Facing fear in Druid Heights

Police, neighbors meet in wake of two deadly shootings

June 25, 2008|By Annie Linskey | Annie Linskey,Sun Reporter

Baltimore police commanders met yesterday with a handful of frightened residents from the Druid Heights neighborhood in West Baltimore to ease concerns over two recent fatal shootings that occurred within days on the same city block.

Police said they hope to reach out swiftly to the community, and the small gathering at a community center led to a freewheeling conversation about police tactics, training and the intimidation of witnesses who then are reluctant to help authorities with their cases.

"We had two homicides back to back," said Lt. Col. Glenn Williams, the commander of officers assigned to the western side of the city. "We want to tell the community what is going on as soon as possible. We want to glean information from the community." Another meeting is planned for Saturday.

On Thursday Brian Goodwyn, 21, was shot and killed at the 500 block of Bloom St. Romie Ziegler, 21, was shot and killed just feet away about 8:30 p.m. on Sunday.

Yesterday's meeting differed from the overflow crowd that filled a Federal Hill church Monday night in the wake of two shooting deaths, one on Friday night on Battery Avenue and the second around the corner on Montgomery Street early Sunday.

Police said that the two neighborhoods require different tactics - and noted that they called for the Druid Heights meeting. In Federal Hill, residents demanded answers at a community forum.

The Druid Heights residents sat around folding tables. The news media outnumbered the attendees for the first 15 minutes. But as residents trickled in, the conversation became heated, with one woman saying that she felt the Federal Hill community received more police attention than her's.

"Just because we have dope on our corners, that doesn't make us less than them," said Wanda Newton.

Williams replied : "We do not deploy based on who has what." He said he ordered foot patrols and undercover detectives to Bloom Street, and he said he would personally drive by there over the weekend.

For their part, officers voiced frustration about the level of cooperation they get from community members. "We don't always have the support we need from you," said Maj. John Bailey of the Central District. He said he recently spoke to the mother of a shooting victim in another area, but the woman would not tell him anything about the incident.

"Silence is killing a lot of people," he said.

Residents countered that they do not always trust officers to keep information anonymous. "We have to find a way to make people feel more comfortable with police," said Kelly Little, the executive director of the Druid Heights Community Development Corporation. Often, Little said, he gets calls from frightened residents and then dials 911 for them.

Veronica Matthews, the mother of Thursday's victim, Goodwyn, pledged to improve her relationship with police. "I just want to make a change," she said. "Sometimes [the police] are nasty, sometimes the citizens are nasty."

Matthews said she wanted police to question as many people as possible to find her son's killer. "So what - you are being a nuisance," she said. "I love it." The funeral is scheduled this week, but she said she was scared that something bad could happen there.

Others worried that recent drug enforcement on the Pennsylvania Avenue corridor had pushed crime into the smaller adjacent streets. Williams called Pennsylvania Avenue the "premier heroin shop in the city," but he said Bloom Street was the rare oasis where "the block brags about all the kids graduating."

The commander also spoke passionately about improving the police relationship with the community. "We are your Police Department," he said. "We want the bad guys to hate us and the community to love us."


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