A barroom dispute involving bands of young persons from opposite sides of the Patuxent River ended in a wild shootout Thursday night that critically wounded one person and injured six others in the Southern Maryland county of St. Mary's.
Joseph Freddy Bush, of St. Mary's, was in critical condition yesterday at Washington Hospital Center where he has been flown by police helicopter after being struck in the right eye by shotgun pellets.
Six other county residents, hit by a second blast, were treated for superficial wounds at St. Mary's Hospital in Leonardtown and released, a hospital spokesman said.
Several hours after the 9:30 p.m. shooting spree at Fenwick's Tavern, a brown one-story bar along Rte. 247 in the small town of Oakville, state police arrested four men in Dentville, across the Patuxent River in Calvert County, and charged them with intent to murder.
Police said the gun battle apparently stemmed from a barroom fight between Joseph Chase and John Melvin Barbour, who, according to authorities, was badly beaten.
According to police, Barbour had gone to St. Mary's County with a group of friends to attend a record dance at Fenwick's Tavern, one of the more popular night spots in the area. Dances are held at the tavern every Thursday and Sunday nights.
Witnesses recalled today that Chase began harassing Barbour and his friends from Calvert County.
"They were standing on the floor minding their own business, when Chase came up and smacked them," said Mary Dickerson, 21.
Then, according to witnesses, Chase went out to the parking lot, removed a shotgun from his Pontiac Grand Prix, and fired one shot toward the tavern, apparently to frighten the other men.
Dickerson recalled that pellets from Chase's shotgun stuck a bystander, Bush, in the face.
While someone ran to call the police at a telephone booth up the road, Barbour told Dickerson to "hide because we're going to shoot," Dickerson said,.
Dickerson who was with her 13 and 16-year-old nieces said the Calvert County group fired one shot into the woods, drove off in a La Mans and returned five to 10 minutes later.
"We were going to go around to the back of the bar," she recalled. "But we saw them [the Calvert group] coming back and I yelled here they come, here they come."
The door of the smoke-filled tavern had been propped open. Witnesses said there was a light by the door where patrons were milling about, and some were standing in the dirt parking lot out front.
The third shotgun blast hit the building, shattering the light and spraying pellets into a group of two women and four men near the entrance.
"People were crying and screaming" Dickerson said. "It was sickening."
One of the wounded was 16-year-old Anthony Forbes, whose head was grazed by a pellet.
"I cried. I love my brother," said his sister Bernice. "There have been fights before and I wish I could tell you why it happened. But at the tavern once one person fights everybody fights. That's the way the place works."
Police said John Melvin Barbour, 23, Kevin Michael Barbour, 17, Jerry T. Thomas, 18, and David Donny Campbell, 18, have been charged with assault with intent to murder and are begin held without bond in St. Mary's County jail. Police are seeking Chase on similar charges.