Fatal shooting leaves store owner concerned, uneasy


Five months after one of his employees was fatally shot in his store, Lawrence G. Silvestro of Car Tel Inc. still doesn't feel safe.

"It's been emotionally traumatic for me," said Mr. Silvestro, 46, owner and general manager of the mobile phone store in Maryland City Plaza shopping center."My world was turned topsy-turvy."

Shortly after noon on Valentine's Day, a gunman walked into Mr. Silvestro's store and shot Angelia K. Hamilton, 22, of Laurel, several times during an attempted robbery. She died nearly six hours later at Maryland Shock Trauma Center in Baltimore.

The gunman, who fled after the shooting, did not take any merchandise or money. Police are still looking for him, said Randy Bell, spokesman for the Anne Arundel County Police Department. A composite sketch of a possible witness -- a white male, 50 to 55 years old, about 6 feet 3 -- has been released, Mr. Bell said.

Car Tel Inc. and Cellular One are offering $10,000 for any information leading to the gunman's arrest and conviction. Metro Crime Stoppers will contribute up to an additional $2,000.

"The detectives are still following up on leads," Mr. Bell said. "We're still being aggressive in the investigation. Hopefully, it will lead to a conclusion."

The victim's husband, Brandon Hamilton, 23, declined to talk about his wife's death, saying it was too painful to relive old memories.

For Mr. Silvestro, who was in the store at the time of the shooting, the capture of the man cannot come soon enough. He said his business has suffered since the death of Mrs. Hamilton, who was known as "Angel."

"I've had customers who have been with us for a while and who call up and say, 'We don't feel comfortable coming back,'" Mr. Silvestro said. "We'll have customers look in and ask, 'Is it safe to come in here?' "

The store was closed for two weeks after Mrs. Hamilton's death, said Mr. Silvestro. He said he closed for a week because of the "emotional effects" of the shooting. He spent another week cleaning up the store and persuading frightened employees to return to work.

"With my other job, I never had to worry about someone getting shot before my eyes," said Mr. Silvestro, a former communications officer with the U.S. Department of Defense. "I had never experienced it before. I was never that close . . . I did some soul-searching."

He said he couldn't estimate how much business he lost during the two weeks although he characterized business during March as "very slow." He also said he has spent more than $1,000 installing a video camera and other security devices. He plans to spend another $2,000 for additional protection he preferred not to describe.

The new safety devices did not discourage two gunmen wearing ski masks from robbing the store of several cellular telephones the first weekend in April. That crime, in addition to Mrs. Hamilton's death, has forced Mr. Silvestro to weigh his options of staying in business there.

"We were devastated," he said. "We were making a small comeback and then that had to happen . . . I'm still committed to moving the store."

More importantly, Mr. Silvestro said, he lost a valued employee. "She was a great employee," he said. "She was the glue that held this place together. She kept us going."

Scott Schiller, owner of the nearby Schiller's Packaging Plus, said that after the shooting, he lost 50 percent to 60 percent of his business and his peace of mind.

"It was very disturbing to realize how vulnerable you really are, how much we take for granted," said Mr. Schiller.

He was standing next to a red sign posted next to the counter that reads: "Warning: These premises are safeguarded with video surveillance cameras."

Two of the three cameras were installed after Mrs. Hamilton's death.

Plaza officials have tried to assure the safety of the store owners and their employees by hiring an armed security guard to patrol on foot in the mornings and evenings. Some owners criticize the maneuver as too little, too late.

"It's eyewash," said Mr. Silvestro, who wants the owners to hire more guards. "It looks good. It looks like they made some sort of effort, but it's completely inadequate."

On the other hand, Sara Taggart, a beautician at the Hair Cuttery, said she thought the security guard would be "a deterrent as far as crime would go."

Late last week, shopping center patrons seemed unaffected by news of the increase in security.

"I just get something to eat, get a haircut," said Lee Peterson, a computer analyst at Fort Meade. "It's not going to change my behavior."

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