Three 16-year-old boys arrested last night in connection with the shooting of a 23-month old boy during a birthday party for his aunt and uncle were released pending the results of chemical tests used to show whether a person discharged a firearm, city police said.
The youths are subject to arrest should the tests prove positive.
At least two of the three teen-agers lived several houses from the victim, Quraan Payton, of the 3800 block of Clifton Ave., who was shot in the left arm at 10:15 p.m. while standing on the back porch of his home during the party.
The victim was treated at the Johns Hopkins Hospital pediatric intensive care unit and released about two hours after a small caliber bullet passed through his left arm, said his mother,
"It's a damn shame," said Quraan's uncle, Kevin Warren, as he swept the back porch last night, looking for the slug that hit the child.
Quraan lives at the house where the shooting occurred.
The family was celebrating the 22nd birthdays of the victim's aunt and uncle, Mr. Warren and his twin sister, Karren Warren, when the crowd of 20 to 25 guests was dispersed by the gunfire.
Police and the boy's relatives said they were unsure of the motive for the shooting. Mr. Warren said he knew the three teen-agers -- who were taken into custody -- but that there was "no bad blood" that would have caused last night's violence.
Mr. Warren said several of the party guests noticed someone had thrown two rocks at the backyard fence. A minute or two later, after Mr. Warren had called out to whoever threw the rocks, someone fired two gunshots, sending family members and guests diving for cover.
The child's mother, Ms. Coates, 22, said she was gathering items and was about to enter the house when she heard gunfire.
"All of a sudden," she said, "I heard my baby cry out in pain."
After picking her son up, she noticed a hole in his shirt and blood coming from his left arm.
Quraan was taken to Hopkins by ambulance, and police questioned several neighbors about the shooting. From those interviews, they identified the three teen-agers as suspects and later found two small-caliber bullet casings -- .22 or .25 caliber -- in the back yard of a house, reportedly where two of the boys live, police said.
Children with bullet wounds are no strangers to Hopkins Hospital. Last year, the hospital's pediatric trauma unit treated more than 31 children for gunshot injuries, compared to 19 in 1992 and 13 in 1991.
Thirty-six children age 18 and under were Baltimore homicide victims in 1993, or roughly 10 percent of those slain in the city. Figures for this year are still being compiled.
A recent national survey of children's hospitals found that it cost an average of $14,000 to treat each child struck by gunfire, excluding doctors' bills and any rehabilitation costs.