Four Nation of Islam security guards, including a former Baltimore police officer who was fired for using excessive force, were arrested yesterday on charges of severely beating a man accused of hitting one of them with a baseball bat, police said.
The alleged beating occurred about 12:15 a.m. Sunday, minutes after someone fired seven shots at other NOI Security Agency guards who were trying to keep a group of unruly men from entering a public housing high-rise in the 1000 block of Argyle Ave., police said.
Malachai Wilson, 29, Tyrone Toran, 23, Norman Carroll, 35, and Anthony Sampson, 25, were charged with assault with intent to murder. All except Mr. Sampson were being held in lieu of $50,000 bail. Mr. Sampson was being held in lieu of $25,000 bail.
Addresses of the guards were being withheld because the men work in the security field, police spokesman Sam Ringgold said.
The victim, Tyrone Smith, 24, was in serious condition yesterday at the Maryland Shock Trauma Center, Mr. Ringgold said.
"He has regained consciousness and is talking," said Mr. Ringgold.
Mr. Smith also was arrested on assault charges and will be taken for a bail review hearing after he is discharged from the hospital, Mr. Ringgold said.
Maj. Leonard Hamm, commander of the Central District, and Maj. Cornelius Hairston of the city Housing Authority Police said the incident started when NOI guards tried to handcuff an unidentified man. The man was part of a mob trying to enter a high-rise at the Murphy Homes housing project, police said.
"The guards had one handcuff on the man when someone in the crowd fired seven shots," Major Hamm said.
The suspect broke free during the chaos after the gunshots and has not been found, Major Hamm said.
City and housing authority police arrived shortly after the shooting. At that time, four men saw Mr. Smith, the man they believed to be the shooter, police said. The men chased Mr. Smith for about one block before catching him at the corner of Preston Street and Pennsylvania Avenue, Major Hamm said.
"We believe Mr. Smith struck the guard with a baseball bat at some point during the altercations and that the four guards beat him up," he said. "We do not know if Mr. Smith was the shooter. No gun was found, but the bat was recovered."
Mr. Wilson, the guard struck by the baseball bat, was fired from the city police force six years ago for using excessive force, Major Hamm said. He was not seriously injured yesterday.
Though some bystanders said police used sticks to beat Mr. Smith, no sticks were found, Major Hamm said. The unarmed NOI security guards were carrying flashlights, Major Hamm said.
Major Hairston said the guards charged in the incident would not be allowed to return to work until the case is resolved.
NOI guards are supposed to control who enters and leaves the public housing buildings, Major Hamm said. "If there's a problem, they're supposed to call us."
This month, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development said the city's Housing Authority violated federal rules in awarding a $4.6 million contract to the NOI Security Agency, the highest bidder.
NOI was selected in May over 10 other companies to provide security at 16 publicly owned high-rise apartment buildings in Baltimore. The low bidder, Wells Fargo Guard Services, offered to do the job for about $1.1 million less than NOI's bid.
HUD said the authority could refund $1 million, give the contract to the lowest bidder among four finalists or scrap the contract and reopen bidding.
Although Baltimore Housing Commissioner Daniel P. Henson III disputes the federal finding, he told HUD in a letter March 15 that he will "re-rank" the proposals. In the letter, Mr. Henson emphasized that he was not "admitting or denying anything."
NOI Security is associated with the Nation of Islam, led by Louis Farrakhan. NOI affiliates have received high marks from officials in cities around the nation for lowering violent crime rates in public housing projects. Baltimore housing officials say that serious crime dropped 50 percent at one high-rise alone here.
Major Hamm said he knew of only one other NOI guard ever being arrested.