A juvenile awaiting trial at the Baltimore City Detention Center was stabbed to death yesterday with a spoke from a wheelchair after a fight with three other inmates.
Herbert Haskins, 17, of the 800 block of Edmondson Avenue, was knifed in the left side of his neck while awaiting trial on narcotics charges, according to Leonard A. Sipes Jr., the spokesman for the state Division of Detention and Pretrial Services. Mr. Haskins was jailed on Aug. 27, unable to post $25,000 bail.
It was the first homicide in the jail since the state took control from the city government on July 1 and comes about three weeks after the new jail officials completed a thorough search for weapons.
"Violence is a phenomenon common throughout the penal system of this country. We can't eliminate it, but we can institute measures to control and discourage it," said LaMont W. Flanagan, the acting commissioner of the state Division of Detention and Pretrial Services.
Among those measures will be searches with hand-held metal scanners every time inmates leave their cells and periodic surprise searches.
"We want to reduce the number of metal objects in the jail. The inmates have shown great ingenuity in finding weapons for their own protection. This shank came from a spoke of a wheelchair," Mr. Flanagan said.
The fight took place about 9:45 a.m., shortly after the inmates had eaten breakfast, Mr. Sipes said. This particular cellblock houses about two dozen juveniles awaiting trial.
Just before the fight broke out yesterday, the inmates were outside their cells watching television or using nearby pay phones.
A group converged in the hallway near the cellblock's day room, the fighting started, and Mr. Haskins was stabbed with a homemade knife.
Officials speculated that the attack was an act of revenge, because one of the suspected assailants had a black eye.
Corrections officers stationed nearby intervened quickly, Mr. Sipes said, and an ambulance was called to take Mr. Haskins to the Johns Hopkins Hospital emergency room. He was pronounced dead at 10:45 a.m.
Correctional officers recovered the weapon and are confident they have identified the inmates involved in the fight, Mr. Sipes said.
Nevertheless, state police and detention officials have begun a formal homicide investigation.
"The juveniles are the most violence-prone inmates," Mr. Flanagan said. "They are the most volatile people on the street, and they are the most volatile once they are incarcerated. They can be provoked over the smallest reason."