Kenny Joyner used to buy things for Reggie McIver, shoes and other presents. Often he would let the teen-ager spend the night at his house to watch videos, and from time to time he found the boy some work in a grocery store.
But Tuesday night, Baltimore police say, the 21-year-old Mr. Joyner held Reggie face down against a set of white marble steps in the 1200 block of North Ensor Street in East Baltimore, put a small pistol to the back of the 13-year-old's head and fired.
Witnesses said Mr. Joyner, who allegedly used a Derringer-type silver pistol, then apologized and ran away.
What had the youngster done to anger the man?
He took up for his mother in a sidewalk fight she was having with Mr. Joyner, her on-again off-again boyfriend, according to the mother, 32-year-old Denise "Squeaky" Edwards, who lives with her son in a Formstone row house in the 1100 block of East Biddle Street.
Ms. Edwards said she had told Mr. Joyner she was going to a girlfriend's house Tuesday night. But when Mr. Joyner -- a jealous man, according to Ms. Edwards -- was walking down Ensor Street, he saw her on the front steps of another man's house.
This led to an argument that Reggie McIver happened upon as he visited Ensor Street to get a shirt from his father, who lives in a row house next to the one where the boy was shot.
"We had problems that I always sorted out on my own," Ms. Edwards said. "But when Reggie came by, he said [to Mr. Joyner], 'Yo, you're not going to hurt my mother,' and I told Reggie just to go call police, and that's when he grabbed him and held him down with his left hand and shot him."
After the boy was shot, Ms. Edwards said, the suspect shook the victim, called his name, apologized, and left. "He said, 'Reggie, Reggie,' and then he said, 'I'm sorry,' and ran away. I just held his head and Reggie was saying, 'Ma, just talk to me, don't let me go.' "
Last night, Reggie McIver, a transfer student at Robert Poole Middle School in Hampden, was in the Maryland Shock Trauma Center in critical but stable condition.
Kenneth Bernard Joyner, a resident of the 1400 block of Ashland Avenue, turned himself in to police about noon yesterday and was being held in the Eastern District lockup last night, charged with assault with intent to murder and various handgun violations.
The victim's family -- including his grandmother, mother, aunt and siblings -- took turns visiting the boy and prayed for his recovery.
"Reggie is a good boy -- as they always say, a little mischievous but good. He makes you laugh," said Lillie Mae Edwards, his grandmother. "He's good at art. He draws the Simpsons on T-shirts and pillowcases for people, and he can put almost anything together out of the box without looking at the directions."
Mrs. Edwards, 53, said Reggie wasn't able to talk because of tubes down his throat but lapsed in and out of consciousness and could nod his head to answer questions.
Gurnie Edwards, the boy's grandfather, said: "Reggie stayed at the man's house. . . . I can't understand why he would hurt him. It's a cruel world."