About half an hour after hearing several gunshots fired in rapid succession, a 31-year-old resident of the Village in the Woods apartments in Landover said she heard a knock at her door. She opened the door and came face to face with a bleeding woman asking, in a West Indian accent, for help.
"She said, 'Could you call an ambulance for me?' and I looked and she had blood on my rug," the neighbor said. "She was calm and yet she was panicky."
The neighbor, who declined to be identified, said she saw blood coming from the woman's head, neck and a hand. The neighbor called 911. She tried to talk to the woman, whom she had never seen before. The injured woman seemed to be in shock, the neighbor said.
"She wouldn't say nothing. She wouldn't tell me nothing. 'Who shot you?' " the neighbor said she asked. " 'Who did this to you?' She said she didn't know."
The injured woman was sitting on the floor, the neighbor said. "She kept asking me, 'Did you call the ambulance? Did you call the ambulance?' "
Several hours later, residents of this sprawling complex of brick apartment buildings across the street from Landover Mall learned that a drug-related multiple murder had occurred in their midst.
The slayings of four men and one woman at the complex have sent chills up the collective spine of these working- and middle-class people. They are, they said, afraid for their lives.
Most of the Village in the Woods residents said they had little personal knowledge of the people who lived in No. 5, a top floor, corner apartment of a three-level building at 2320 Brightseat Rd., where the killings occurred.
Neighbors said some of people who came and went at the apartment spoke with Jamaican accents and wore their hair in dreadlocks. For the most part, they were rarely seen. No one seemed sure when they moved in.
Asked for any recollection of the people yesterday, the neighbors spoke in hushed tones. Some preferred to keep moving as they spoke. Some wanted to talk in private. And all were afraid of having their names connected to what they said.
"I know somebody needs to talk in order for this crime to be solved, but people are just afraid for their life," said the woman who helped the survivor.
Police say the slayings may be connected to escalating drug activity involving Jamaicans. A 21-year-old man who lives near the slaying scene said he began seeing seven to 10 men at various times, most of them with Jamaican accents or dreadlocks, coming and going from the apartment around Christmastime.
They kept odd hours, he said. Once, he saw two of the men carrying a third man in a wheelchair down the stairs at 5:30 a.m. One of the men found dead was said to have used a wheelchair.
If there was drug activity going on in No. 5, residents said they saw little evidence of it outside on the complex's grounds. It is typically quiet, residents said, except for the occasional sound of gunfire that they believe emanates from the Glenarden Apartments nearby, known to police as "crack alley."
"I've never seen any evidence of any overt drug action here," a 39-year-old woman said.
Like several residents, the woman was exhausted from a night of being interviewed by detectives. She was frightened that death had come so close to her home and family. And she was angry.
"Whereas this was probably a basically good complex before this happened, this whole incident is going to make this appear to be a drug- and crime-infested area," the woman said. "The police's hands are tied. They can only do so much . . . . In the meantime, the rest of us are sitting back suffering. Our kids aren't safe. Our parents aren't safe. And nobody really cares."