When heavily armed police officers swarmed into a Pen Lucy rowhouse last month, they thought they had finally busted a drug gang suspected of selling crack cocaine in the North Baltimore neighborhood.
They seized three handguns -- one of which police linked to four shootings and a homicide -- and said they found a man sitting at a kitchen table filling vials with crack cocaine, getting them ready for street sale.
But an alleged member of the Old York-Cator Avenue Boys -- who was convicted of manslaughter in 1991 and served 15 months in prison -- posted bail a day after his Dec. 15 arrest. He was charged Sunday with ambushing and shooting at three civilians and three off-duty police officers, one of whom had participated in his arrest last month.
"Certainly the bail had no deterrent effect," said Maj. Robert Biemiller, the commander of the the Northern District station.
The case, police commanders said, highlights the frustrating nature of police work in Baltimore: Officers repeatedly arrest familiar faces as they struggle to curtail crime in a city where 300 or more killings have occurred each year for a decade.
"I think people need to be aware that we're dealing with the same people over and over again," Biemiller said. "This is more of an awareness thing than a finger-pointing session. I don't think anyone is at fault for not doing what they are supposed to do."
No officers were wounded, but the suspect, Walter G. Ferguson, 25, was struck in the right leg in an exchange of gunfire with Officer Robert Brooks. Ferguson was arrested and charged with six counts of attempted murder and is being held without bail.
Details of Ferguson's manslaughter conviction could not be learned yesterday. He was imprisoned Nov. 5, 1991, and paroled on Feb. 12, 1993. State prison officials said their supervision ended March 16, 1995.
Since he was released, he has been arrested on a variety of charges, including robbery, drug distribution and handgun possession. Most of the charges were dropped by prosecutors; he was convicted of disorderly conduct in 1996 and sentenced to six months probation. Richard G. Berger, the lawyer representing Ferguson on the charges stemming from the December drug raid, declined to comment yesterday.
Robert Nowlin, a Pen Lucy community activist who for the past decade has spoken out about crime and led marches to disrupt drug dealers, said he can't understand why police "can't control the Old York corridor."
Nine years ago, drug dealers upset with Nowlin's outspokenness shot up his house. Yesterday, he said he wants laws to allow police to clear street corners of loiterers.
"It is out of control to a certain extent," Nowlin said. "I'm tired of hearing about what officials can't do."
Police said Sunday's 3 a.m. shootout in the 4700 block of York Road occurred as three off-duty officers emerged from a nightclub at York Road and Cold Spring Lane. They were talking to three neighborhood residents when a gunman "pulls out this huge gun and opened up," Biemiller said.
Biemiller said the gunman had been inside the bar earlier and had allegedly spoken with Brooks, telling him there were no hard feelings about the Dec. 15 arrest. "When the officer comes out, he reappears and starts shooting at him," Biemiller said.
Pub Date: 1/21/99