Authorities have arrested two people they say were involved with a group of male teens and adults who chased a 21-year-old Sterling man and cut him with a knife or a machete. They are searching for three or four more people involved in the crime on Margate Court in Sterling, said Kraig Troxell, spokesman for the Sheriff’s Office.
The victim received serious, but non-life-threatening injuries, he said. "There is no evidence it is gang-related. We believe it was drug-related."
Rossi Anderson Harricharan, 18, and a 17-year-old male were charged with malicious wounding and breaking and entering with intent to commit a felony, he said. Harricharan was held on a $50,000 bond, and the teen was taken to the Juvenile Detention Center.
Lula Wilkerson, mother of the 17-year-old boy, said Sunday that her son and Harricharan are innocent. She said they had been at Fire Escape when the fight began Tuesday night. Investigators told her that someone saw them run into her house after the struggle, she said.
"I am totally upset. They were not the ones," she said. "My son and Rossi are innocent."
Fire Escape is a teen center for high-school students, run by The Community Church. Pastor Charlie Whitlow said the church also runs the After School Alternative (ASA) for middle-school students. Teens also drop by, he said. The ASA runs until 6:30 p.m. Police were called to Margate Court in Newberry Condominiums at 6:15 p.m.
Whitlow said he remembered meeting Rossi two weeks ago, but hundreds of teens attend Fire Escape, and he doesn’t know all of them by name. "I’m not there for the after-school program," he added. "I don’t know if they came in."
TROXELL SAID A FIGHT broke out and spilled onto the front steps prior to the attack, he said. Each member of the group had his face covered. "They continued to assault and chase him down Greenthorn Avenue," which intersects with Margate, he said. The cause of the assault is unknown, but Troxell said it might have stemmed from previous incidents between the individuals.
The following day, deputies were called back to the court in response to a report of several people in the back of the condominiums, with one brandishing what appeared to be a weapon. A dog chased them away. Troxell said the incident might have been related to the crime the night before.
He said investigators cordoned off Margate Court Tuesday night after responding to a 911 call. Residents of the court were not permitted to enter or leave their homes from 6:30 p.m. to 11:30 p.m., because investigators were tipped off that one of the men was hiding in one of the condos. "We received information from a witness, who said he saw someone run into a home that was a few houses up from the crime scene," he said. "We had a possible barricade situation."
Eloy Carrera said he tried to leave his home, but he was stopped by a deputy. "He had an assault rifle and he said, ‘You get in your house.’ I was very scared," Carrera said.
Carrera said he continued to look out from his home. "I saw the robot, the SWAT team and all the commotion," he said. "They show their power with all the equipment they had."
Troxell said the Sheriff’s Emergency Response Team (SERT) team is the county’s version of a SWAT team. Its negotiators were called to the scene, in case a barricade was set up, but there was no one in the home, he said.
AUTHORITIES ALSO DISPATCHED a bomb squad robot to the scene. "We can gain information from the robot without putting someone’s life in jeopardy," he said. Troxell would not disclose additional information about the robot, which was federally funded. "There are certain tools available to law enforcement of which their capabilities we like to keep close to the hip," he said. "This is one of those tools. Obviously, we don’t want to inform criminals of its capabilities."
They also used a thermal-imaging unit, which can pick up heat from a body should there be anyone in the nearby woods, he said. The Sheriff’s Office set up a command vehicle, which provided computer hook up and protection from the cold.
A helicopter flew over the neighborhood. Authorities put a halt to pizza deliveries. Newberry residents and other onlookers stood outside watching deputies conduct their investigation.
Carrera said Newberry used to be a quiet neighborhood. "We need to have some kind of meeting," he said. "The renters don’t care, but the owners, we care."
Rebecca Welch said her 17-year-old daughter, Megan, was sitting outside with their dog when investigators told her to go into her home. Then a deputy told them to stay away from the front door and windows. "They said the guy had a bomb," Rebecca Welch said. "It was scary."
The mother said she told her daughter that times have changed. "When I was a kid, we didn’t kill each other."
Some of their neighbors were really upset, because they have young children, she said. Other criminal behavior in the neighborhood had prompted two of them to put their condominiums on the market, she said. The cutting incident only solidified their position.
Rebecca Welch said it would not make any difference if she moved, because crime is everywhere. "I’m not moving," she said.