Man fatally stabbed in Bel Air altercation



A 23-year-old Bel Air man was killed yesterday in a stabbing that occurred after an altercation between two motorists, the first homicide here in more than 20 years, police said.

Bel Air police identified the victim as Patrick John Walker of the 800 block of Benjamin Road, who was stabbed about 2:10 p.m. in front of the Harford County Health Department.

Michael R. Simmons, 19, of the 2900 block of Nelson Lane in Fallston was charged with first-degree murder. Simmons was arrested within minutes of the incident after witnesses spotted someone in blood-stained clothes, said Bel Air police Chief Leo F. Matrangola. Simmons was being held without bail at the Harford County Detention Center last night.

Matrangola said two cars were waiting at a stop sign in an alley next to the back parking lot of the Health Department in the 100 block of S. Hays St. when Walker got out of his car and an altercation ensued.

Deputy Chief Armand Dupre said the victim had been stabbed in the neck.

Matrangola said Walker was unconscious when officers arrived. Police found a knife at the scene. Two people with Simmons were questioned and released, police said.

The Health Department staff was having a barbecue on its back parking lot when several nurses spotted the incident and shouted for others to call 911.

"For Bel Air, this is a total shock," said Pat Okin, a nurse with the Health Department who saw the commotion. "I went to school here and I work here. It's just not real for a man to be lying dead in the road."

Officials said the killing was the first in the town in 23 years. Matrangola said it was not known what caused the altercation, but it was believed that those who were involved did not know each other.

"It's just such a horrifying thing to think that a human life was taken so tragically, so quickly," said Town Commissioner James McMahan. "People just react so spontaneously in this day and time. It's regrettable."

The cars were waiting to turn onto a shortcut that flows traffic from Route 22 onto U.S. 1 and runs between the Health Department and the County Council chambers. After the stabbing, the shortcut was closed and traffic diverted for several hours.

Sun reporter Mary Gail Hare contributed to this article.

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