In the latest of a string of Baltimore-area killings involving servicemen, a Marine about to be redeployed to Afghanistan was shot at a downtown bar early Friday.
Chase Love, a 26-year-old from New Orleans, was shot once in the chest after an altercation in the hookah lounge between 3:15 a.m. and 3:30 a.m., said police spokesman Anthony Guglielmi. He said Love was celebrating with fellow Marines before returning to Afghanistan.
Guglielmi said police are interviewing bouncers and other witnesses but have identified no suspects or persons of interest in the shooting. Police said Saturday that they are also looking into why the lounge, Queen's Hookah, was open past 2:00 a.m., the closing time for area nightlife establishments.
The lounge, which recently opened and replaced a similar establishment, features Middle Eastern-style water pipes which patrons use to smoke flavored tobacco. The bars have been increasing in popularity for years.
"Chase was one of the funniest, most loving people I've ever known," said Kathey Early, who knew him from the Road Runners Club, the summer track team she and her husband run in Louisiana. "We've had many kids come and go, but Chase was one that my daughters accepted as a brother and that I thought of as the son I never had."
Early said Love's mother died of breast cancer when he was a senior in high school and that he entered the Marines shortly after graduation.
"He felt that as the man of the house, it was an opportunity for him to take care of his [two] sisters," Early said. "He loved it. He knew he was going to make a career of it."
Love lived with his wife and two stepchildren in North Carolina, where he recently bought a home, Early said. He had served in Iraq and Afghanistan, and his Facebook page says that he was a radio operator.
Early did not know why he was in Baltimore. Through tears, she laughed at the memory of a picture of Love in Iraq with lollipops spilling from his pocket.
"That was Chase," she said. "Always a jokester, such a joy to have around."
Guglielmi said Queen's Hookah, in the 200 block of E. Baltimore St., has no history of violent incidents.
The lounge, located in the space formerly occupied by the hookah bar El Basha, opened within the past several weeks, neighboring business owners said. The door was locked and the storefront dark on Friday afternoon.
"I was shocked this morning," said Paul Kuppalli, who owns the greeting card shop next door. "I've been here for 24 years, and I've never seen anything like this. Sure, it worries me to have a killing next door."
Queen's Hookah sits two blocks west of The Block in a stretch of convenience stores, check-cashing windows and financial buildings. Save for a few robberies, the area is usually devoid of trouble, Kuppalli said.
The city has experienced several violent weekends recently, and a shooting at the Inner Harbor last weekend prompted Police Commissioner Frederick H. Bealefeld III to outline a strategy for preventing trouble during the Fourth of July weekend.
Bealefeld said 300 police officers will patrol the harbor and downtown area during Sunday's fireworks, an increase from last year that had been planned before the shooting. State police and other agencies, such as the Maryland Transportation Authority, will assist.
Several active and former servicemen have been the victims of killings in the Baltimore area in recent months.
In June, unarmed former Marine Tyrone Brown was shot by Gahiji H. Tshamba, an off-duty Baltimore police officer, outside a Mount Vernon bar. Tshamba has been charged with first-degree murder.
In January, Pfc. Darius Ray of Potomac was stabbed after an altercation at a late-night house party in Northeast Baltimore. Three men were charged with first-degree murder.
In December, Clifford Jamar Williams, an Army private on leave from Afghanistan, was shot while driving home from a city grocery with his wife.
In November, former Marine Grayson Edward Kenney Jr. was found in his neighbor's driveway in western Baltimore County, dead of gunshot wounds.
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