A 4-year-old boy was shot by what appeared to be a stray bullet that entered a Columbia apartment yesterday evening after what police believe was a brief altercation at a shopping center.
The boy, whom police have declined to identify, was in critical condition last night at Maryland Shock Trauma Center in Baltimore.
Police said the shot was fired outside a corner apartment at the Sierra Woods apartment complex about 6 p.m. The bullet went through the lower part of the front window of a corner apartment where the boy was struck.
The cul-de-sac of Airybrink Lane was blocked off last night as detectives were going door to door interviewing neighbors. Crime lab teams were using flashlights to look for evidence around the complex, and police dogs were also being used at the scene.
Police said they believed the shooting stemmed from an incident that occurred earlier at the Long Reach Village Center across the street from the apartments. They received a call about 5:45 p.m. about a disturbance at the center, but by the time officers arrived, no one was there, said Howard County police spokeswoman Sherry Llewellyn.
Police received another call a short time later reporting that shots had been fired at the apartment complex, followed by a call from the boy's family that he had been shot, Llewellyn said.
She said police do not believe the family was targeted in the shooting.
Timothy Hamiel, 26, who lives across the street from where the boy was shot, said he was outside when the shots were fired.
Children were playing outside, and they ran after they heard shots, he said.
Dee Dixon, who lives behind the apartment complex, said she was sitting in her house doing a puzzle when she heard the gunshots. She said she thought she saw distraught relatives of the boy speaking with police.
About a dozen people were outside last night near the scene after the shooting. Some adults peered out of windows to see what was happening.
Hospital officials did not return calls seeking updates on the boy's condition.
Police asked anyone with information to call 410-313-3200.
Peter Matthews, a freelance writer, contributed to this article.