Three teenagers were wounded today during a lunchtime shootout in a high school cafeteria here after members of a neighborhood gang called "The Untouchables" opened fire to settle a grudge, according to police and school officials.
The incident at Eastern High School, officials reported, began about noon when three gang members invaded the cafeteria looking for a student who they claimed struck one of the "The Untouchables" in the head with a gun during the weekend.
As the gang members, who were not students, walked through the lunch room, police said, a 17-year-old student got up from his seat and asked, "Are you looking for me?"
The gang members then pulled out handguns, according to authorities, and began shooting at the student, who drew his own gun and returned the fire. All together, six shots were fired in the crowded cafeteria at Eastern High, officials said.
After the loud exchange of gun shots that scattered .25-caliber shells throughout the cafeteria, the gang members and the student quickly left the school building. One of them was found injured in the school driveway while another wounded youth was found a block away from the school grounds, police said.
Among the injured were Anthony Henson 17, who was hospitalized for a wound in the left shoulder; and Reginald Lang, 16, who was treated for an abdominal wound and released from the hospital. Thomas Cummings, 17, who was not listed as a student at Eastern High, was hospitalized for a leg wound.
A 43-year-old teacher's aide also was treated for an ankle injury suffered when she ran for cover during the sudden shooting episode in the cafeteria, which was filled with about 500 students, according to police.
Two youths involved in the shooting were arrested this evening and turned over to juvenile authorities, according to Baltimore police spokesman Dennis Hill.
Eastern High, located near Memorial Stadium in a predominantly black, low- to middle-income section of East Baltimore, has recently converted from an exclusively girl's school to a co-ed institution.
Like many other inner-city schools, Eastern High has its share of security problems. As an example, one guard said students regularly carry weapons. But none of the problems has been as serious as the Western-style shootout that startled the student body today.
In fact, Eastern High and other public schools in Baltimore have experienced a 30 percent drop in violent crimes in the last four years, including a decline in assaults with deadly weapons, according to school security officials.
Police said teen-age gang warfare has never before been a problem in the closely knit neighborhoods of this gritty industrial city -- which puzzles law enforcement officers who have watched teen-age gangs run wild in such cities as Philadelphia and Chicago.
"This is the first indication of anything with a quote 'gang' unquote connotation to it," said Leon Billie, assistant chief of school security. "It stemmed from a fued between two neighborhood-type groups and it was apparently brewing for quite some time."