A shooting ambush at a Prince George's County shopping center yesterday claimed the life of James "Jay" Stanley Bias III, the younger brother of University of Maryland basketball star Len Bias, whose death of a cocaine overdose four years ago shocked the nation.
Twenty-year-old James Bias, who until last year played basketball at Allegany Community College in Cumberland, was leaving the Prince George's Plaza with two friends in a four-wheel-drive Toyota truck at 1:10 p.m. when they were attacked by a gunman who fired at least five shots into the vehicle, police said.
Mr. Bias, a passenger in the Toyota, was struck in the back by two bullets. He was taken by his friends to nearby Leland Memorial Hospital in Riverdale, where he died at 2:52 p.m.
Last night, Prince George's County police charged Jerry Samuel Tyler, 24, whose last known address was in the 4900 block of Iverson Place, Temple Hills, with first-degree murder in the shooting. Police said Mr. Tyler turned himself in about 8:30 p.m. at the Oxon Hill precinct. He was being held last night at the Prince George's County Correctional Center in Upper Marlboro.
Jay Bias died in the same emergency room where his brother was pronounced dead in June 1986 after a cocaine overdose in a dorm room at the University of Maryland's College Park campus a mile away.
The older Bias' death shocked the nation and led to a Prince George's County grand jury investigation of those alleged to have supplied the lethal drugs, as well as a review of the University of Maryland athletic program and the departure of longtime Maryland basketball coach Charles G. "Lefty" Driesell.
The tragedy also prompted his mother, Lonise Bias, to embark on an anti-drug crusade that sought to use her son's death as an example to discourage others from abusing illegal drugs.
In addition to Len and James, Mrs. Bias and her husband, James, are the parents of an adult daughter, Michelle, and another son, Eric, who is a junior in high school.
The Bias family remained secluded last night at their home in the Columbia Park section of Landover, where they were receiving close friends and relatives. The family declined to make any public statement.
Prince George's County police sources said the ambush shooting yesterday followed an argument at Kay Jewelers, where Mr. Bias became embroiled in a dispute between a female clerk and a man who apparently knew the clerk.
As the argument became heated, those sources said, the man apparently threw something -- possibly a stapler -- at the clerk, and the store manager demanded that the man leave.
It was unclear whether Mr. Bias, who was at the store to make a purchase and knew the clerk, said anything to the man during the confrontation with the clerk. However, as the man was being escorted from the store, he challenged Mr. Bias to meet him outside the mall.
Mr. Bias ignored the challenge and was joined by two friends, who had been busy shopping elsewhere in the mall, in the 3400 block of East-West Highway.
The three stayed in the mall awhile, then walked out to the parking lot on the north side of the plaza and were getting into the Toyota when the man who had argued with the clerk and another man pulled up beside them in a light blue Mercedes Benz, sources said.
Again, the man challenged Mr.Bias to fight, but Mr. Bias and his companions attempted to drive away. The man then drove after them and pulled the Mercedes in front of the Toyota.
At least five shots -- possibly more -- were fired into the Toyota, police said. Mr. Bias, who was in the right front passenger seat, was struck twice in the back by bullets apparently fired through the closed passenger door window.
The suspect and his companion then drove away. Mr. Bias was taken several blocks down East-West Highway to Leland Memorial Hospital, arriving at 1:15 p.m. Emergency room personnel pronounced him dead after trying to revive him for about 90 minutes.
A second occupant of the Toyota, identified by hospital officials as Andre Campbell, 24, was treated for cuts from flying glass and released.
The manager of the jewelry store declined to identify himself or comment on the incident, referring questions to county police. Wayne Curry, a Washington-area attorney representing the Bias family, also would not comment.
James Bias, called "Jay" by relatives and friends, was 15 when his brother Len died from an overdose of nearly pure cocaine in a Leonardtown Hall dorm room at the College Park campus. At the time of his death, the older Bias was among the top college basketball prospects and had been drafted by the National Basketball Association's Boston Celtics.
In his high school years, Jay Bias was -- like his older brother -- a star for the Northwestern High School Wildcats in Prince George's County, and at the time of his brother's death had talked about attending the College Park campus.
Instead, he attended Allegany Community College in Cumberland, where he played varsity basketball until last year. Officials at the school said he was not enrolled as a student there in the current academic year.
Friends of the family said Mr. Bias was hoping to improve his academic performance and possibly transfer to American zTC University in Washington. At the time of his death, he was working at a downtown Washington hotel and living in an apartment on 75th Avenue in Landover with his older sister.