A 25-year-old Odenton man was shot fatally early yesterday as he was leaving a Christmas party at the Hawthorn Neighborhood Center in Columbia, leaving residents of the subdivision to question the way the facilities are managed.
Police know of a suspect in the case but have not arrested him, they said.
The victim, identified by police as Sean Philip Wilson, 25, of the 1300 block of Hallock Drive, arrived at the party in the neighborhood of $200,000 homes around 12: 15 a.m. to pick up a cousin's friend. As Wilson was leaving the party attended by about 100 people aged 18 to 25, he exchanged words with another man who pulled a gun, shot Wilson in the chest and fled, police said.
Police identified the suspect as Willie Marquez Hampton, 21, who lives in Columbia and Baltimore County.
Police visited the site three times, about 8 p.m. before the party, at 10 p.m. after neighbors called to complain of loud music and again shortly before the shooting as part of a routine check, said Steven Keller, a Howard police spokesman.
"It seems like some sort of problem erupted outside and that led to a guy getting shot," Keller said. "It's certainly not our everyday homicide happening in the parking lot of a neighborhood center."
Many neighbors expressed shock when they learned of the homicide. Many also questioned how the neighborhood centers are run and who is permitted to rent them.
Some neighbors said they were awakened by gunfire, sirens and the loud drumming sound of a helicopter about 12: 45 a.m.
They said the street in front of the center, Sunny Spring, was blocked by police cars.
"I woke up because I heard this pop noise that sounded like gunfire going off and then I heard all this noise of police sirens, and helicopters swooping around, shining their lights," said Lon Gruesbeck, who lives across the street from the center.
Alcohol is usually allowed in the center, but party organizers had agreed not to allow alcohol because many attending would be under 21. Neighbors and Hickory Ridge Village Manager Jane Parrish said alcohol was sneaked into the party. Parrish found empty beer and wine bottles in the center's bathrooms yesterday. A liquor bottle and a wine bottle were visible in the center's parking lot yesterday afternoon.
Late yesterday afternoon, Wilson's sister, Cheri Wilson, said her brother, who was taking barber classes part time in Bladensburg and working at a children's clothing store in Laurel Mall, always had a tough time walking away from confrontations.
"He thought he was invincible," she said, as she held back tears. "I always warned Sean to watch out for young guys who were looking to be hotheads. This time they were directing it at Sean.
"I was supposed to be shopping these last few days before Christmas," she said. "Now I'll be preparing my brother's funeral so we can bury him on Christmas Eve."
Wilson's slaying was the fifth in Howard County this year.
Anyone with information in the case is asked to call Metro Crime Stoppers at 276-8888.
Pub Date: 12/22/96