Night of gunfire shocks Northeast Baltimore

24 hours, four dead, three wounded

March 15, 2007|By Gus G. Sentementes | Gus G. Sentementes,Sun reporter

It was a rare day of mayhem for the people who live in Northeast Baltimore.

In Lauraville, a gunman shot into a car on a quiet side street hitting two people in what police say was the latest chapter of an ongoing turf war over the sale of marijuana. The victims' car careened down the street, slammed into a parked vehicle and triggered a pileup that startled residents. One of the men who was shot died.

About the same time, in Belair-Edison, just east of Clifton Park, gunfire erupted on a street as young children and their parents lingered on their rowhouse porches on a brisk evening. Three men were shot, and one died - the victim possibly a bystander caught in the crossfire.

The two killings Tuesday night were among four separate, and apparently unrelated, shootings that claimed the lives of four people and wounded three within 24 hours in the eastern half of the city.

Shaken, residents described moments of terror, where they ducked for cover in their homes and on their porches and clutched their children to pull them to safety.

"I was looking for my 9-year-old," said Shantell Watkins, a mother of two daughters who lives in the 3100 block of Cliftmont Ave. in Belair-Edison. "Fortunately, when she heard gunshots, she ran into the house. All the kids out here was basically traumatized - it scared them."

Through yesterday, 57 people have been killed in Baltimore this year - 51 from shootings. The pace of killings so far has surpassed last year, when 52 people were killed during the same period. With a per-capita homicide rate that remains among the highest in the nation - and worsening this year - Baltimore police statistics show that the increase in slayings can be at least partly attributed to a serious spike in shootings overall.

Police say that through March 10, shootings jumped 30 percent this year. The increase follows last year's overall 16 percent rise in shootings.

Anthony McCarthy, a spokesman for Mayor Sheila Dixon, said the mayor was "very disturbed" by the level of homicides. "She is working 24 hours a day with the police commissioner to come up with some real solutions to this problem," he said.

Deputy Police Commissioner Frederick H. Bealefeld III said the department is trying to focus on catching criminals with guns, in an effort to clamp down on shootings. In the previous two weeks, he said, officers have seized about 100 illegal guns from criminals.

The shootings on List and Cliftmont avenues occurred 2 1/2 miles apart about 8:15 p.m. Bealefeld said police were aware of simmering tensions between rivals and tried to defuse them by talking with those involved, days before the shootings occurred. He said police also had deployed extra officers to the two areas in an attempt to prevent violence.

Officers had been in the area around Cliftmont Avenue and had arrested a 15-year-old boy suspected of illegal handgun possession a block away 20 minutes before the fatal shooting, Bealefeld said. As soon as the officers heard the gunshots on Cliftmont, they sped to the scene.

"We can't post cops on every single corner and cover every single street in the city," Bealefeld said. "It points to how essential it is that we get help from everyone. We worked on a lot of different levels, through family and people [who knew the suspects and victims] and other interventions."

Police recovered two guns in the Cliftmont Avenue shooting, where the victim was identified as Christopher Clarke, 18, of the 3000 block of Mayfield Ave.

No arrests had been made in that killing.

Two other men survived the shooting. One, Jerome Whitaker, walked into Johns Hopkins Hospital for treatment. Another, Antonio L. Santiful, suffered a graze wound to his face and was treated and released from an area hospital.

According to court records, Santiful was convicted in August for illegal handgun possession and given a three-year sentence, with two years and three months suspended.

Authorities said the shooting on List Avenue was connected to two feuding drug gangs, who some residents said were vying for crack cocaine distribution along Harford Road. Police were deployed in the area along Harford Road, but the shooting happened about four blocks west.

A man in a silver or gray sedan apparently saw the car he wanted to target, blocked its path with his car in the 2500 block of List Ave., then got out of his car and fired several shots into the victims' car, police said.

The car sped down the street and plowed into a parked green Honda Civic, pushing it into two other cars. One man, whom police had not identified last night, was killed. Another man was shot but survived. A third man in the car was uninjured.

Two other shooting deaths Tuesday remain under investigation. Steven Washington, 17, was gunned down about 11 a.m., in the 1600 block of Cliftview Ave., in the Eastern District. Police arrested 15-year-old Tevin Moultry and charged him with first-degree murder. They were seeking a second suspect in an incident that might have been connected to a dispute over a girl.

In a fatal shooting in the 6500 block of Brook Ave., in the Rosemont-East neighborhood, Tyrone Jackson Jr. was found shot on his home's porch about 2 a.m. Tuesday. Police do not have a suspect and know of no motive in that case. Jackson was free on bail awaiting trial for drug-distribution charges.

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