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Drive-by gunman slays 2 men Police seek motive, suspects in S.E. city slayings of two businessmen.


In Evening Sun stories last week about the slayings of two businessmen in Baltimore, the relationship between John R. "Jack" Shotto and Baltimore International Warehousing Co. was incorrectly reported.

Shotto was an independent consultant handling sales and marketing for the warehouse, according to a lawyer for the owner of the warehouse.

The Evening Sun regrets the error.

City homicide detectives today sought a motive and two assailants in the apparent professional killings yesterday of two businessmen gunned down outside a southeast Baltimore warehouse.

The victims were John R. Shotto, 52, of the 1600 block of Rolling Road in Bel Air, and Raymond Nicholson, 38, of Glenn Dale in Prince George's County.

According to close friends and neighbors interviewed today, both men had families and were responsible and well-liked.

Shotto, a native of upstate New York, was a resident of an upper middle-class community near the Maryland Country Club called Glenwood and had three grown children and three grandchildren. One of his businesses had recently failed, one former associate said today.

Nicholson, according to a decade-long friend, graduated from a Montgomery County high school and worked his way to up be vice president in charge of distribution for Hechinger Company, the mid-Atlantic hardware chain. He had three children, ages 5, 8 and 11.

An autopsy was being performed on both bodies today, police said. Some information, such as the type of weapon or weapons used, will be discovered from the autopsy.

Shotto and Nicholson were shot about 5:50 p.m. yesterday at the Maritime Center at Point Breeze near Dundalk.

Based on preliminary details, police said the shootings had all the signs of a professional hit.

Shotto, an owner of Baltimore International Warehousing Co. in the 2200 block of Broening Highway, and Nicholson were shot on a parking lot next to Shotto's building.

A gunman seated on the passenger side of a dark-colored car driven past the victims fired as they talked in a downpour near Shotto's 1991 Mercedes-Benz, police said.

Homicide Detective Marvin Sydnor said the private and professional lives of the targets would be examined in an effort to find out why one or both of them were victims of the shootings.

A police source said today the killings were atypical of drive-by types of shootings usually linked to the illegal narcotics trade. The area in which the killings occurred could suggest, the source said, ties to labor difficulties or gambling.

Sydnor said there were no attempts to rob the victims, and people who witnessed the killings reported hearing no communication between the victims and the two white males in the car.

The detective said Shotto and Nicholson had met earlier in the day in Shotto's office to discuss renting storage space to the Hechinger firm at the warehouse.

Sydnor said at least one and perhaps two people who were outside Shotto's warehouse saw a man with a handgun open fire without warning from a car a few feet away.

Sydnor said people walking in the area ducked for cover at the sound of gunfire, but at least one person got a fairly good look at the gunman.

Afterward, witnesses told police, the car sped off, headed either toward parking lot exits that lead to Broening Highway or to Interstate 95.

Sydnor said Shotto and Nicholson fell to the pavement within a few feet of each other. Their car keys lay next to their bodies.

Shotto, shot in the temple, died at the scene.

Nicholson was rushed by a city fire department ambulance to the Francis Scott Key Medical Center, where he underwent emergency surgery for a gunshot wound to the abdomen. He died about 8:30 p.m.

Sydnor said Shotto was married and had three children. After an employee of the warehouse notified the family of his death, family members went to police headquarters.

According to neighbors and friends, Shotto moved to the Harford County community of Glenwood about 17 years ago. He had three grandchildren "and he idolized those kids," said one close friend who knew him for that entire time.

"He always was wonderful to us and if you needed him he would be right there," said the neighbor. "And what will probably be missed most was that he could always make you laugh. He was this big man, 6-2, 240 pounds, and spoke very softly. He was as witty as can be."

She said Shotto hired her daughter after high school graduation and she continued to work for him through college.

"She thought the world of him because he trusted her so and taught her so much," the neighbor said. "He never stopped working."

According to Christopher Hayes, an official with the Steamship Trade Association in the port of Baltimore, Shotto was president of the Meridian Ship Agency Inc. until several years ago. Meridian, Hayes said, chartered space on ocean-going vessels and rented out that space for cargo.

Meridian, he said, floundered and failed for unknown reasons in 1989 or 1990.

"He had a wide knowledge of the world markets. He was probably one of the sharpest individuals I knew," Hayes said.

Nicholson, the Hechinger vice president, also was married and had children, police said. Members of his family were at the hospital when he died.

According to longtime friend Joseph Facchina, Nicholson graduated from High Point High School near Beltsville and went to work for Hechinger's.

"He was with us for 19 years," John W. Hechinger Jr., the chain's president and chief executive officer, said today. "He worked his way up to be a very valued associate. He and I started together and we had a close relationship.

"This was a totally senseless act. Ray was in the wrong place at the wrong time," Hechinger said.

"He worked [at Hechinger's] his entire life," Facchina said. "He was kind of naturally sharp, and worked his way up. He was a straightforward, honest guy."

"He did have contact with some labor disputes now and then but he didn't speak recently of anybody he had to fire," Facchina said.

Sydnor said, "We're hoping the description [of the gunman] can provide enough details that someone might recognize the trigger man."

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