The blood was still bright and wet on the bricks this morning behind a Baltimore rowhouse where a samurai-sword-wielding Johns Hopkins University student, police say, killed a man he encountered in his garage. Out front, reporters were working the streets of this quiet neighborhood, a few blocks from campus, in search of information or comment.
Kenny Eaton hadn’t heard the screams, as some of his neighbors did, and he didn’t have any information. But, upon learning what happened, he had plenty of commentary.
“Awesome!” said Eaton, 20, a Hopkins political science major who was walking along East University toward the campus from his home a few blocks from the crime scene.
“I highly approve of that, if it’s a home defense situation,” said Eaton, a junior who apparently has read his Samuel P. Huntington. “You take students who are paying $50,000 a year and then put them in a dangerous city environment it’s almost like a clash of civilizations,” he said.
At the other extreme were the residents, like this one who asked not to be identified, who questioned whether the student was really threatened, since the intruder was not in the student’s residence but was outside, in a detached garage.
“I mean, I’d be on the phone calling 911, if it were me. Why was it necessary to go out there?” said the neighbor.
Nearly all the neighbors interviewed in the Oakenshawe neighborhood said they liked their normally quiet neighborhood, home to many students and Hopkins-related families, but that there had been a rash of car and garage break-ins lately.
Police said the home is occupied by four Hopkins students whose rowhouse was burglarized on Monday and that two laptops and a Sony Playstation had been taken. Reports that the Monday burglary was by the same man who was later killed are premature, police spokesman Anthony Gugliemli said: “none of that is clear.”
The victim, whom police were not identifying pending notification of next-of-kin, lived in Baltimore and had 29 prior arrests mostly for breaking and entering and burglary, Gugliemi said. He had been arrested in Aug. 2008 for stealing a car in Baltimore city and was just released on Saturday from the Baltimore County Detention Center, police said.
(The Sun has sources identifying the student and the deceased man.)
According to Guglielmi, the student heard sounds and went downstairs armed with the sword. Upon seeing a side door to the garage open, he went in, Guglielmi said, and confronted the man who was “crouching under a counter.”
“The student asked the man to stay there …. but he lunged and, in a panic move, the student responded by striking the man with the sword and severed his left hand, and also cut his upper torso and neck,” Guglielmi said. Guglielmi also said the man “kind of forced the student against the wall.”
He said police received the call at about 1:20 a.m. and an off-duty city police officer and a university security officer came to the house, where they heard screaming and found the man “unresponsive” out back.
By mid-morning there were still pools of blood in the brick-paved back yard, as well as white evidence tags. Three young men sat on the front porch and declined to comment, while a police officer could be seen inside the three-story dwelling.
Michael Hughes, whose house is just a few feet from where the body was found, called police when he heard the commotion.
“I heard the screaming. I said to myself ‘Mike, this is not normal,'” said Hughes, 43, who works at the Johns Hopkins School of Public Health. “I could hear the fear in the voice.”
Afterwards, he said he watched a police officer carry the sword out to his car: “The whole thing was surreal and totally bizarre.”
“This neighborhood sees a lot of cross-through traffic,” said Susan Hughes. “We’ve had our car broken into three times this summer. I have little kids, this is just freaky.”
“I can’t tell you how many times that garage has been broken into, that garage is just easy access,” said another woman.
Yexuan Tao said her housemate’s car had been broken into twice this year and a GPS had been stolen. “This really, really surprises me,” said Tao, 34, who came to Hopkins from China a year ago as public health specialist and visiting scholar.
Hopkins officials had issued a warning to students yesterday because of the rash of recent break-ins in the area.
Today, a memo from Dean Susan Boswell alerted students to the incident and included this advice:
“…if you ever suspect that you there is a prowler in your residence or on your property, call 911 immediately. Experts advise that you do not attempt to confront the intruder, but rather secure yourself in a locked area until police arrive.”