About 150 meet with police on two shootings

May 23, 2008|By Tyeesha Dixon | Tyeesha Dixon,Sun reporter

Kathie Wuwer has lived in Oakland Mills since she was a child, attending Oakland Mills middle and high schools. She bought her first home, a condo, in Shadow Oaks.

And though she remains loyal to the community in which she has lived for so long, like several Shadow Oaks residents, Wuwer questioned why she was barricaded in her home for more than four hours, though police made no arrest in a shooting that occurred in the complex last weekend.

"In the four years I've been there, we haven't had anything like this," she said of the shooting.

About 150 people gathered at The Other Barn on Tuesday night for a meeting with police and community officials to discuss two shootings in Oakland Mills last weekend. One was Howard County's second homicide of the year.

At the meeting, Howard County Police Chief William J. McMahon said that police were not sure whether the two shootings were related.

"There's really nothing to indicate they are," he said.

Many residents expressed concern over gang presence and drug transactions in their community. Several asked the chief directly about whether gangs threatened their neighborhoods.

McMahon said that while there is "no indication" that the shootings were drug- or gang-related, "We know that there's 300 people in the county that are affiliated with gangs."

Jason Batts, 23, of the 6200 block of Painted Yellow Gate in Columbia was found fatally shot next to his car on the parking lot of Stevens Forest Apartments in the 5800 block of Stevens Forest Road about 3 a.m. Saturday, according to charging documents.

Police arrested Ronald McConnell, 21, on Tuesday afternoon after finding his fingerprint on a piece of tape on the buttstock of a shotgun recovered at the scene, according to the charging documents.

McConnell, who police said has no fixed address but has lived in Columbia, was charged Tuesday with first- and second-degree murder, first-degree assault and reckless endangerment. According to court records, he has several felony convictions and has a trial scheduled next month on weapons charges.

The second shooting occurred about 1 a.m. Sunday, police said. Wayne Ronald Hamlin, 24, of the 5900 block of Harpers Farm Road was treated for a gunshot wound to the shoulder and facial lacerations, police said. No one has been charged in the shooting, which police say stemmed from a dispute between two groups in the 5800 block of Thunder Hill Road, where the shooting occurred.

Some residents asked McMahon why no one was arrested in the Thunder Hill Road shooting, despite the fact that the people in the apartment in question barricaded themselves in the unit and the surrounding apartments had to be evacuated. Others, including Wuwer, said police forced them to stay in their units, and away from the windows, for nearly five hours while the shooting was investigated.

McMahon said there was no probable cause to arrest anyone in the apartment and that police are continuing to investigate the shooting.

Others at the meeting said the county needs more youth activities to keep young people engaged.

"The problem with this town is if you're between the age of 12 and 17, there's really nothing for you to do here except hang out," said a woman who has lived in Columbia for 32 years. "It's a breeding ground for trouble."

Community officials who attended the meeting told residents that the community is a good one.

"I think we have to look at these circumstances as ... an unusual and tragic event in our community," said Karen Gray, chairwoman of the Oakland Mills board of directors.

Councilman Calvin Ball praised residents for their concern for the neighborhoods in which they live.

"I am pleased to see such a strong level of commitment and energy," said Ball, who represents the 2nd District, including Oakland Mills.

He added: "We will not be defined by the least of us."

McMahon said that the department has increased the number of patrols in Oakland Mills. The village is one of four communities in the county that have a designated officer, he said.

Last weekend's homicide was the first to occur in Oakland Mills since 2003, which is the same year that the department put a police trailer in Oakland Mills Village Center, McMahon said.

Wuwer said that even though she knows there is a "stigma" associated with Oakland Mills, crime is "all over."

"It truly was out of the ordinary," she said.

tyeesha.dixon@baltsun.com

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