An aspiring local rapper scheduled to headline a concert last night as part of Baltimore's Vivat! festival was charged 10 years ago with two counts of assault with intent to murder and has an outstanding warrant for his arrest, according to court documents.
Otis Watford is accused of shooting a man in the abdomen and a woman in the thigh after an argument June 19, 1993, according to the statement of charges filed two days later in District Court. Both victims survived.
In addition to the two counts of assault, Watford was charged with using a handgun in committing a crime, carrying a handgun and unlawful discharge of a firearm. But he has not been arrested on the charges.
Watford, a barber at Classic Cuts on Park Avenue, uses the stage name "Tuff Lungs" and was scheduled to perform at an Alexander Pushkin poetry reading last night at a "Rappin' Russian" concert at the Great Blacks in Wax Museum.
Asked about the charges, Watford denied involvement in the shootings. "I don't have no idea what you're talking about," he said. "I'm going to find out later, though. That's real wrong or something."
Watford has the same birth date that appears in the charging document, and public records state that he lived at the address of the suspect in the 2300 block of Norfolk St.
According to the charging document, Watford was visiting Kim Kelly, then 24, at her home in the 4200 block of Prudence St. at 10 p.m. when her boyfriend, Maurice Chase, then 29, showed up. An argument ensued, and Watford "pulled out a silver revolver and shot Chase at point blank range," it said.
Kelly was shot in the right thigh by Watford when she tried to intervene, the document said.
"Kim Kelly provided the name of the above defendant [Otis Watford] as the shooter, stating that she was going out with him the night of the shooting ... and he would be 21 yrs old on Tuesday 22 June 93," the document reads.
Kelly said yesterday that she has since broken up with Chase. She said she sees Watford frequently and they have a child together. She confirmed that in 1993 she was living at the address listed in the court document, but said the shooting did not take place.
When first contacted about the warrant, Watford said he did not recall the incident and suggested that the shooter may have been a "cousin who has the same name. He's 31 or 32." Watford said he believed his cousin was in prison.
Ron Leverette, a spokesman for the Maryland Division of Correction, said that another Otis Watford, now 32, is in prison serving a 20-year sentence on charges that include armed robbery, assault and possession of cocaine.
But that Otis Watford, Leverette said, has been in prison since Dec. 3, 1991 -- a year and a half before the shooting.
"He has not been in the community since," Leverette said.
When Watford was informed that the 32-year-old Otis Watford was in prison at the time of the shootings, he grew silent. "I have no recollection" of the shootings, he said.
In an earlier interview leading to the "Rappin' Russian" event last night, Watford said his raps talk about how tough life can be for young men in Baltimore. In one of his raps, he says, "I pack heat 'cos in these streets it ain't fair./ A lot of murderous types be lurking out there. ... Dear lord, I'm sorry that I had to live in sin./ I wish I had a better way to make it."
"If you go to any area that's real heavily violent, you ain't going to that area when you're a working type dude with 10 children ... you ain't going in there without no gun," said Watford, who noted that he wears a bullet on a silver chain to remind himself to stay away from violence. "If I have to go in that part of town for any reason ... I've got something on me that's gonna make somebody back on up off me."
Officer Nicole Monroe, a police spokeswoman, urged Watford to turn himself in.
"A man by the name of Otis Watford is wanted, and there's an open warrant for his arrest," she said. "He really needs to come in and clear this up."