Lawyer wounded walking to work; Suspect arrested after shooting in downtown Baltimore


A Baltimore lawyer was shot yesterday morning on a busy street near the Inner Harbor, turning his walk to work into a desperate flight from a man accused of firing as many as six shots.

Jeffrey Martin Yeatman, 29, a product liability lawyer for Piper & Marbury, was shot as he walked along the 100 block of S. Charles St. shortly before 10 a.m., police said. As passers-by screamed and scrambled for cover, Yeatman ran, the gunman chasing him, to the lobby of the law firm's offices in Charles Center South.

Hit in the left shoulder, the lawyer calmly told an attendant: "I've just been shot. Call 911. I'm going to sit down now."

Minutes later, police arrested an East Baltimore resident who was charged late last night with attempted murder, said Robert W. Weinhold Jr., a police spokesman.

Weinhold said police knew of no relationship, "professional or personal," between Yeatman and the suspect, and no motive for the shooting.

Yeatman, in stable condition at Maryland Shock Trauma Center last night, told police he had never seen the man before.

"It is without question a random act of violence," Weinhold said. "This certainly oc- curred without any provocation whatsoever."

Police said the gunman followed Yeatman for nearly a block, shooting at him before dropping a .38-caliber revolver at the northwest corner of Charles and Lombard streets. During the chase, witnesses said, the gunman also shot through the windshield of a passing Pontiac, whose driver followed the man around the corner, helping a plainclothes officer apprehend him.

Weinhold said detectives believe the gun had recently been purchased and was legally registered to the man. He said detectives had found no criminal record for the man.

Piper & Marbury spokeswoman Laura E. Perry said neither the firm nor Yeatman had received threats that could explain the attack. "There's no known connection between this young man and our firm," she said, referring to the suspect.

Friends said Yeatman, a graduate of the University of Maryland Law School who often walked to work from his Otterbein home, worked on product-liability litigation involving automobile companies.

Yesterday, Perry said, Yeatman decided to work at home and go to the office later than usual.

As Yeatman walked up Charles Street, a man began to fire at him without warning, police said.

Jeffrey Meyers, a stained-glass artist from Arbutus, was driving his 1962 Pontiac Catalina north on Charles Street when he heard the sound of the gunshots and the lawyer screaming as he ran.

"I heard commotion and an individual basically pleading for his life," said Meyers, 43. The gunman "was definitely shooting right at him."

One bullet pierced Meyers' rear windshield. He wasn't hit.

After Meyers saw the man drop his weapon outside the Piper offices, he kept following the man, turning left on Lombard Street. About a block later, Meyers stopped his car and got out as plainclothes Officer Mark Baker, a Baltimore police officer working on a federal Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms task force, ran to the scene from the federal courthouse a block away after hearing gunfire.

So did a cabdriver, who helped guard the gun that had been dropped. The driver, Khalid J. Malik, 41, said that when one bullet hit his Yellow Cab, he got out and shouted at the gunman not to move and to throw the gun.

Brandon Gerdel, 30, a computer systems technician at Legal Technology Solutions, watched from his office window on the second floor of Charles Center South, overlooking the intersection.

"I thought it was a backfire at first, then I heard the second 'bang' and I knew something was up," Gerdel said. "So I ran to the window and I looked out -- and I thought 'Oh, man, it's happening right under me.' "

Lobby attendant Marvin Brown saw Yeatman come in and ask for help.

"He came in, holding onto his chest, bleeding but conscious," Brown said. "He knew what was going on. He stayed calm and cool, kept his head. Most people don't do that when they get shot."

The lawyer's father, Martin Yeatman of Crofton, said the younger Yeatman has "always liked living and working in the city."

Piper & Marbury, Maryland's largest law firm, announced last year that it would shift most of its 500 attorneys and support personnel to Mount Washington in Baltimore County by April 2000, leaving a small office downtown. The law firm's move will be one of the biggest business defections from downtown in recent years.

"The only reason we are moving is because we were not able to find a block of appropriate space," Perry said. "We certainly did not do it because of any lack of faith in the city."

After the shooting, workers who watched the scene on the street had the same reaction.

"There's still no fear of walking around," said Jerry Gross, an accountant at Gross Mendelsohn & Associates in the same building.

Weinhold, the police spokesman, said Richard Geier of the 2600 block of E. Preston St. also was charged with several counts of assault with a deadly weapon and using a handgun in the commission of a felony. He said Geier was being held at the Central Booking and Intake Center, pending a bail hearing today.

Sun staff writers Jim Haner and Amy Oakes contributed to this article.

Pub Date: 2/03/99

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