Stricken by death of second son, Jay, James Bias pleads for halt to killings

December 07, 1990|By Rafael Alvarez | Rafael Alvarez,Sun Staff Correspondent

LANDOVER -- A sad, angry and disgusted James "Butch" Bias stood on the front lawn of his family's suburban home here last night and invited the world to attend the funeral tomorrow for his 20-year-old son and namesake.

James Stanley "Jay" Bias III was shot dead Tuesday by a man who stalked him on the parking lot of a local shopping mall after an argument in a jewelry store.

"I'm asking everybody to come, and mothers bring your children, bring your teen-agers," said Mr. Bias, who stood in the cold for half an hour to rail against judges, politicians, gun merchants, callous youth and others he believes are contributing to America's epidemic of "murder, murder, murder, murder."

"I want everybody to come out and see the results of a gun and an attitude," he said.

It was not the first time Mr. Bias has seen a son die senselessly. Four years ago the cocaine death of his oldest son, Len, a University of Maryland basketball star who had been drafted with much publicity by the Boston Celtics, provoked widespread shock.

On Tuesday, an enraged gunman accused Jay Bias of flirting with his wife, a clerk in a jewelry store at the Prince George's Plaza. Mr. Bias, who was in the store to buy a ring, ignored the man's challenges to fight. But the man followed him into the parking lot, drove up alongside the vehicle in which Mr. Bias was a passenger and fired several shots. Two bullets struck Mr. Bias in the back.

His funeral will be held at 1 p.m. tomorrow at the Full Gospel A.M.E. Zion Church, 4207 Norcross St., Temple Hills.

Yesterday, his father -- who remained composed before banks of lights and television cameras until the end of his speech when friends stepped forward to hug him.

He began by criticizing the judge who set bail for a 24-year-old suspect, Jerry Samuel Tyler, at $50,000.

Prince George's County Circuit Judge Sylvania W. Woods Jr. ordered that Mr. Tyler's family post their Temple Hills home as collateral to prevent him from fleeing.

Christy Merenda, a spokesman for the state Division of Correction, said last night that Mr. Tyler would not be released until arrangements are completed for electronic home-monitoring. He will be allowed to get chemotherapy and radiation treatments for a cancerous skin condition under the terms of his bond.

Mr. Bias said last night, "If he's dying, I have all the sympathy for him in the world. But he should be in a prison hospital, not out here with us."

He went on to lambaste handguns, calling them "killing machines," and challenged all law-abiding citizens to work for their elimination.

"What do we need to do to keep somebody in jail these days?" said Mr. Bias, who stood bareheaded and wearing a gray sweater and gray slacks in the evening chill. "Right now in Prince George's County and D.C., the guns are blazing. We are hostages when you can pump bullets into somebody and kill them and then be let free. . . . Bottom line, if you kill a man you should be put to death."

Mr Bias said he planned to testify at 10 a.m. today before a congressional committee on behalf of the Coalition to Stop Handgun Violence.

He said he had been invited to join the anti-handgun crusade by Sarah Brady, wife of James Brady, the former presidential press secretary who was wounded in an assassination attempt against President Reagan, and by members of the Stephanie Roper Committee .

Mr. Bias said the shooting death of his son turned him overnight into an anti-handgun activist in the same way the cocaine death of his son, Len, prompted his wife, Lonise, to crusade against drugs.

"I'm going to do all in my power to act against the flow of guns and get other citizens involved," he said, adding that he wants to speak to Gov. William Donald Schaefer on the matter.

"These are young children dying. I'm not talking about Jay alone. . . . I've seen it over and over and over. You've all seen it every morning in the papers . . . a bad attitude and a gun has taken another life.

"I don't care if [the suspect] had a bad life and his mother didn't pick him up twice a day and pat him on the head. I'm sick of it, and everybody in Prince George's County is sick of it . . . and the only people to stop it will be the citizens of Prince George's County and D.C. and anybody in the country that can hear my voice," he said.

"People can't stay in the house, close the door and act like they don't hear the gunfire."

Earlier yesterday, researchers with the national Centers for Disease Control reported that homicide -- the leading cause of death among young black males -- has increased by two-thirds in recent years. And this year, homicide records have been broken in eight of the nation's 20 largest cities.

Mr. Bias said he accepts that "total elimination of all handguns is an impossible task" and does not oppose guns for sport.

"I'm talking about the killing machines, the automatic weapons," he said. "Anybody who sells those guns is a murderer."

Mr. Bias said a small consolation in the mourning for his son is knowing that Jay mentioned each member of his family by name as he was taken to the hospital and recited the Lord's prayer before dying.

"Jay is all right," he said, his eyes beginning to fill with tears. "He's not here, but he's all right."

Asked if he would consider moving from Prince George's County -- where 113 people have been murdered this year -- to a place where violence was less common, Mr. Bias said: "I don't think there is any such place."

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