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Martinsburg reacts to recent violence

April 11, 1999|By BRYN MICKLE

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - When Mulzim Fida'i moved to Martinsburg from New York City about a year ago, he did not expect street violence to make the trip with him.

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Now, in the wake of last week's fatal shooting in broad daylight, Fida'i is concerned the same criminal element he left behind is finding its way into smaller towns.

"It troubles me when I see drugs and violence coming into Martinsburg. It frightens me," said Fida'i.

Kevin Smith, 22, of Martinsburg, died last week after he was shot twice in the head last Thursday afternoon in an outside courtyard at Berkeley Garden Apartments.

A 17-year-old Martinsburg boy has been charged with murder in Smith's death and could be prosecuted as an adult, according to the Berkeley County Prosecutor's Office.

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The day after Smith's shooting, Aaron L. Smith, 24, of Martinsburg, was shot in the leg after he ran away from a man who pointed a gun at his head.

Smith was able to hop back to his mother's home on Terrace Street where police were called.

No one has been charged in Aaron Smith's shooting and police are still investigating what might have led to both incidents.

For some Martinsburg residents, violent episodes like those last week are not registering as much surprise as they once might have in a town where fatal shootings are not the norm.

"It's such a small place here, yet it seems like things like these are happening with more frequency. That's the beauty of a small place, you don't have things like (shootings) - usually," said retired Martinsburg minister Joe Stirman.

John Fitch, of Martinsburg, said he expects more shooting episodes in Martinsburg as the city continues to grow.

"Martinsburg is moving toward becoming a major city. The violence and the drugs are going to be moving this way," said Fitch.

Denise Davis, a 19-year Martinsburg resident, thinks there is a lot of tension and violence coming with the city's growth.

"Martinsburg is growing faster than it is capable of handling right now. We just haven't caught up yet," said Davis.

Noting last week's fatal shooting was the second gunshot death in Martinsburg in recent months, a 17-year-old Martinsburg boy said he would not be surprised to see more violence in the area.

"This town is getting pretty bad. There are too many drugs. Since that kid got shot over a $2 card game things have gone downhill," said the teen, who refused to give his name out of fear of reprisal.

Jose "Joey" DeLoa was shot several times in the head and upper body in December in the 300 block of South Rosemont Avenue in Martinsburg. Police said the shooting stemmed from a card game. Chad Joseph Cordell, 22, of Martinsburg, was charged with first-degree murder in DeLoa's death.

Shopping at the Martinsburg Mall Sunday afternoon, Robert and Daisy Howard of Inwood said violence is becoming commonplace everywhere - including Martinsburg.

"It seems to be the status quo of what's going on. You see it on the television and newspapers," said Robert Howard.

"You're not safe anywhere. Martinsburg used to be a quiet little town," Daisy Howard said.

Hedgesville resident Elaine Ashby said shootings are still more common in larger cities such as Hagerstown.

"It's a rare, ugly thing that shows up every once in awhile," Ashby said.

Last week's shootings left Martinsburg Mayor Earnest Sparks "deeply concerned" and waiting for answers.

"This is certainly not normal," he said. "We have to find the reasons these young people feel the need to carry weapons."

Sparks said police are investigating Aaron Smith's wounding inside city limits and added he wants to work with police to find ways to stop future episodes of gun violence.

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