Four-year-old Fahad Islam was sleeping yesterday afternoon under a flannel Batman blanket on his family's living room floor where, almost two weeks ago, a stray bullet cracked the front window and knocked him down as he was coloring.
Howard County police do not know who shot Fahad in the forehead about 6 p.m. Jan. 20 after a fight at the Exxon station next to Long Reach Village Center spilled over into the unlighted woods next to the family's garden-style apartment on Airybrink Lane across busy Tamar Drive.
"He says he's never, never going near the window," said Fahad's mother, Farida Begum, who called for lights and a wall in the wooded area that separates the Sierra Woods apartments from neighboring townhouses. "He's scared."
Police Chief Wayne Livesay called a community meeting at Long Reach High School last week to ask for residents' help in solving the case and removing "a hoodlum" with a gun from Columbia's streets. Police are reviewing surveillance tapes from inside the Exxon station, which may show someone involved in the fight.
In the meantime, the tight-knit family from Bangladesh - three uncles and Fahad's sister and parents live in the two-story apartment - has tried to make their living room more cheerful during the child's recovery.
A yellow banner made by Fahad's classmates at Phelps Luck Elementary School hangs above the couch. Students pasted get-well cards and colorful cutouts of dinosaurs, cars and flowers on the banner. His teacher wrote: "We miss you. Get well soon."
Begum said that her son cried after she told him that he could not return to school for several weeks.
A patch of Fahad's thick, black hair has been shaved, revealing two sets of stitches. One set marks where the bullet entered his forehead. The other, about 3 inches back on his scalp, marks where doctors removed it on the night of the shooting.
Fahad will undergo a second surgery in three months to repair his cracked skull, his mother said.
Begum said that her son is asking questions about the shooter, whether people are allowed to shoot him and whether police will find the person.
At last week's community meeting, Livesay told about 75 people that he has put officers on special assignment in the Long Reach area and that he will add cameras at the village center. But he also said that he does not have the money to increase staffing at the Police Department's substation at the village center, where loiterers congregate on weekends.
One community policing officer works there 40 hours a week, often patrolling the area on his bicycle and meeting with residents, but that officer does not respond to calls dispatched from the county's 911 center. One village leader, however, said that was "insufficient."
"We need a lot of cameras," said Bridget Mugane of the Long Reach Village Board. "People who live in the nearby buildings are fearful. A member of our board will not walk one block to the village center for night meetings because she is fearful."
Livesay assured residents of the department's concern.
"We'll do undercover drug buys or flood the area with marked cars - whatever it takes to reduce crime and the perception of crime" in Long Reach, Livesay said.