Annapolis violence draws reaction

City, county officials focus on Robinwood housing

authority chief not invited to meeting

February 27, 2007|By Phillip McGowan | Phillip McGowan,sun reporter

Hoping to quell a spate of shootings that wounded four teenagers in less than a week, Anne Arundel County and Annapolis officials vowed yesterday to employ a "full-court press" in one of the city's 10 public housing neighborhoods - but no one representing public housing was involved in the initial talks.

Eric Brown, executive director of the Annapolis Housing Authority, said he was not invited to the meeting of school, police and government leaders, which took place a day after an Annapolis High School senior was shot in the Robinwood neighborhood.

While County Executive John R. Leopold, who organized the meeting with county school leaders, said the omission of Brown was "an oversight," he stressed that the authority would have ample opportunity to participate in the plan to improve Robinwood and put a stop to bloody neighborhood rivalries among youths living at some of the city's public housing projects.

FOR THE RECORD - An article in the Maryland section yesterday gave an incorrect location for Copeland Street in Annapolis. It is in Bywater Mutual Homes.
The Sun regrets the error.

Authorities say violence at Annapolis High and a fight and shooting in November at Westfield Annapolis mall both involved, at least in part, rivalries from the Robinwood and Annapolis Gardens housing projects. Last week, three teenagers, including an Annapolis High student, were shot at Annapolis Gardens, prompting county and city leaders to plan yesterday's meeting. Then, Sunday afternoon, a 19-year-old senior at Annapolis High was shot in the back in the 1900 block of Copeland St.

"We feel that a full-court press effort directed at one neighborhood, Robinwood, will be the way to go in ... trying to turn these lives into productive, hopeful lives," Leopold said. "That is our mission, and this meeting is only the first step."

Annapolis Mayor Ellen O. Moyer said the meeting produced a plan to turn Robinwood, in the city's southwest corner, into "a model community."

Leopold spoke of harnessing the parents' center at Anne Arundel Community College to educate adults about family life. County schools Superintendent Kevin M. Maxwell spoke of enlisting "ambassadors," or volunteers, to check on students who are missing school.

Moyer spoke of creating a "heroes" program to bring highly successful leaders to inspire children in Robinwood.

Brown said he has worked closely with county school and city officials to improve the city's housing projects.

"The greatest thing at stake is losing a generation of children," he said. "The reality is that we cannot afford to not work together for the overall good of the community."

Annapolis Police Chief Joseph S. Johnson said that no arrests have been made in the most recent shootings.

About 5:30 p.m. Sunday, Marcus Allen Downs, 19, an Annapolis High senior, was shot on Copeland Street. Police said Downs was throwing snowballs with friends when a vehicle turned around in front of the group, a window was rolled down and three or four shots were fired. Police said Downs' injuries were not life-threatening.

Three other teens, ages 13, 15 and 18, were shot a week ago while walking through the Annapolis Gardens development, all wounded below the waist, police said. The 15-year-old was enrolled at Annapolis High, Johnson noted.

In November, two teens and a U.S. Secret Service agent were wounded after a group of Annapolis High students with ties to Robinwood began assaulting a resident of Annapolis Gardens at the mall. The attack apparently was in retaliation for a fight at the high school in September. Javaughn Norman Adams, then 18 and an Annapolis High graduate, was arrested on felony charges in the incident.

Johnson reiterated that the rivalries had not morphed into "gang" violence.

"Some of the early findings is that it's a loosely knit group of former students or current students with a beef," Johnson said. "Over what? We don't know."

Maxwell said he wants a plan to ensure that violence doesn't spill over in Annapolis High.

"We will not allow an entire student body or community to be held hostage by a handful of students who are committed to violent action," he said.

phill.mcgowan@baltsun.com

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