Assaults stoke fear for elderly

Shooting is second incident in three weeks at Park View apartment complex

November 07, 2008|By Nick Madigan | Nick Madigan,

In the past year, Caryle Sybert has suffered a stroke, a broken bone in her neck and a bad fall.

Getting shot was the last straw.

"I think I'm finished with bad luck," Sybert, a 76-year-old resident of an apartment complex for seniors in Overlea, said yesterday - quite cheerfully - after returning from a hospital, where she had been treated for shotgun wounds to her back.

The shooting occurred Wednesday evening in the parking lot of the complex, the Park View at Taylor, when a man wearing a ski mask approached the 2002 Mercury Sable that Sybert was driving, her 83-year-old husband, Ralph, at her side. They were about to pull out of their spot.

"He was a young fellow, tall," Sybert recalled in her apartment, the bandages on her back visible through pale yellow pajamas, stained with a blotch of blood near the right shoulder. "He was very nervous. He kept saying, 'Open the door! Open the door!' "

"I said, 'No,' " Ralph Sybert recounted, taking up the tale. "I wouldn't let him in."

"I was angry," said his wife, who had already put the vehicle in reverse, locking the doors automatically, when the man appeared. "I thought, 'He's not going to get my car.' "

"Then he pointed the gun at the right side and shot through the back window," said Ralph Sybert, who was not injured. "I didn't realize he was going to be that stupid. But there wasn't much chance of being frightened - he ran away."

Cpl. Michael Hill, a spokesman for the Baltimore County Police Department, said it was the second such incident at the complex in the 4100 block of Taylor Ave. in the past three weeks.

On Oct. 14, Hill said, an 86-year-old man getting out of his car in the parking lot was grabbed by the arm and fell, and his assailant took the vehicle. Hill said the same person might have been responsible for both the Oct. 14 incident and this week's. "We're not excluding that," he said.

There has been no arrest in the shooting of Sybert, who was treated at Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center. After X-raying her torso, a doctor told her she had several pellets in her back that would probably work themselves out in time.

But she said the doctor was concerned that one of the pellets might have entered her right ear and scheduled a second examination for today. At least one other pellet left a mark on her cheek. The pellets in her back might have penetrated more deeply had their path not been slowed by the glass of the window and the rear of the seat, through which most of the projectiles traveled.

"That's probably why she wasn't hurt too bad," Sybert's husband said. Then, with a smile, he added, "She's fine - her jaw's still flapping just like it always did." He gave the same answer to neighbors who asked how his wife was feeling.

The Syberts moved into Park View three weeks ago. There are 100 apartments in the complex, which opened in 2001 and where residents have to be at least 62 years old. The oldest tenant is a woman of 102, neighbors said. Residents have access to a billiards room, a multimedia center and a beauty salon, and can attend bingo games, Bible study sessions, movie nights and Halloween parties. The place appeared impeccably clean.

Jeanne Moore, a spokeswoman for the Shelter Group, which owns Park View, acknowledged that the complex has no security guards or cameras but that the company is "investigating additional security measures in light of this incident." She said residents would be apprised of developments in meetings Nov. 13 and Nov. 24.

Outside, overlooking the parking lot, residents sat yesterday in a row of rocking chairs, chatting or staring off. But in the aftermath of the shooting, most said they would hustle indoors before nightfall.

"You just can't be outside any more," said a 71-year-old resident who asked that the newspaper use only her first name, Elaine, for fear of reprisals. "I tell everyone they've got to be in before dark, with all these hoodlums out there. But you know old people - some of them are hard-headed. One of these days, someone is going to get killed, and it'll be too late."

Elaine, who moved into the complex six years ago with her husband, Harry, said they love the place and that there are many things to do there. But four cars have been stolen recently in the parking lot, she said, with most found later, damaged.

"Do we have to picket to get attention here?" Elaine asked, her eyes welling. "There are crazy people out there."

Another resident, Joyce Kulishek, 73, said she uses common sense and doesn't go outside after dark. "We should have the golden years, and it's not the golden years any more," she said, sitting on a rocking chair. "I'm going shopping on Saturday to Superfresh and I'm dreading it. I'll be looking all around me."

Kulishek, who has lived at Park View for eight years, said her daughter, Janet Migliaccio, came to visit her just after the shooting Wednesday and was so perturbed that "she handed me my medicine and my mail and left right away."

As Kulishek spoke, a police car pulled into the parking lot but stayed only a moment before leaving. Shortly afterward, Ralph Sybert came outside for some air.

His wife, he said, was not feeling any pain but was taking Tylenol. "She's OK," said Sybert, whose teammates called him Rotten Ralph when he played shortstop for the minor-league Orioles in the mid-1940s. "She's just not allowed to look in the mirror."

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