Thursday, Feb. 7, 2008

Killings prompt calls for security boost

Suspect arrested in triple homicide at the Boulevard

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County police plan to increase patrols at the Boulevard at the Capital Centre in the wake of a triple homicide Sunday at Uno Chicago Grill.

The decision follows calls from the community for an increased police presence and for managers of the complex to bolster the number of cameras and security guards.

County police made an arrest Tuesday in the Largo shootings and are pursuing a possible second suspect.

‘‘I really would like to see some more police presence there,” Kettering resident Casey Lewis said. ‘‘I would like to support [the complex] but it’s hard to because of all the problems I see there.”

Cpl. Henry Tippett, a spokesman for the county police department, said District 2 police will increase their focus on the complex.

‘‘When a major incident like this happens, usually the word goes out to the district commanders to keep an extra eye on that area a little more than usual,” Tippett said. ‘‘That’s what has probably happened here.”

Cpl. Stephen Pacheco, another county police spokesman, said that despite the increased focus from the county police, the complex remains a safe place to eat and shop.

‘‘Generally, everything has been normal up there,” Pacheco said. ‘‘You get your calls for service for different things but nothing major. Certainly, nothing of the nature of what took place [Sunday night] has gone on there [recently]. This is not an everyday occurrence for that shopping center as far as I know.”

Gunfire erupted at Uno at 9:15 p.m. Sunday, leaving Terrance Lynne Sneed, 22, of Hyattsville, Curtis Lee Poston, 26, of Temple Hills and Charles Donte Harrison, 25, of Landover dead.

Sneed died at the scene; Poston and Harrison died a short time later at a local hospital — all three died of upper body wounds, said Cpl. Arvele Lewis, a spokesman for the county police department.

Tron Stephan Johnson, 21, of the 2100 block of Ohio Ave. in Landover was arrested at 4 p.m. Tuesday in connection with the shooting.

Authorities located Johnson at a gas station in the 7100 block of Martin Luther King Highway in Glenarden, Pacheco said.

Johnson has been charged with three counts of first-degree murder and is being held without bail.

Police said they are searching for a possible second suspect.

Illinois-based Inland U.S. Management Corp. manages the Boulevard.

‘‘At this tragic moment, our thoughts and prayers are with the families and victims of this senseless act of violence,” said Darryl Cater, Inland’s media relation coordinator. ‘‘Safety is our first concern, and in conjunction with our on-site security at the Capital Centre, we are cooperating fully with the authorities as they investigate the incident. Given the ongoing nature of the investigation, it would be inappropriate to comment further at this time.”

Juanita Myers, a Landover resident who shops at the complex’s Starbucks each morning, said she is sometimes fearful when at the complex. She said the complex would benefit from improved safety measures.

‘‘I don’t dare come and just hang out here,” Myers said. ‘‘I come and get what I need and then I leave. You just never know. You always need to be watching your back here. They need to do something about it.”

Alana Barclay, a Cheverly resident and Starbucks employee for the past five months, said she would like to see security guards stationed at points throughout the complex.

‘‘The security company needs to get more security guards and assign them to places at the mall,” Barclay said. ‘‘We can’t just have a few security guards walking around everywhere.”

Inland hired Metropolitan Security as their on-site security force when they took over as managers of the complex in 2005.

In 2006, Inland increased security measures at the 479,052 square-foot complex, installing a 24-hour camera surveillance system and hiring off-duty Prince George’s County police officers to patrol at night.

The increased security measures put in place in 2006 were prompted in part by the November 2005 death of 21-year-old Upper Marlboro resident Matthew Pickett Jr., who was struck in the head by a 15-year-old Landover youth in an apparent robbery attempt at the complex.

The youth, whose name has not been released because he is a minor, was convicted of manslaughter and second-degree assault in the case, according to the state’s attorney’s office.

After the November 2005 homicide, community leaders formed the Boulevard Council and began meeting with Inland to discuss the need for increased security at the complex.

Some of the suggestions made at these meetings included better lighting at the complex, more security cameras and possibly arming the security guards.

Delegate Aisha Braveboy (D-Dist. 25) of Mitchellville said that there is frustration from community members that Inland has not implemented all of the suggestions made at the meetings.

‘‘I can honestly say that it has been my experience that while they have been open to dialogue they have not implemented all the suggestions,” Braveboy said. ‘‘I would think that in the future the management really needs to work closely with the community and the police department. The shopping center can’t afford to have a reputation as being a place that’s unsafe to go to.”

Inland said in a statement that they meet regularly with the council and have ‘‘been in touch several times” since Sunday.

‘‘With the council’s input and cooperation we have made enhancements to our security program, which has been a high priority during the past three years,” the statement said.

County Councilman Samuel Dean (D-Dist. 6) of Mitchellville said that in his eyes the complex is still a place he wishes to frequent.

‘‘I think it’s a safe place,” Dean said. ‘‘I go there all the time and I don’t ever see any problems there.”

Largo resident Darrylynn Franklin echoed that sentiment.

‘‘What happened is extremely tragic but I still feel safe there and I’m not going to stop going because of what happened,” she said. ‘‘I’m not going to stop eating at Uno and I’m not going to stop shopping there.”

E-mail Jonathan Stein at jstein@gazette.net.