Bhutanese refugee, in city 2 months, killed in robbery

Two Bhutanese refugees were shot, one of them fatally, in an apparent robbery in Northeast Baltimore, one of two double shootings investigated by Baltimore police Tuesday night.

Big Bahadur Gurung, 20, had emigrated two months ago, after being given sanctuary following years of persecution in his home country, said Holly Leon-Lierman, the outreach manager for the International Rescue Committee, which helps refugees assimilate.


"He came here seeking freedom and safety," Leon-Lierman said. "These are people who were persecuted for a long time, and it really makes this attack all the more tragic."

The incident is the latest in a series of crimes that have sparked concern for members of Baltimore's Nepalese and Bhutanese community, which officials say is centered in Northeast Baltimore's Frankford neighborhood and has been growing in recent years.

Officers were called to the Parkside Gardens apartments in the 5200 block of Bowleys Lane at 10:12 p.m. for a report of a double shooting and found two men suffering from gunshot wounds. A 17-year-old male, also an immigrant who arrived here last year, was shot multiple times in the torso and taken to an area hospital in critical condition. Gurung, of the 4900 block of Gunther Ave., was shot in the chest and was pronounced dead.

Bhutan is a tiny kingdom in South Asia located at the eastern end of the Himalayas. For years, thousands of Bhutanese of Nepali descent have been fleeing the country, alleging ethnic and political repression, and were stranded in Nepalese refugee camps.

In 2007, the United States announced it would offer sanctuary to up to 60,000 refugees, with Ellen Sauerbrey, then the director of the State Department's refugee division and a former Republican state legislator from Maryland, playing a key role. More than 30,000 refugees have settled in the United States since then, one of the largest refugee groups in recent years, according to news reports. More than 700 have settled in Baltimore.

But like other immigrant populations, they have encountered challenges in their new home. The IRC has been working with police and city officials over concerns about robberies and violence, with advocates and community leaders organizing meetings.

Frances Tinsley, the IRC's director since April, said the crimes are isolated and there is no evidence that Bhutanese refugees have been targeted, and she said the group's work is largely proactive. "Baltimore has been an accepting community, but it is also an urban city and we have to do the best we can to make sure these newcomers feel safe," Tinsley said.

Part of that effort includes educating them on how the system works. Distrust of government and police in their home countries also often prevents immigrants from reporting crime, officials say.

"It's been an ongoing project to try to educate them … that it's OK to report these incidents," said Brandon Scott, a community liaison with the mayor's office who is running for the Baltimore City Council.

Anna Yankova-White, a city employee who does outreach with immigrant communities, said bullying involving Nepalese students on school buses and bus stops has been a "crucial issue" within the community and spurred some of the meetings. She said a series of safety workshops are being planned for September, and that officials are pushing immigrants to get involved in community walks in their neighborhood.

In an email in May, advocates from the IRC said Northeast District police would be using the Parkside Gardens apartments as a substation for officers in that sector, and would stage shift changes there in hopes of reducing response times. The district's commander, Maj. Darryl DeSousa, did not respond Wednesday to questions about whether those deployments took place.

In the second shooting incident, Brown said officers were called to the 3700 block of W. Forest Park Ave. at 10:55 p.m. for a report of a double shooting. When they arrived, they found a 25-year-old man shot in the leg, who was transported to a local hospital.

The second victim was a 24-year-old man, who was found with multiple gunshot wounds to the torso, Brown said. He was taken to Maryland Shock Trauma Center, where he was pronounced dead at 11:26 p.m. Brown identified him as Lee Jones III of the 3400 block of Oakfield Ave. in Baltimore.

Brown said police did not know of a motive and did not have any suspects.


Police also disclosed that a man who was shot Monday morning in Southwest Baltimore died of his injuries. Jerome Golphin, 25, was found on his front lawn in the 200 block of Mount Holly St. about 11:20 a.m.

Police say his vehicle had been struck by bullets, and it was believed that he was shot at as he was driving. Detectives were exploring a possible drug connection to the killing, police said.

Anyone with information about the shooting incidents was asked to call homicide detectives at 410-396-2012.