When a North Castle Street resident warned parents to grab their children off the streets Saturday night to avoid possible gunfire, Diane Pittman grabbed her 4-year-old grandson and brought him into the house without a second thought.
Moments after Pittman shut her door, gunfire erupted.
However, even her caution still could not save her grandson from harm.
A bullet came through the open front window, pierced the Venetian blind and struck her grandson, Quantae Maurice Johnson, in the forehead as he stood in the dining room. Another bullet struck a wall.
"We were standing there talking," Pittman said yesterday, pointing to the dining room. "We heard the gunshots and I saw blood running down his face. I knew he had gotten hit."
Quantae was rushed to nearby Johns Hopkins Hospital, where he was listed in critical but stable condition today in the pediatric intensive care unit.
Quantae, who family members describe as a bright-eyed, cheerful child who likes cartoons, is the fourth child struck this summer by stray bullets. Two girls, 6 and 3, died and an 8-year-old girl was wounded.
At least six gunshots were fired Saturday, neighbors said.
Police and the family said the shooting stems from a dispute between a 17-year-old youth who lives next door to Pittman and teens who live on Jefferson Street.
That 17-year-old neighbor, who asked that his name not be used, said yesterday he was in a store on McElderry Street at 5 p.m. Saturday when a 14-year-old boy "looked at me like he'd hurt me."
On his way home, the boy and a 14-year-old girl hit him, he said.
He said he kept walking and went home.
However, the girl went home and told her brothers that he had hit her, the teen said.
Shortly after 10 p.m., the 17-year-old's mother tried to talk to the Jefferson Street teen-agers and end the matter. She said, "This is silly."
"When she turned her back, they hit her with a bat," her 33-year-old husband said.
Believing witnesses who saw the attack had phoned police, the family didn't bother to call authorities, the father said.
Later, the father went back to try to talk to the group, but to no avail, he said. "I had a feeling" there would be trouble.
When he returned home, he yelled to the neighbors: "Get your children off the street; there's going to be shooting."
He said he told his four children and a friend's nephew and niece "to go upstairs and hit the floor."
Soon afterward, shooting erupted.
A group of teen-agers arrived shortly after 11 p.m., stood across the street and one began firing at Pittman's house, apparently believing they had the 17-year-old's house, Police Agent Arlene Jenkins said. Jenkins said it was unclear if more than one of teen-agers was armed.
So far, police have made no arrests in the shooting, which members of the Pittman family said might have been avoided if the father hadn't taken matters into his own hands.
"He forgot to dial 911," said Dorothy Pittman, 43, a cousin of Diane Pittman. "It could have been avoided -- maybe."
"I'm very angry," said Quantae's grandmother, sitting by the front window near the bullet hole in the Venetian blind and a wooden cross.
The 17-year-old's father said he hasn't been able to sleep since the shooting and was saddened that Quantae was hurt.
"All this is nonsense," his father said. "I don't understand it."