MTA calls gunfire on bus 1st case in '07

Boy, 14, wounded in latest incident of transit violence

December 27, 2007|By Michael Dresser | Michael Dresser,Sun reporter

The latest attack — In the fourth violent incident on a Maryland Transit Administration vehicle in as many weeks, a 14-year-old boy who was out after curfew was shot and wounded on a bus in West Baltimore early yesterday.

The latest attack - the first involving a gun - comes amid growing public concern about safety on the region's public transit systems and shortly after MTA and police officials announced steps to protect passengers on buses and rail transit.

Sterling Clifford, a City Hall spokesman, said Mayor Sheila Dixon is concerned about the attacks on MTA buses. "Mass transit's an important feature of city life, and we need for it to be reliable and safe," he said.

On Dec. 4, a 26-year-old woman was severely injured in a daytime attack in Hampden, beaten and kicked by a group of middle-school students on the No. 27 bus. Nine juveniles were arrested.

The next week, two passengers on a No. 64 bus in Brooklyn were attacked by a group of five men. On Dec. 18 two juveniles were arrested after a girl was stabbed in the arm on a No. 51 bus near Mondawmin Mall.

Agent Donny Moses, a Baltimore Police Department spokesman, said yesterday's attack occurred about 12:45 a.m. on the No. 15 bus in the 1100 block of Poplar Grove St. He said the youth got into an argument with another male, who stepped off the bus at a stop, then leaned back in and fired a shot, hitting the youth in the leg.

The gunman ran away, and Moses said police knew of no suspects. The victim, whose name was not released, was treated at a city hospital. His injuries are not life-threatening, police said.

The victim was apparently in violation of the city's curfew, which applies to children 16 and younger.

The curfew is in effect from 11 p.m. until 6 a.m. Sunday through Thursday and from midnight to 6 a.m. on weekends. Police generally don't ticket for a first violation, but parents of repeat offenders can be fined up to $300.

Moses said the city police won't charge the teen with a curfew violation. "He's a victim in this case," the spokesman said.

Jawauna Greene, a spokeswoman for the MTA, gave a more detailed preliminary account based on witness statements.

She said the victim got on the bus at Security Square Mall in Baltimore County about 12:15 a.m. as part of a group of young people who are believed to have been leaving the movies there.

Greene said a second group of young people boarded the bus when it arrived at Rolling Road and Security Square Boulevard. She said that together the two groups numbered about 20 - with the first group sitting in the rear of the bus and the second occupying the middle.

About 10 to 15 minutes later, near Poplar Grove and Edmondson Avenue in the city, the second group left the bus, Greene said. She said two members of that group grabbed the rear door of the bus to hold it open, while one of them leaned into the bus and fired the shot that wounded the boy.

The spokeswoman said the bus driver pulled over, alerted police and locked down the vehicle.

"Our driver really acted appropriately in this situation," she said.

Greene said it was unclear how many of either group were juveniles or how many might have been young adults. She said buses are monitored by video cameras, but she was unable to say whether surveillance had produced any leads in the case.

The spokeswoman said it would be impractical for bus operators to react to every possible violation of city curfew law.

"We have to be realistic in what we expect our bus operators to do," she said. "They're not law enforcement officers."

There is no curfew in Baltimore County, where the ride originated, said police spokesman William J. Toohey.

The attacks prompted the MTA last week to announce a number of new security measures.

On Dec. 20, MTA officials said they would step up police patrols and work more closely with Baltimore and city school police. MTA officials also said they would more quickly notify city officers when an incident occurs on a bus or on MTA property so that the closest officer could respond.

Greene said there's little the MTA can do to prevent incidents such as yesterday's. "It's unrealistic for everyone to expect we can have a police officer on every single bus," she said.

The MTA provides about 93 million rides a year and averages fewer than 400 criminal incidents of all types, Greene said, adding that yesterday's was the first this year involving gunfire on a transit line.

The spokeswoman said the month's first attack - which is being investigated as a possible racially motivated hate crime - "really set people off."

"It focused attention so that anything that followed is going to be scrutinized," she said.

michael.dresser@baltsun.com

BUS ATTACKS

Dec. 4: A 26-year-old woman was beaten and kicked by a group of middle school students on the No. 27 bus. Nine teenagers were arrested.

Dec. 10: Two men in their 30s and 40s were assaulted aboard the No. 64 bus on Hanover Street in Brooklyn. Police are seeking five suspects.

Dec. 18: A girl was stabbed in the arm on the No. 51 bus near Mondawmin Mall. Two juveniles were arrested.

Dec. 26: A 14-year-old boy was shot in the leg in West Baltimore after a dispute on the No. 15 bus. No arrests have been made.

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