A teen-age youth from New York City who police believe had been brought south to sell narcotics for New York dealers died yesterday from a gunshot wound sustained Monday during a drug-related robbery in West Baltimore.
As of 6 p.m. last night, the slaying brought to 303 the number of people killed in Baltimore during 1991. That total is two fewer than for 1990, when the city recorded more homicides than any year since the city's shock-trauma units were upgraded and coordinated in the early 1970s -- an event that dramatically reduced the city homicide rate.
Baltimore recorded 330 slayings in 1972, and 323 in the year prior.
Because the young victim -- believed to be only 15 to 17 years of age -- has no local ties other than through the drug trade -- detectives have had difficulty locating his next-of-kin in New York.
Witnesses told police the latest victim was slain by two brothers -- about 18 or 19 years of age -- who have been involved in a series of recent shootings and drug robberies in West Baltimore. A couple of those witnesses said they, too, were victimized by the same pair, according to homicide detectives.
Detective Dave Peckoo said it appeared that the victim arrived in Baltimore about a month ago and was set up by dealers in a Baltimore hotel: "I guess when you pull in the kind of money that they have you can stay where you want," the detective said.
It has become routine for New York drug traffickers to recruit teen-agers and send them to Baltimore. Narcotics bring a better price here than in New York, where a glut of heroin and cocaine has lowered prices. At least 14 slayings last year involved so-called New York Boys working in Baltimore.
Two of the victims in those killings were innocent bystanders, killed by stray bullets fired by New Yorkers in the drug market at Gold and Etting streets. For several months now, detectives and plainclothesmen have been critical of the department's response to the growing influx of New York dealers, a trend which dates back to the mid-1980s.
In the most recent murder, the New York youth was sitting on some steps in the first block of South Calverton Road at 3:45 p.m. Monday when a car occupied by two men pulled up to the front of the house, police said.
Detectives said one man got out of the car, ran up to the victim and placed a gun to his head. A second man in the car was heard to yell, "Hurry up, man."
At that point, the young victim grappled for control of the handgun as one shot went astray, police said. When the juvenile began running down the street, he was struck in the head by one of two additional shots fired by the assailant.
The youth continued to flee, eventually collapsing on the sidewalk in the 2200 block of West Baltimore Street. Taken to University Hospital, the youth died at 10 a.m. yesterday, police said.
Detective Peckoo said investigators have established that the victim was dealing narcotics and was working on the day he was shot, but they have been unable to locate any stash of drugs in the Calverton Road area.
Street dealers usually hide their drugs until they make a sale to keep from being caught by police with evidence or robbed by competitors.
Police theorize that the slaying of the youth was a robbery attempt that went awry when the youth began grappling for the weapon. But detectives said it is also possible that the youngster -- since he was new to the area -- might have been killed for dealing in another trafficker's domain.