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1976 City Hall shootings continue to echo


A QUARTER- century after the madness, we said goodbye last week to brave Joanne McQuade, who once saved the life of a mayor named Schaefer. But everybody missed that kid standing silently in a criminal courtroom a few weeks ago, his head bent, his shoulders sagging, whose name was Dominic Leone III.

Each carried some of the same dust of history. It was Joanne McQuade who gently coaxed Charles A. Hopkins and his gun away from William Donald Schaefer. Hopkins, out of his mind with rage, needed to kill somebody that April day in 1976. He didn't find Schaefer, but he did find Leone's grandfather, southern Baltimore City Councilman Dominic Leone.

So we watch the ripples of time. McQuade died last week at 61 of breast cancer. She was remembered her whole life for her composure under fire. The day that Hopkins walked into the temporary City Hall on Calvert Street, he pulled a .38-caliber revolver from a paper bag and started using it. McQuade heard the shots.

She found a Schaefer aide, Kathleen E. Nolan, shot in the neck. Then she heard Hopkins' voice, threatening to blow her head off. He said he wanted to see the mayor. He was angry that the city hadn't taken care of some business of his when he'd sought help. McQuade, knowing Schaefer was in his office eating lunch, lied. She said the mayor was in Annapolis and tried to get Hopkins out of the building.

He put his gun next to her ear and walked with her until he found City Council offices. McQuade broke away and ran to safety as Hopkins found new prey, fired his gun and killed Councilman Leone.

Leone's grandson was not yet born -- but his future was transformed. Last month, he stood in Judge John Prevas' courtroom, at the end of an awful run of behavior, and awaited sentencing on a narcotics charge. He was 23 years old and wore a checkered lumberjack shirt and handcuffs, and he was all alone.

But there was history all over him. In the aftermath of the Hopkins' shootings came a wrenching criminal trial that included elements of race and irrationality. A jury found Hopkins was criminally insane when he fired his gun. Instead of prison, he would go to the Clifton T. Perkins Mental Hospital.

Leone's son, Dominic Leone Jr., enraged, roared through the criminal courthouse, screaming primally, carrying the burden of his father's wounds, carrying the heat of a charged courtroom, carrying the awful sense that justice had not been done.

He had to be restrained by police. He vowed revenge of all kinds. Then, becalmed, he ran for his father's old council seat. He lost. He tried to find himself and wondered where to begin.

The father had been a councilman with a Rabelaisian streak. He was great on constituent services, and great fun. In slow moments, you could find the senior Leone on the floor of his council office, sleeves rolled up, a Marlboro dangling from his lips and dice in his hand.

The son, Leone Jr., always said his life turned around the day his father was killed. He'd been a self-professed drinker and a gambler and a fighter before then. The family had a famous bar on Fort Avenue, and Leone's behavior seemed part of a mind-set that said a young man sows wild oats, and over time learns to take his place in proper society.

Within a year of his father's assassination, he found himself with a new son and named him Dominic III. The boy was raised by his maternal grandmother and says he has never known his mother.

He made it through high school at Mount St. Joseph in Irvington, did a year of community college and began to find trouble. In the past five years, he has been arrested nine times. The charges were pretty rough -- handgun possession, theft, narcotics, disorderly conduct, assault and battery, reckless endangerment, malicious destruction of property -- but the punishment was nothing. Case after case was shelved.

Weeks ago, the father, Leone Jr., talked about the kid's incorrigibility. He says he broke all ties with his son a few years ago. Leone Jr. says he has found God.

During the son's most recent arrest, police caught him and a pal with 23 bags of cocaine. They said Leone was the lookout while the other guy made the deals. They arrested them behind Fort Avenue, within walking distance of his grandfather's old bar.

Prevas sentenced him to a year in prison. Last week, the judge said, "I looked at him standing there and remembered all that history. The grandfather getting shot, the father so angry after the trial. This kid was a historical footnote. But the sentencing was strictly based on his record."

Nearly a quarter-century after that awful day with Charles Hopkins and the gun, the ripples continue. Joanne McQuade is remembered as a brave woman who saved a mayor's life but couldn't stop the death of a councilman, whose grandson's life was forever altered.

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