Boy charged in killing was gang member, police say

Violent drug ring is linked to 7 shootings since May

July 28, 2005|By Gus G. Sentementes | Gus G. Sentementes,SUN STAFF

The boy charged with fatally shooting a man last month in a Northwest Baltimore housing project is accused of belonging to a violent gang known as "Cutthroat," a drug-dealing ring of juveniles run by adults and linked to seven shootings since May, according to internal police reports obtained by The Sun.

Police surveillance of the gang, begun more than two weeks before the shooting, found that four boys were being directed by two men in running drug sales out of nine apartments at or near the Oswego Mall apartments in Park Heights, the reports show.

The reports paint a grim picture of teenagers - all 16 and under - acting as foot soldiers in a crack cocaine-dealing operation that opened shop about 11 a.m. each day.

Undercover police officers watched for several weeks as boys took money from buyers, went into apartments and returned with suspected drugs, the reports said.

During a June 30 raid at an apartment five days after the killing, police arrested Joseph O. Smith, 23, of the 4000 block of Oswego Court, and two others. Smith is accused of being the group's No. 2 man.

Police reported seizing drugs and a .38-caliber handgun at the apartment, and charged all three adults with drug and handgun violations, according to charging documents.

The other two adults arrested and charged were Jeanette Chase, 19, of the 3500 block of Spelding Road and Tavries Allen, 27, of the 4000 block of Oswego Court.

During the surveillance operation, police apparently overheard an unidentified juvenile say to the ringleader "that he wanted to be just like [him] when he grew up," police reports said.

Police charged one of the juveniles with murder and handgun violations in connection with the June 25 fatal shooting of Jerrod Hamlett, 23, of the 3000 block of Wylie Ave.

The boy, who turned 14 yesterday, is the city's youngest murder suspect this year.

Based on the internal police reports on the gang, undercover officers were not conducting surveillance when Hamlett was killed.

Police say the shooting might have stemmed from a verbal dispute. The boy is accused of covering his face with a black bandana, borrowing a gun from a friend and shooting Hamlett on the sidewalk.

The juvenile also had been accused of shooting another man who came to Hamlett's aid, but a city prosecutor dropped the attempted murder charge during a hearing yesterday in juvenile court.

Prosecutors and police declined to comment on why the charge was dropped.

The city state's attorney's office is seeking to transfer the case to adult court, and Circuit Judge Clifton J. Gordy set a hearing for Sept. 7 on the matter.

If his case remains in juvenile court and the boy is found responsible for Hamlett's murder, he could be remain in the juvenile system until he is 21.

The Sun is not identifying the boy because he has not been charged as an adult.

Linda Ramirez, the boy's defense attorney, declined to comment on the case yesterday.

"All he wants to talk about is Pee-Wee football," Ramirez said of her client.

The boy lived with his grandmother and 18-year-old brother at a senior housing tower in the 2500 block of Violet Ave., a few blocks from where the shooting took place.

His mother lives nearby with a 6-year-old son.

The boy was supposed to attend Pimlico Middle School, but school officials have said that he often didn't show up.

His mother previously told The Sun that his father died when he was 4 years old. Lacking a male influence, the boy often got into fights, she said.

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