any details. The two teens told police they did not know the shooter, Vinson said.

Police said they did not have a suspect. They were searching for the suspected gunman, who was described as a black male, 15 to 18 years old, with a gold tooth, last seen wearing a black jacket and running in the area of Fourth Avenue in Lansdowne.

Students said they were surprised that Alston and Williams -- who were described as popular -- were the victims.

Amanda Carter, 17, who said she has known Williams for seven years, described him as "the sweetest person you'll ever meet."

"He doesn't have problems with anybody," she said.

Maybell Johnson, Alston's grandmother, said, "He doesn't bother anybody, he doesn't have any trouble. ... That's why it shocked just about everybody."

Some neighbors say they are concerned with what they say is an increase in crime in the area, particularly in and around the Circle Terrace Apartments, a gated complex with more than 300 apartments in brick buildings with open stairwells. Outside the apartment gates are several townhouse complexes and modest single-family homes.

Jeff Egoff was getting ready for work when he and his wife, Donna, heard the shots about 7 a.m. yesterday.

"We weren't sure at first it was gunfire," said Donna Egoff, who said they have seen crime grow worse in the five years they've lived on Fifth Avenue. "We're so used to hearing fireworks at all hours, even at 7 in the morning."

The couple, who have two children, said they knew there was trouble when they heard sirens.

A 24-year-old woman was shot Feb. 12 in the complex and died three days later. Her boyfriend was charged.

In 2002, according to police, a 14-year-old boy who grew up in the complex was fatally stabbed there by two Southwest Baltimore men after police said he tried to stick up for a girl he apparently didn't know.

Officials from Landex Corp., which owns and manages the Circle Terrace Apartments, did not return calls yesterday.

Before the complex was bought by Landex in 1992, the apartments were described by police as an open-air drug market with rats infesting the often vacant apartment buildings.

Lansdowne High, Lansdowne Middle, Riverview Elementary, Baltimore Highlands Elementary and Lansdowne Elementary schools took extra security precautions after the shooting yesterday. Their doors were locked and outdoor activities such as physical education and recess were moved inside, according to school system spokesman Charles A. Herndon.

At Lansdowne High School, students were locked in their classrooms for the first hour of the day, and school officials searched the school for anyone matching the shooter's description.

Lansdowne High School Principal Thomas DeHart sent a letter home to parents yesterday informing them of the incident. Counselors will be available for the students today, the letter said.

Sun staff writer Sara Neufeld contributed to this article.

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