'8 shots ... cops everywhere'

Police kill 2 at party after suspects turn guns on officers

July 06, 2008|By Brent Jones | Brent Jones,Sun reporter

Shirley Sturgill awoke early yesterday morning to what she assumed were post Independence Day fireworks. But a few seconds later, she heard another noise that made her realize that this was no celebration.

Sturgill said she heard a man screaming so loud that it echoed throughout her normally quiet street. The sound of police sirens followed almost immediately.

"I heard about eight shots," she said. "Then all of a sudden, cops everywhere."

Two men were killed and another man was wounded by city officers after the men fired guns in the air at a wild Independence Day party and later refused to give up their weapons outside a union hall in Southwest Baltimore, police said. The fatal shootings were the 11th and 12th by Baltimore police officers this year. In all of last year, city police shot and killed 13 people.

The union hall shooting was one of a half-dozen incidents of gunplay that occurred in the city after dark Friday as holiday celebrations turned violent. Such Independence Day disturbances have become common across the country with fireworks giving way to gunfire - at least two other cities saw similar incidents this Fourth of July.

The lone fatal incident in Baltimore this year, according to police, was the one outside the Maryland chapter of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Council 67 headquarters. The two-story brick building in the 1400 block of Bush St. was rented by an outside organization, and at the end of the party, men began shooting skyward about 1:30 a.m., police said.

'Chaotic scene'

Officer Nicole Monroe, a police spokeswoman, said police arrived on the scene shortly after the men began shooting. She said officers were immediately able to identify the suspects and confront them.

The suspects then turned their guns on the officers, according to Monroe.

Sterling Clifford, a spokesman for the police and mayor's office, said the three men shot were believed to be related.

He said the wounded suspect was shot in the hand and was taken to an area hospital with non-life-threatening injuries, while the other two men were believed to have been shot in the body.

The two officers involved in the shooting have been placed on routine administrative duty pending an investigation, Clifford said.

Police are not releasing any information on the officers involved or the men who were shot.

After the shootout, police flooded the area, seized several weapons and made many other arrests unrelated to the shooting, Clifford said.

He added that as the arrests were occurring, a car crashed near the entrance to the hall, which is located in an industrial area made up of warehouses and small businesses.

"It was a fairly chaotic scene," Clifford said.

Sturgill said she stood outside her house with other neighbors and counted about 25 police cars. She said she moved into her home in the 1500 block of Bush St. last year. Sturgill described the neighborhood as a close-knit community largely devoid of violence.

"When I was outside, I saw them taking away two people on stretchers," Sturgill said.

Another neighbor, who refused to be identified but lives on the same block as Sturgill, said she was awakened by the gunshots as well.

"I just looked out of my window and then saw all the police," she said.

The woman said she has lived on the block for decades and said the hall is frequently rented for parties that can last well into the early morning hours. She said that this is the first time she can remember a shooting or violent incident after a party.

"But they are very rude and make a lot of noise when they leave at 2 and 3 in the morning," she said.

"I wish they'd stop that."

AFSCME officials declined to comment on the case, saying they are waiting for more information.

July 4 gunfire

Independence Day has historically sparked some across the country to fire off guns in celebration, and this year's holiday was no different.

Police in Augusta, Ga., are investigating a shooting Friday in which a 23-year-old woman fired a handgun into the air to celebrate and accidentally shot a friend in the chest.

And in San Antonio, a man accidentally shot himself in the abdomen when trying to pick up a gun off the ground that had been dropped by another man who was shooting into the air in celebration outside his home.

The shooting here at the union hall capped off a violent Fourth of July night that saw five other shootings, one of the highest one-night totals in the city this year.

A man was shot in the stomach shortly after 9 p.m. in the 2100 block of Hollins St. and was taken to the hospital with injuries that were not life-threatening, police said.

About a half-hour later, another man arrived at an undisclosed hospital with gunshot wounds and did not initially divulge where he was when he was shot, police said. He did not have life-threatening injuries.

In the 300 block of S. Monroe St., a man was shot in the chest at 12:27 a.m. and taken to an area hospital with what police say are serious injuries.

About an hour later, a man was shot in the thigh in the 300 block of S. Bentalou St. The man was able to walk to St. Agnes Hospital to receive treatment for his injury.

And in the 2200 block of N. Dukeland St., a woman was shot in the leg and taken to the hospital with non-life-threatening injuries at 1:37 a.m.

The union hall shooting marks the 15th and 16th shootings by city police officers this year.

Last year, police officers shot 32 people.

The last police-involved shooting this year occurred in June when an officer investigating a fight on a Southeast Baltimore street corner shot and killed a developmentally disabled 21-year-old man who police said refused to release a handgun.


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