Family feud blamed for shooting 12-year-old girl, a visitor, is wounded seriously


To hear the neighborhood tell it, what happened to Keisha Brown on Saturday night began as a fight between two families -- one involved in the drug trafficking at East Baltimore's Bonaparte Street and Garrett Avenue and another living at the rough-and-tumble intersection.

The feud is not about the drugs -- drugs are business as usual there -- but about bad blood between families, neighborhood residents say. It goes back to the beginning of summer, when words were spoken and one woman took a bat to another woman's child, whose cousin then scuffled with an older boy. There has been fighting for months now, and Saturday, punches were thrown again.

All of which meant precious little to 12-year-old Keisha. She wasn't kin to either family. She was just a neighbor, sitting on the steps of the corner house on Bonaparte, watching an older girl style a friend's hair. For that alone, she ended the night in surgery at Johns Hopkins Hospital, with gunshot wounds to her forehead, buttocks and stomach.

"She didn't have anything at all to do with it," said 38-year-old Doreen Smith, whose family is on one end of the running feud. "She lives down the block and just happened to be sitting there."

The suspect in the shooting was a teen-ager -- a youth from out of the neighborhood whom no one could recognize or name yesterday, though he was seen earlier hanging out with the regular crew of young drug slingers on the Garrett corners. "We don't know his name, but we know the boys he was with," says Darlene Prioleau, 34, Ms. Smith's sister.

Earlier Saturday, Ms. Prioleau's daughter and nephew were in yet another scuffle with a member of the opposing clan, coming to blows with a young man who they say supplies most of the boys selling cocaine at Garrett and Bonaparte. Ms. Prioleau tried to intervene.

Hours later, neighbors said, the Garrett drug crew gathered across the street from the corner rowhouse, cursing the girls on the steps.

Minutes later, one youth crept up the side of the rowhouse, reached around the edge of the porch and fired several shots toward the girls. Bullets struck only the 12-year-old. Ms. Prioleau said she believes the intended target was her daughter, Rhonda, 16,who was in the earlier fight.

Homicide detectives said the shooting, which left the wounded child in serious condition yesterday, remains under investigation. They would not comment further.

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