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Police: Tot Slaying a Legacy of ‘Killer Ben’

August 30, 1995 GMT

NEW YORK (AP) _ Street legend has it that Benjamin ``Killer Ben″ O’Garro once used a little boy to shield himself from a hail of gunfire.

Two years later, in 1990, a youngster was killed when someone came gunning for O’Garro’s alleged drug-dealing partner, younger brother Jerome ``Mister″ O’Garro.

Benjamin O’Garro, 26, was shot to death himself this month, but his legacy in cheapening the lives of innocents around Brooklyn housing projects apparently lives on.

On Wednesday, detectives were investigating the slaying of 4-year-old Shamone Johnson as she rollerskated outside the Prospect Plaza project in Brooklyn’s Brownsville section. Police suspect the little girl was the innocent victim of an effort to avenge Benjamin O’Garro’s slaying.

One of the alleged shooters, Terrance Morgan, 19, was arrested Monday at a hospital emergency room after accidentally shooting himself in the leg.

Morgan was charged with murder. He and O’Garro were members of a loose-knit crew of drug dealers feuding with a rival group, police said.

Police believe Morgan and another man sprayed the Prospect Plaza entrance with gunfire, aiming for members of the rival crew. They allegedly killed Shamone instead and wounded four other children and teen-agers.

The bloodbath harkened back to the height of the crack wars of the late 1980s and early ’90s, when crazed dealers shot at each other _ and often anyone nearby _ with abandon. The semiautomatic gunplay helped drive the city’s murder toll up to a record 2,245 in 1990, nearly double what it is today.

In Brooklyn’s crack-ravaged neighborhoods, the O’Garro brothers were known as ruthless villains.

Benjamin O’Garro gained notoriety in 1988 during a gun battle on a playground. Some witnesses alleged that O’Garro shielded himself with 4-year-old Dazmaine Russ, who was hit in the head and left in a coma.

O’Garro was never implicated in the human shield incident, or _ despite his nickname _ convicted of any murders. He was convicted in 1988 of assaulting a police officer.

While O’Garro was in prison, his 3-year-old half-brother, Ben Shulka Williams, was killed by gunmen who fired 18 shots through the family’s apartment door. Their intended target was Jerome, police said.

Outrage over the boy’s killing, and others like it, fueled public support for a police officer hiring spree and enactment of tougher drug laws.

Ben O’Garro was paroled in March after serving 6 1/2 years. On Aug. 17, he was on a pay phone when unidentified gunmen killed him.

Investigators are working on a theory that he had robbed a member of the rival drug crew of a Rolex watch and a gold chain.

He ``apparently believed he was owed something when he came out,″ said Deputy Inspector Martin Johnson. ``He was looking for respect.″

The robbery victim later sent some of his underlings to kill O’Garro, according to the theory. O’Garro’s associates sought vengeance Sunday night. A little girl on rollerskates apparently became part of the legacy of ``Killer Ben.″