Mall gunfight tied to feud

Student rivalries said to fuel brawls, then shooting that injured 3

November 21, 2006|By Anica Butler and Nia-Malika Henderson | Anica Butler and Nia-Malika Henderson,sun reporters

A months-long feud among students who live in different Annapolis public housing neighborhoods led first to fistfights in school hallways, then to the arrests of more than 20 high school students and, eventually, to last weekend's shootout at an Annapolis area mall, authorities said yesterday.

"We are quite concerned about ongoing violence emanating from the community and we will not tolerate disruptions of our schools," Superintendent Kevin M. Maxwell said yesterday, after announcing increased security measures at Annapolis High School as a result of the fights and the mall shooting.

Javaughn Norman Adams, 18, faces numerous felony charges stemming from the Saturday night shootings at Westfield Annapolis Mall, according to Anne Arundel County police.

Police said that Adams fired shots inside the mall's food court, wounding an off-duty U.S. Secret Service special agent who was trying to break up a fight, and that the agent returned fire, striking Adams twice in the upper body. One other teenager was injured.

Adams, who court records show was charged earlier this month with burglary and felony theft, was in fair condition yesterday at Maryland Shock Trauma Center. He was being guarded by police.

Annapolis High School Principal Don Lilley has said the tensions date to last summer. A fight on the first day of school occurred on school grounds. Later in September, two days of hallway brawling led to the arrest of 18 students. And on Friday, seven more were arrested in two separate altercations. No weapons were used in the school fights; injuries were minor.

Authorities blame the animosity on neighborhood rivalries - some of those involved in the mall incident live in the Robinwood public housing complex, while others live in Annapolis Gardens.

Lilley previously told The Capital newspaper that the September fights were fueled by insults posted on the social networking Web site MySpace.com.

A police spokeswoman confirmed yesterday that Saturday's shooting was connected to earlier fights at the high school, but could not say whether police were investigating whether the Internet played a role.

Eric Brown, the executive director of the city's housing authority, said it was hard to pinpoint the exact cause of the conflict.

"Everybody wants to make it a neighborhood rivalry thing, and I don't know if it's that. Could it be personal? I don't know," Brown said. "I think there is a problem in the community and it appears as though people want to trace it back to the housing authority and that we should solve this problem. But there are some things we have control over and there are some things we don't."

The second teen who was wounded at the mall Saturday, Tahzay Lamont Brown, 16, was involved in one of the September school fights, according to Georgia Goslee, an attorney representing the Brown family. Goslee said yesterday that Brown had been attacked both in September and then again on Saturday, but that the attackers had a problem with friends of Brown, not him.

"My client was not the target," Goslee said. "He was neither the aggressor nor the initiator in either altercation. He's a victim."

Police tell a different story.

Police say they now believe that Brown, a student at Annapolis High, and several of his friends confronted Adams, a 2006 graduate, and a friend at the mall after 7 p.m. Saturday. Brown's associates began assaulting Adams' friend, said police. Brown later told police that Adams' friend was among those who'd assaulted him in September.

When the Secret Service agent, who was at the mall with his family, interceded, Adams pulled a gun and fired shots, police said. The agent, who was struck in the leg, returned fire with his service revolver.

Brown also was shot in the leg, but police were unsure of who shot him, said Officer Sara Schriver, an Anne Arundel County police spokeswoman. He was treated and released from Anne Arundel Medical Center on Saturday.

The agent was in fair condition at Shock Trauma yesterday evening, according to Kim Bruce, a Secret Service spokeswoman. She would not identify the agent, but said he was a veteran who works in the Office of Protective Operations, which is charged with protecting the president and other government officials.

Police are reviewing the agent's actions and will turn over their findings to the Anne Arundel County state's attorney.

Schriver said that between six to eight people were involved in the altercation, and that police are reviewing mall surveillance video.

Meanwhile, school officials announced yesterday that they will increase security at the high school, and might begin using metal detector wands. Officials said they planned to assign an additional student resource officer to the school, and hold meetings with students and the community.

County Executive Janet S. Owens said yesterday that the "whole community must become engaged." She called on parents, church leaders and community activists to step forward.

"We've got to get at the systemic social problems in those competing communities in Annapolis," she said.

Neighborhood leaders in Annapolis are planning a separate meeting tonight to discuss the violence. The meeting, organized by activist Carl O. Snowden, will be held at 6 p.m. at Asbury United Methodist Church on West Street in Annapolis.

anica.butler@baltsun.com nia.henderson@baltsun.com

Sun reporter Phillip McGowan contributed to this report.

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