Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Park trails have low rate of violent crimes, police say

Divers search pond for gun used in June 20 shooting death on Germantown trail

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The shooting death of a man on a Germantown trail last month amid evidence of a drug deal was an isolated incident that does not signal a high risk of violent crime on county park trails, police familiar with the case said last week.

Lt. Michael Meixsell, a spokesman with Montgomery County park police said the death of Rakeimi Jabari

Hardin, 23, of Silver Spring, was the first homicide on the trail in the Seneca Creek Greenway ‘‘to the best of my recollection.”

‘‘I am absolutely confident it was an isolated event involving people who weren’t from the area,” Meixsell said.

Anton D. Powell, 20, of Gaithersburg was charged June 21 with first-degree murder in Hardin’s death. A jogger found Hardin’s body on June 20. Hardin was pronounced dead at the scene of several gunshot wounds. Powell remains in jail on no bail.

Police are continuing their investigation and have not ruled out further arrests, Meixsell said.

Montgomery County Fire and Rescue divers have been searching a nearby pond for the gun, he said.

‘‘It’s prudent to stay away from that area, so no one runs into a conflict with investigators. Other than that, there’s no reason to take special precautions on that trail versus any other trail we have,” Meixsell said.

Capt. Thomas C. Didone, commander of the Montgomery County 5th District police in Germantown, also downplayed the killing as a reason for people to be fearful when on the trail.

‘‘I do not believe drug dealing in our parks and trails is extensive,” Didone said. ‘‘I believe our parks and

trails are very safe. I frequently use the greenway and the Magruder Branch Trail and never feel endangered.”

While agreeing the parks are safe, Meixsell said parks officials discourage use of the unlighted trails after sundown. He also recommended those on the trail use a single ear bud instead of headphones when listening to electronic devices.

The department’s Web site also lists other precautions, such as traveling with a friend and let someone know your plans, wear reflective clothing and carry a whistle or other noisemaker, have your key in your hand as you approach your vehicle and check the floor and back seats before entering. The Web site also urges visitors to carry identification, cell phones or coins for phone calls, and to check in advance for the location of phone booths and open businesses along your travel route.