Three men were fatally shot and a fourth was badly wounded last night in a halfway house for alcoholics and drug addicts in the Remington neighborhood, city police said.
At least one gunman entered a sitting room in the group home in the 500 block of W. 27th St. and opened fire with a semiautomatic handgun. One of the victims might have been killed over a debt, and the others shot because they were witnesses, police said.
"The motive is still up in the air," said Maj. Richard C. Fahl- teich, newly named head of the homicide squad. "We just don't know for certain."
About 8 p.m., Northern District officers responding to a report of a man shot in the 600 block of W. 26th St. found the survivor bleeding from a wound to his back. Before being taken to Maryland Shock Trauma Center, he told police of the shooting in the house nearby.
Entering the three-story, corner building at 541 W. 27th through a side door off Sisson Street, officers went to the second floor and found the three dead men - two seated in chairs, the third on a couch, each shot at least once "within arm's reach of each other," Fahlteich said.
The survivor had jumped through a second-floor window, landing 14 feet below on the pavement in front of the dwelling and managing to get a block way from the building. Parts of a venetian blind and window glass littered the sidewalk below.
The building was once home of the Huntingdon Democratic Club and, more recently, taverns. According to state records, the Remington property was purchased by a group called Club 12 Corp. in July 2003 for $68,000.
An agent for the corporation, William W. Cunningham Jr., said last night that Club 12 ran a halfway house for recovering drug and alcohol abusers there. Cunningham, a member of the corporation board, could not say how long the halfway house had been in operation or how many people were staying there when the shooting occurred.
Neighbors were startled by the violence - and some said they were surprised to learn of the building's current use.
"I've lived in this neighborhood all my life and never knew it was recently turned into a halfway house," said David Cotter, 68, who told of hearing four gunshots.
Shirley Mullins, who has lived two doors away for four years, said she thought it was a rooming house. "There were men coming and going all the time," she said.
Joan L. Floyd, vice president of the Remington Neighborhood Alliance, said that many residents wondered about the building and its inhabitants. "Frankly, I don't know if anyone knows what goes on there," she said. "It was a place that was always mysterious."
Names of the victims were withheld pending notification of family members, police said.
The man who jumped through the window was reported in serious condition at Shock Trauma.
Sun staff writer Lynn Anderson contributed to this article.