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Police believe recent violent incidents might be gang related

April 22, 2013|By DAN DEARTH | dan.dearth@herald-mail.com

Hagerstown police say four shootings in the city over the past week were retaliatory strikes between the Bloods and Crips street gangs.

Lt. Tom Langston said Monday that the first incident occurred at about 7 p.m. April 15 behind a house in the 200 block of North Jonathan Street, where a man he alleged is associated with the Bloods exchanged gunfire with a juvenile associate of the Crips.

At first, police believed the adult was the only person who was shot, but an investigation determined that a juvenile also was hit.

Langston said both sustained non-life-threatening gunshot wounds. He said no one was injured when errant shots hit two nearby houses.

“We think we have an ongoing gang dispute,” Langston said. “Nothing indicates it’s over turf — just perceived slights that led to retaliation.”

Langston said two juveniles and four adults who are affiliated with the Crips have been charged so far in the first two of the four shootings:

John A. Leonard IV, 18, of 133 W. Bethel St. in Hagerstown, was charged with one count each of carrying a dangerous weapon with intent to injure, handgun on a person, minor in possession of a firearm, handgun in a vehicle, discharging a firearm on city streets, firearm use in a felony or violent crime and reckless endangerment.

Under Maryland law, no one under the age of 21 can possess a regulated firearm.

Jermaine Reed II, 19, of 730 Guilford Ave. in Hagerstown, was charged with one count each of minor in possession of a firearm and handgun in a vehicle.

John T. Gossard IV, 26, of 956 Lanvale St. in Hagerstown, was charged with one count each of illegal possession of a regulated firearm and handgun in a vehicle.

Matthew S. Gardner, 26, of 108 Q St. N.W. in Washington, D.C., was charged with one count of handgun in a vehicle.

Police declined to release the names of the juveniles.

Langston said the second shooting occurred at around 11 p.m. April 15, when someone fired about 12 times at Leonard’s home at 133 W. Bethel St. Gunfire peppered the house, he said, but no one was injured.

He said an investigation after the second incident took police to a house at 730 Guilford Ave., where police believe people associated with the Crips meet.

The house on Guilford Avenue is the same home where a man was shot and killed during a birthday party on June 24, 2012.

Police arrested Leonard, Reed, Gossard and Gardner during a traffic stop as the four tried to leave the home, Langston said. Officers found a handgun and a shotgun in the vehicle.

He said the two juveniles were arrested as they left the home on foot.

The third incident occurred on the morning of April 16, Langston said, when someone reportedly fired at juveniles on South Potomac Street as they were walking to school at Antietam Academy. He said officers didn’t find any evidence of a shooting, but the people involved were known to be associates of both gangs.

Langston said the fourth shooting was reported Saturday in the 100 block of East Avenue. Police didn’t find shell casings on the ground, he said, but Bloods and Crips were believed to be involved.

Hagerstown Police Chief Mark Holtzman called on the public to notify officers if they see anything suspicious, such as people carrying weapons or wearing blue and red colors associated with the Crips and Bloods.

“The community is the key in this by working with police to give us a call if they see anything,” he said.

Holtzman said he was concerned that gang activity has been confirmed in Hagerstown. Some of the gang members are students who attend Washington County Public Schools, he said.

As a result, Holtzman said the police department is working with the Washington County Board of Education to identify suspected gang members so police can monitor their activity.

He said the police department also is working with the Washington County Sheriff’s Office, the Washington County Narcotics Task Force and the Washington County Gang Task Force to address the problem.

“I wanted to make sure we’re getting ahead of it and sharing information with the public,” he said.

Anyone with information on suspected gang activity may call Hagerstown police at 301-790-3700.

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