Random shooting causes ripples of fear in Del. community

Innocent bystander killed in rampage after walking nephew to bus stop

April 08, 2005|By Gus G. Sentementes | Gus G. Sentementes,SUN STAFF

LAUREL, Del. - When a neighbor came to Iris Weston's door yesterday to say her son, Jamell, was lying in the street, her first thought was that he had had a seizure. "I got there, he was laying in blood," she said.

After walking his 6-year-old nephew to the bus stop yesterday around 8 a.m., Jamell Weston, 24, was returning to his mother's apartment when the shooting began. He tried to run, his mother said, but he didn't get far.

A gunman - wielding a 9 mm handgun and wearing a bulletproof vest - shot him in the face. Weston staggered and fell by a building air conditioning unit, where he died. His cousin, Marcus Cannon, 18, was also grazed by a bullet. He survived.

Weston and his cousin were innocent bystanders in a scene of terror that began at the Carvel Garden Apartments, a low-income housing complex here, and ended an hour later in Salisbury, Md. with the arrest of a suspect, Allison Lamont Norman, 22, of Seaford, Del.

Iris Weston said her son, who was born with a brain condition that left him prone to seizures and unable to work, "was a very nice, quiet man who didn't bother nobody else and stayed to himself."

The shooting stunned the residents in the mostly African-American neighborhood. And since it occurred at a time when children were on their way to school, it caused ripples of fear.

At a community meeting last night at North Laurel Elementary School, a few hundred yards from where Weston was killed, authorities tried to allay residents' concerns over the incident.

"He [the shooter] is not coming back," Laurel police Chief Donald McGinty told a crowd of about 50 residents. "Do not fear he is coming back. He is incarcerated."

Laurel Mayor John Schwed and a lieutenant colonel from the Delaware State Police joined McGinty at the meeting. None of the officials offered a possible motive for the shootings.

Nor would they say whether the suspect was living at the apartment complex with someone, or if he was visiting someone there yesterday morning.

They did say they believed the suspect had acted alone.

The gunman apparently approached the shooting scene on foot.

Then, after shooting Weston and Cannon, the gunman stole a black Ford Focus and headed south toward Maryland along Route 13. The car's owner, Cedric Harris, 43, said he had parked his car shortly before 8 a.m. and walked into a friend's house. He said his keys were on the driver's seat.

As he returned, he saw a man speeding away in his car.

"I just saw my car leaving on two wheels," Harris said.

At last night's meeting, officials pledged to offer more police support to the neighborhood, which residents say is plagued by drug trafficking, and to offer counseling services for victims.

Frustration began to flare, though, as several residents voiced concerns at the distant relationship between the community and the police. Some spoke of widespread distrust of the police who were accused of frequently harassing young black men in the neighborhood.

Town officials repeated their vow to work closer with the community.

"Everybody is one of God's children, and that is how I approach my job in the community," Schwed said.

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