Columbia Halloween Party Turns Deadly

19-year-old Man Dies, Another Is Hurt At Upscale Home That Is Target Of Past Noise Complaint

November 02, 2009|By Jamie Smith Hopkins and Don Markus | Jamie Smith Hopkins and Don Markus, and

The last wild party at the million-dollar brick home in Columbia, back in June, was a nuisance.

The latest one, a Halloween bash with music so loud it shook neighboring houses, turned deadly.

One man was killed and another badly injured early Sunday when gunfire erupted at a 4,600-square-foot home on Manorstone Lane in Howard County. Police are preparing to take a closer look at the stately property they said had been rented out for the party.

The first priority for county police is identifying the shooter or shooters, spokeswoman Sherry Llewellyn said. After that, "there will be other issues that will be dealt with down the road as far as the party is concerned," she said.

None of the victims were residents of the home, which sits on two acres of land near a golf course in a neighborhood usually untouched by crime.

Police say Silver Spring resident Aaron T. Brice, 19, was shot on the driveway of the house and declared dead at the scene - becoming the second homicide victim in the suburban county this year.

Columbia resident Nathaniel Quick, 22, was sent to Maryland Shock Trauma Center in critical condition, but is expected to survive. Two more partygoers with injuries that authorities said did not appear to be related to the shooting were sent to Howard County General Hospital.

Brice and Quick were among at least 100 young adults who flocked to the party, after word of the event spread through social networking Web sites. Police could not say who organized the party, or allowed it to take place.

Anthony Brice, father of the slain teen-ager, said his son went with a group from Montgomery County. Brice knew something was wrong when he didn't hear from his son by his curfew.

But it wasn't until one of those friends called hours later, distraught, that he discovered what had happened. He rushed to the scene looking for more information, but found little.

"It's unbelievable. I'm thinking it's a bad dream," said Brice, 48.

He said his son, who lived at the family's Silver Spring home, was a grocery-store cashier who worked at a Christian day camp over the summer. The 19-year-old planned to attend Montgomery College in January to study criminal justice. Brice was told his son was shot just as he was leaving the party "because he saw the situation was not good."

"Crime can be anywhere," Brice said, adding that kids need to know that just because they're "going to a million-dollar neighborhood doesn't mean it's safe."

Celestine Howard, grandmother of the injured 22-year-old, said he was shot in the spine. Police said he may be paralyzed. Nathaniel Quick is a student at Bowie State University, and Howard said he attended the party with a friend who had heard about the event through a social-networking Web site.

When police arrived at the home at about 1:15 a.m., more than 100 young people were still at the party.

Officers said the house was the location of another loud party in June that prompted at least one phone call to 911.

"This summer, there was a similar cadre of cars up and down the street," said neighbor Rob Weiss, who has lived on the street for a year and a half. "And there were a lot of kids running around, screaming and yelling, pushing and shoving."

Joanne Powell, listed in land records as the owner of the Columbia house with Dennis Edwards, filed for bankruptcy protection in January. Both owners were facing foreclosure proceedings until the case was dismissed in August. They could not be reached by telephone for a comment, and no one answered the door Sunday afternoon. The house was purchased for $1.6 million three years ago.

Blood stained the driveway less than a dozen feet from the front steps of the house. Signs of damage were visible inside, including a bashed-in staircase.

Llewellyn, the police spokeswoman, said the department isn't ruling out the possibility that there was more than one shooter. No arrests have been made.

"What we know from witnesses is there was some kind of ongoing altercation throughout the evening. What we don't know yet is whether that altercation started before the party began," she said. "We don't know what the motive was or what the argument was about."

Llewellyn said police have no reason to think the shooting was related to gangs or drugs.

Neighbors didn't know what to make of the ruckus.

"We thought it was firecrackers. Then we heard the screams," said Teri Deuel, who lives behind the house on a neighboring street. "It took us about a half-hour to figure out that somebody got shot."

Bans Sandhu, who lives nearby, said he heard multiple shots ring out. "I don't know how many, but a full magazine," he said. "Bang, bang, bang, bang, bang."

Neighbor Fadeke Iluyomade, 51, was working in her study when she heard what sounded to her like fireworks, except louder. "Then suddenly there were a lot of people running, running away from the house. Some were running on my lawn," she said. "That was when I called the police because I didn't know what was going on."

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