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Marks: Towson weekend violence is 'isolated incident'

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As workday crowds returned to downtown Towson after a weekend that saw a 20-year-old man shot and seven others arrested for unrelated crimes when police responded to reports of a "large unruly mob," business and community leaders said they believe only small changes are necessary to prevent what they called an isolated incident from ever repeating itself.

"There's definitely going to be meetings with all the different groups after the dust settles a little bit," Nancy Hafford, executive director of the Towson Chamber of Commerce, said on Monday afternoon.

"Everybody will put their heads together to make sure this will never happen again," she said. "I just know of the people I've spoken to, nobody wants this.

There's just tremendous momentum in Towson and I hope this one isolated event does not block that momentum."

Saturday's incidents stemmed from a private event held at the Recher Theatre, on York Road.

Owner Brian Recher said the Theta Mu Mu fraternity, a national group with a local branch based in Baltimore, rented the facility for a party that doubled as a collection event for used clothing to be donated to Goodwill.

Recher said the doors opened at 10 p.m., with patrons buying tickets at the door. Hafford said the event was heavily promoted on social media. The turnout was much larger than the organizers expected, and at 11:15 p.m., the facility reached capacity and the doors were closed, according to Recher.

Police spokeswoman Cpl. Cathy Batton said that police received a 911 call and were dispatched to the Recher shortly after 12:30 a.m. Sunday for a report of "large, unruly crowd."

In addition to the officers assigned to central Towson regularly, officers from four other precincts, as well as Maryland State Police and Towson University police, responded to the scene. Batton said a majority of the crowd, which police estimate at 2,500 people, was "very cooperative" and left immediately.

Four people were ultimately arrested for failing to leave the area, and three others for assault on police officers. Three officers received non-life threatening injuries, Batton said.

Those arrested are: Junior Ramsey, 23, of Hyattsville, who was charged with second degree assault, disorderly conduct, failure to obey a lawful order and resisting arrest; Steven Daniels, 25, of Baltimore, charged with second degree assault, second degree assault on a law enforcement officer, obstructing and hindering, failure to obey a lawful order, and resisting arrest; Dimante Fox, 19, of Baltimore, charged with second degree assault on a law enforcement officer, second degree assault, disorderly conduct and failure to obey a lawful order; Chad Schultz, 24, of Timonium, charged with disorderly conduct, resisting arrest and failure to obey a lawful order; and Benjamin Aduna, 21, of Parkville, charged with failure to obey a lawful order and resisting arrest.

Police said two additional suspects, who were not identified, were charged on criminal citations for disorderly conduct and failure to obey a lawful order.

At 1:15 a.m., Batton said a 20-year-old man approached an officer near the Towson Circle to report he'd been shot. The man said he had been walking to his car parked in the Towson Town Center garage when a dark-colored car pulled up beside him and a black male fired several shots at him, Batton said. She said the man was not a college student and did not live in the area, but was in Towson for the event at the Recher.

Johnson to meet with businesses

Earlier this month, Capt. Jonathan Trentzsch, commander of the Towson precinct, met with representatives from the local bars for a brainstorming session on how to best handle the student population as it returned from summer break.

The precinct commander also shifted some of the officers' hours from 4 p.m. to midnight to 7 p.m. until 3 a.m., and deployed them in downtown Towson to beef up presence during peak weekend hours.

Fifth District County Councilman David Marks said those changes by the Towson precinct, along with the recent addition of daytime bike patrols to increase visibility, are steps in the right direction to prevent such incidents in the future.

Marks said he planned to have conversations with the police department and the Towson Chamber of Commerce. And County police said that in the wake of the incident, Chief Jim Johnson will be meeting with the owner of the Recher Theatre, business owners, the county Liquor Board and the Chamber of Commerce.

"I'm going to take my cues from the police department," Marks said. "They're the professionals, they know what needs to be done, and I respect their judgment."

"I believe this is an isolated incident," he said, "and that downtown Towson is still a very safe, inviting place to visit."

Hafford said that changes may ultimately be made in the internal policy of allowing ticketless events at the Recher. But she doesn't attribute any of the violence or disorder to Towson University's annual homecoming celebration, which took place last weekend.

Fifth District County Councilman David Marks said that Capt. Trentzsch and Towson University President Maravene Loeschke told him that none of those arrested were Towson University students.

David Kosak, president of the Greater Towson Council of Community Associations, said the homecoming connection was "purely coincidental."

He said member associations didn't report more disruptive activity by Towson students in the community than is typical. And Towson University spokeswoman Gay Pinder said in an email that the weekend student affairs report noted complaints about two off-campus houses, a volume that she said was, "no more than any other weekend in the fall."

Kosak, a TU graduate, called it "unfair" for people to use Saturday's incidents as an indicator of poor relations between the community and university. He said a lot of people attending the Recher event were from outside Towson, and Hafford noted that all of the typical student and alumni bars in the area reported that Saturday night was business as usual.

"Everything that can be done is being done," Kosak said. "The main thing is to let people know our police department did a wonderful job diffusing the situation."

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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