The mother of a passenger in a Dodge Raider that was fired on by police at Woodlawn High School says she's thankful her son is alive. Her son's best friend was killed.
Fatally wounded in the Monday shooting was Sadiq A. "Deek" Martin, 19, of the 2900 block of Silver Hill Ave. in northwest Baltimore, the driver of the sports utility truck. He died at St. Agnes Hospital about an hour after he was shot.
The shooting came after an alleged car break-in on the grounds of the school. Theron C. Hill, 20, was one of two passengers in the Raider.
"The person who shot Martin didn't have to shoot to kill," Hill's mother, Tessa, said last night on her porch in the 5500 block of Gwynn Oak Ave. as steady rain pelted the ground. "Another minute or two, another boy may have been killed. My son . . . is just lucky he's not dead, too."
In the days since the shooting, Hill has heard the police accounts but doesn't believe all the details. Last night was the first time she had talked publicly about the case.
Police said Martin, Theron Hill and a 17-year-old youth were in the Raider when an officer spotted them cruising around the school parking lot.
Because school was in session, the officer became suspicious and watched from a distance, said Sgt. Stephen Doarnberger, a police spokesman.
The officer saw one of the occupants get out and break into a yellow Ford Mustang, Doarnberger said.
Woodlawn is the county's leading district for car thefts and car break-ins. The officer called for backup units, police said.
A police car blocked the exit to the parking lot.
When the three noticed the officer, the driver drove across the school's athletic field, as responding officers arrived and gave chase, police said. The officers, who had their guns drawn, ordered the vehicle to stop, police said.
But it didn't.
Two officers on foot approaching the Dodge were brushed when the vehicle accelerated. The truck later hit a police car and sped up a hill toward Officer Timothy Mitchem, 29, police said.
Mitchem, on foot, began to back up, police said.
It was then that the four-year veteran, fearing he would be run down, fired six shots, police said. Two struck the windshield and one hit Martin in the chest, police said.
Police later learned a seventh shot was fired when one of the two officers on foot approached the vehicle and his gun discharged after hitting the window frame when the Dodge accelerated, Doarnberger said.
But Tessa Hill said she believes 15 to 20 officers fired weapons and gave chase before any warning. She did not give her source for the information.
Doarnberger said eight officers were there and only the two fired.
Theron Hill, who has been charged with grand theft of auto accessories, conspiracy to commit grand theft, destruction of property and being a rogue and a vagabond, said nothing last night on advice of his attorney. He has been released on $15,000 bail.
The 17-year-old, charged as a juvenile with the same crimes, has been released to his parents.
A county grand jury could meet as early as Monday to review the shooting, which already has accumulated paperwork 1 1/2 inches thick. Mitchem is continuing to work but not in a patrol capacity, police said.
Last night, Tessa Hill gave no explanation why her son and the others were at the school, but said Theron had left home to go to work. Martin had gotten off that morning from his job as a mail handler at the main post office.
The trio was leaving the parking lot of their own volition when the shooting occurred, Tessa Hill said.
Martin and her son had never been in trouble with the law, she said.
Tessa Hill is supporting Martin's parents in their bid to learn more about the shooting.
The Martin family and the Rev. Emmett Burns today arrived at the Baltimore County Public Safety Building in Towson for a meeting with Police Chief Cornelius Behan.
The Martins, who began their efforts yesterday to get information from police, said they had heard different stories from witnesses.
Because three black males were in the four-wheel drive vehicle, a vehicle of choice for drug dealers, Hill said, she believes police automatically believed they were drug dealers and began shooting.
"I think it's a case of mistaken identity," she said.
Tessa Hill denied police accounts that the three were there to steal auto equipment, and that Martin tried to run over an officer.
"At no time did the driver run into a car, hit a car nor did he try to run into an officer," she said.
Because Martin feared for his life as officers fired weapons, Tessa Hill said, he put the vehicle in reverse and tried to escape. Doarnberger said if that were true, the driver had plenty of room to escape and didn't have to ram a police car.
Tessa Hill said Martin panicked.
"He surely didn't think he'd die," she said.
"When the car stopped, Theron was holding Sadiq, but [officers] yanked him off," Hill said.
The officers quickly searched the vehicle. Police said they found a cassette deck and an amplifier inside.
Other differences between the police and Hill's accounts were that police fired without warning. Hill said all the officers were white and one made a racial slur to her son.
But Doarnberger said the officer who originally spotted the three black, and that police had no record of any racial slurs being made.
Hill said, "I just think it was a freak accident. They were in the wrong place at the wrong time."
L Funeral services for Martin will be held Saturday at 10 a.m.