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Weekend shooting heightens tensions in resort

(July 5, 2013) The resort’s first shooting in many years – and its first seemingly random act of street violence in recent memory – seems to have ramped-up tensions over the resort’s image ahead of next week scheduled discussion of a Boardwalk decency standard, the so-called “saggy pants ordinance.”

In the early morning hours of Saturday, June 29, Ocean City Police Department Officers were reportedly alerted to a fight occurring on the sidewalk just north of Holy Savior Roman Catholic Church, at the intersection of Coastal Highway and Kingfish Road.

Kingfish Road runs west of the highway at the same latitude as 18th Street, and officers were reportedly already at the Party Block on 17th Street for a routine bar closing check.

As police moved towards the brawl, several gunshots were heard, according to police. Blood, as well as spent ammunition casings, were at the scene. A victim was quickly located nearby on the church lawn, having been shot in the upper leg. The victim was treated on the scene by city EMS and transported to Peninsula Regional Medical Center with what were reportedly non-life threatening injuries.

In speaking with several people at the scene, police discovered that one of the witnesses had been shot as well after noticing a bullet hole in the person’s shorts. The round had just grazed the witness’ leg and did not require treatment.

Witnesses were able to point out a suspect who they said had been an antagonist, Carwin Duarte, 19, of Reading, Pa., who was taken into custody nearby in the area of Dolphin Lane. However, Duarte was not believed to be the shooter. An extensive search for a second suspect began.

According to reports, an OCPD officer searching the dock area of Bahia Marina spotted Elvin Jovany Mendez-Espada, 21, also of Reading, across the canal from the marina. Mendez-Espada was in the water, hiding beneath a dock at the back of a house on Marlin Drive, and was quickly apprehended.

Police have charged Mendez-Espada with two counts of first degree assault, two counts of first degree attempted murder and use of a handgun in the commission of a violent crime. Duarte has been charged with second degree assault and disorderly conduct.

At press time, Mendez-Espada was being held without bail until a hearing scheduled for July 26. Duarte was released on $50,000 bond.

Interviews with the suspects and witnesses, according to police, revealed that Mendez-Espada and Duarte were in the pool at the Islander Motel on 20th Street when they engaged in an argument with a group of passersby on the sidewalk. A group of people from the motel confronted the group on the street, with the altercation carrying down two blocks until violence broke out.

Police believe that the gun used in the shooting was thrown into the bay between Bahia Marina and Marlin Drive. The weapon had not been recovered as of Wednesday.

However, the incident seems to have heightened the level of public concern over recent crime in the resort. Although police said last week that the city’s arrest numbers were not out of line from previous years, the popular perception has clearly been that these numbers represent a more serious variety of offender.

To that end, the City Council will be discussing next week the proposal by Councilman Brent Ashley to introduce a public decency policy on the Boardwalk, similar to a law passed last month in Wildwood, N.J., that would include a ban on droopy pants.

The style of dress known as “sagging” typically involves wearing one’s pants well below the waist and often below the buttocks entirely. It is commonly associated with prisons, where inmates are often issued ill-fitting pants and not permitted belts. Outside of prisons, the style often creates a connotation of gang and criminal activity.

Municipal enforcement of standards prohibiting such dress, Ashley has claimed, would help restore order and allow the city to ensure that its signature amenity has a greater degree of civility.

But after some contentious exchanges at this week’s council session, it is clear that some of Ashley’s colleagues have found his promotion of the policy – and the corresponding insinuation that there is a crime problem – to be bad publicity for the resort.

“The worst thing would be to do nothing,” Ashley maintained this week. “Pretending there isn’t a problem is not a solution.”

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