Two men who were shot Tuesday in a Little Italy rowhouse might have been the victims of a botched robbery, police say.
Joseph Augustus Harrison Jr., 27, was fatally wounded in the shooting, which occurred about 3:30 p.m. in the 900 block of Eastern Ave. The other victim, Richard Featherstone, 18, was shot in the right leg and was hospitalized last night at Maryland Shock Trauma Center.
Both victims were found in Harrison's third-floor bedroom.
Harrison, a Polytechnic Institute graduate, had lived in the rowhouse for four years and occasionally worked construction jobs, said city homicide Detective Chris Beiling. Featherstone lived in the home for 14 months and was also a construction worker and a landscaper, Beiling said.
It appeared that only the victims were in the house at the time of the shootings, Beiling said. He said neither man had a criminal record and that police searched the home for about 14 hours yesterday and Tuesday but found no drugs or any other suspicious items.
Police said no evidence was found of a break-in.
Neighbors on either side of the rowhouse were not at home when the men were shot, Beiling said, adding that the killer could have left the house in a casual manner and not been noticed by anyone on the street.
Inside the rowhouse, which the men were renting, no signs were found of a struggle or fight, Beiling said. The assailant is thought to have entered through the front door, police said.
Beiling said it appeared someone entered the house looking for money, but he didn't know why that house was targeted.
"We have very little evidence to go on now, but the investigation is in its early stages," he said.
As police continue gathering clues in the shooting, Little Italy residents and merchants say they would like to see a return of foot patrol officers there.
"Obviously we would like the foot patrol reinstated here in Little Italy," said Mary Ann Cricchio, co-owner of Da Mimmo restaurant and president of the Little Italy Restaurant Association. "But we do understand the challenges that the mayor is having with his police right now."
Cricchio said she spoke yesterday with Mayor Martin O'Malley, who also expressed concern about the shooting's possible effect on Little Italy, a popular city tourist spot.
Giovanni Rigato, owner of Boccaccio restaurant, agreed with Cricchio about the need for an increased police presence in the area.
"I wish the police would bring back the foot patrol between 5 and 11 o'clock at night, while the customers are around," said Rigato, also a chef at Boccaccio. "If the foot patrols come back, we feel it would discourage people with criminal ideas."
Effect on business
Rigato said the shooting was widely discussed by customers and residents alike yesterday in Little Italy. He hopes it won't hurt business.
"We are already forced to spend more money to have valet parking to help customers feel better and safe, and then you come in for dinner one night and you find the restaurant roped off with the yellow police tape," Rigato said.
"It doesn't look good. And then police cars are outside with flashing lights. It doesn't make for a comfortable evening."