Pierced By Bullet, 'Blessed' By God


Crime Scenes

Day After Shooting, Cherry Hill Activist Returns To Helpful Ways

August 13, 2009|By Peter Hermann | Peter Hermann,peter.hermann@baltsun.com

A little more than 12 hours after a stray bullet pierced a window frame, traveled through the back of a couch, a thick purple cushion and into her upper left chest, Shirley Foulks held court on the front porch of her Cherry Hill town house.

"Praise the Lord," she shouted to a friend on the other end of her cell phone.

"I'm fine, I'm blessed," she shouted to the driver of a red car who stopped to check up on her.

"I was in my house, in my chair," she exclaimed to a police officer helping with the investigation.

"I can't believe this," she told a crime lab technician taking pictures of a bullet fragment found on her walkway.

Foulks is a feisty, 59-year-old community activist and community leader, head of South Baltimore's Cherry Hill Homes Tenant Council, one of the largest public housing complexes in the city, a development singled out by the police commissioner in 2007 as a model example of how citizens can join cops to fight crime.

The city's police chief particularly liked how the tenant council evicted convicted drug dealers and other criminals, and Foulks has been vocal in speaking out against gangs, shootings and other violence. She channels her rage into helping children, and hours before she was wounded Tuesday night, she was visiting businesses to secure donations for a back-to-school fair at the community center Saturday.

Neither Foulks nor the police believe the shooting was anything other than a stray bullet fired on or near her front lawn. It hit Foulks moments after she had finished her shrimp dinner from a Chinese carryout and had settled in to watch television about 9 p.m.

She was sitting on the far end of her L-shaped couch and was reaching for her mask for the oxygen she sometimes needs to help her breathe. "Then I heard an explosion," Foulks said.

She slid to the floor and "then I felt excruciating pain. I put my hand to my chest and I saw blood coming through my fingers. I said, 'Oh my God, I just got shot.' " Almost at the same time, she heard three or four more gunshots go off just outside her window.

Her niece ran in from the next room, called 911 and put pressure on the wound. Foulks was wearing her white Operation Safe Streets T-shirt that has the slogan "Stop the shooting, start living," emblazoned on the front. Paramedics ripped off the bloodstained shirt to treat the wound before rushing her to Maryland Shock Trauma Center, where a doctor quickly removed the bullet and repaired the hole with two quick stitches.

By morning, Foulks was back home, chatting up a storm. "If you're not safe in your own home ..." she said before trailing off. "I've said some things that make people upset, but they all know me and respect what I do. I don't think I was targeted."

Will she stop or curtail her outspoken ways?

"No," she said with conviction. "God saved me for a reason. My work is not done."

She's lived in Cherry Hill since 1969, knew most of the adults when they were kids and now knows their kids and, in some cases, the kids' kids. "I concentrate on the ones who want to do better," Foulks said. "I would like to help them all, but the ones who want better are my focus."

The police commander of the Southern District, Maj. Scott L. Bloodsworth, planned to visit Foulks even as he relaxed on the first vacation he's taken all year. No one else was hit, and no arrests have been made. "She is a wonderful lady and I am blessed to have her in Cherry Hill working to improve the quality of life," he said in an e-mail.

Jack Baker, the head of the Southern District Police Community Relations Council, said Foulks "gives not just her time, but anything she owns, especially her love, to anyone who needs it."

Late into the morning, Foulks stood outside her house and welcomed a steady stream of worried visitors. She told them what happened, showed them the bullet hole and told them all she's blessed. In every conversation, she managed to squeeze in a pitch for donations for notebooks, pencils and backpacks to give to needy children heading back to school this fall.

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