Harford man dies at illicit party

Shooting death of 22-year-old at fire hall is area's second such incident this month

July 15, 2008|By Gus G. Sentementes and Mary Gail Hare | Gus G. Sentementes and Mary Gail Hare,Sun reporters

The party at a fire hall in Joppa was advertised in splashy colors on the MySpace Web page, and dozens of people showed up for an event that promised a disc jockey, live music and a bar.

But authorities said the Joppa-Magnolia Fire Company's hall had been originally booked by a man who disclosed only that he wanted throw his brother a birthday party - not a bash dubbed "Keeping It Live," where attendees were charged a cover fee.

Shortly before midnight Sunday, Tariq S. Alston, a 22-year-old Edgewood man, was shot at the event and later died at an area hospital.

The slaying was Harford County's second of the year, and was also the second time this month that gunfire erupted at a Baltimore-area private hall that had apparently been rented by party promoters under false pretenses.

On July 4, a party marketed on MySpace as "Extreme Intoxication 3" was held at the AFSCME union hall in Southwest Baltimore. For $20, attendees could buy an "all you can drink" ticket. "WE WON'T STOP THE PARTY UNTIL EVERYONE HAS LEFT THE BUILDING," according to the Internet advertisement.

In the early morning hours of July 5, two Baltimore police officers shot three men who they said were firing guns into the air from a car parked outside the hall in the 1400 block of Bush St., and refused orders to drop the weapons. Two men were killed.

Glen Middleton, president of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees' Council 67, said the union did not knowingly rent the hall to the people who organized the party. Police said the people who rented the union hall apparently had let other party promoters use it.

Douglas Paige, a spokesman for the Baltimore Board of Liquor License Commissioners, said the union hall does not have a liquor license, nor was a one-day permit requested for the July 4 event. He said one-day liquor licenses can only be issued to nonprofit organizations.

"Whatever event was being held there that particular weekend was not licensed," Paige said.

The fire hall in Joppa has a license to serve beer and wine, and fulfilled its license requirements for alcohol to be served at the building on Sunday, according to the county's liquor board.

Board administrators said there were some problems last year with promoters trying to pass themselves off as nonprofits and seeking a one-day license. But so far this year, there have been no such incidents, liquor board officials said.

The MySpace page for Sunday's event did not mention any birthday festivities, though the promoter - Fast Lane Entertainment - indicated on the site that it could organize a "birthday bash." The event was slated to feature a disc jockey named "DJ D. Holla."

The promotional site on MySpace also said the event would feature live performances from Born Famous, Brandon "Love" Burke and Exodus the Great. A person named "Rome" was the host for the party, which was slated to begin at 8 p.m. Sunday, according to the site.

The event was open to people ages 17 and older, and included a bar. Women were charged $10, and men paid $15 to enter.

Dave Williams, spokesman for Harford County Volunteer Fire and Emergency Services, said the Joppa-Magnolia volunteer fire company routinely rents its hall as a way to raise money to support its operations. "This event was booked as a birthday party for a family member," he said.

As a result of Sunday night's fatal shooting, Williams said, the fire company may have to reconsider the way it rents the hall and may even keep a staff member at each event as a monitor.

Police and paramedics found the victim, Alston, wounded inside the fire hall, located in the 1400 block of Mountain Road, about 11:45 p.m. He was transported to Upper Chesapeake Medical Center, where he was pronounced dead about 12:30 a.m. yesterday.

The Harford County Sheriff's Office has not said whether it knew of a motive in the case.

Alston's parents, Robert and Daphne Alston of Edgewood, said their son left home about 11:15 p.m. Sunday to go to a party with friends. And at 11:45 p.m., Daphne Alston said, she got a call from a girl who was hysterical, saying, "Tariq has been shot, Tariq has been shot."

Robert Alston drove to the fire station, and then followed the ambulance to the hospital. He wasn't in the hospital long, he said, when a doctor told him his son had died.

"I'm angry and upset at the children who killed my son," Robert Alston said. "The culture today says they don't even need a reason."

The Alstons said they were convinced that their son was not the intended victim.

"He was a quiet kid, and a good basketball player" when he attended Edgewood High School, Daphne Alston said. "He always let me know where he was.

"He got in with a bad crowd," she said. "But I have no idea who would hurt him."

"He didn't deserve this," said his father. "He deserved to live."

Daphne Alston said the family was hoping that whoever shot Tariq would turn himself in. "Don't have the police drag you in," she said.

Tariq Alston's girlfriend, Shaquae Edwards, 17, of Edgewood, called him a "loving person who didn't like confrontation and didn't bother people. I really want to find out what happened."

Mildred Samy, a community activist in Edgewood, had recently enrolled Alston, who had a minor criminal record that included trespassing convictions, in an ex-offender program she began with the Sheriff's Department.

"We have to help these young men get work or go back to school," she said. "Tariq wanted to work, but he could not find a job."

Alston was a longtime friend of Samy's son Sam Horne, who was killed in Edgewood last summer.

"Tariq came to court with me, called me 'Mom,' and has sat at my son's grave for hours," Samy said. "Now I am burying another young man. I can't imagine anyone shooting Tariq. He was not a violent person. His family has no idea why this happened."



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