Fourteen-year-old Eric Baxler wanted to stay out just a little bit longer Friday night.
But the Southwest Baltimore teen-ager's desire to hang out on the street in front of his home cost him his life. A car cruised by. and a man began shooting.
Eric's grandmother, Edna Brown, who had just talked to Eric a few minutes earlier, recalled yesterday: "I had just come home from church a little before 11 [p.m.], and he come up to the yard. I said: 'Eric, I say, it's time you come in,' and he said, 'Oh Grandma, do I have to?' I said, 'OK, be in by 11:30,' and five minutes later somebody come knocking on the door saying Eric's been shot."
Mrs. Brown, an evangelist at a church in Glen Burnie, ran with her husband to the 2600 block of South Paca Street, where they found Eric on the ground with two bullets in his back and a crowd of people around him.
"I began to call on Jesus because I didn't hear his heart," said Mrs. Brown, 49, who held her grandson's hand and stroked his face as he lay dying.
"Then I heard it beat and I called his name. He tried to talk. His mouth moved a little bit, but he didn't make a little sound, and I said, 'Eric, if you can hear me in your inner spirit, call on Jesus.' "
An ambulance arrived, and the attendants worked on the Lakeland Middle School eighth-grader for half an hour, then rushed him to Harbor Hospital Center on Hanover Street. From there he was transferred to the Maryland Shock Trauma Center, where he died a few minutes after 1 a.m. yesterday.
Two other Baltimore children have been killed by street gunfire since summer began.
"I don't understand it; there's no reason why," said Denise Brown, a 31-year-old nursing home employee who lost her only child when Eric died. "Eric had a lot of friends; he was well liked. He grew up around here. I ain't never had no problem with my son. He was all right."
Police issued a first-degree-murder arrest warrant yesterday afternoon for Shawn Michael Calimer, 18, of the 1800 block of Ramsay Street, several miles north of where the shooting occurred.
The suspect, who police think was the trigger man in the shooting, was being sought last night.
Police said they had not established a clear motive in the shooting, but they initially thought it was over someone's former girlfriend.
Young people who were with Eric when he was shot -- friends who went running for cover when a gun appeared in the passenger window of a black car cruising South Paca Street -- said the violence was revenge for automobile vandalism.
But police and the victim's friends said that whatever the reason for the shooting, Eric Baxler, described as a "C" student who liked sports and art and tended to keep his problems to himself, was simply in the wrong place at the wrong time.
"There's not even a rumor that he was involved in anything" illegal, said Detective Donald Licato, an investigator assigned to the case. "He was standing with a bunch of kids, a guy opened fire and he was hit. Nothing was said."
Michelle Harris, the boy's aunt, said, "He wasn't one to run the streets at all hours."
Eric had gone to a football game earlier in the evening at Lansdowne Senior High School, just over the city line, and had walked back to his neighborhood with friends after getting a bite to eat at a 7-Eleven.
Eric's friends said a small black car drove by as they sat on steps in the 2500 block of South Paca Street a little after 11 p.m.
The driver and his passengers, known to young people in the neighborhood as people who come to Mount Winans from nearby Lakeland to buy drugs, were said to be looking for a group of teen-agers who broke the glass in the rear of the hatchback.
"Since we was in a group, he thought it was us," said Nathaniel Gwinn, 14.
Someone in the car said, " 'One of you busted out my window.' We ignored him, but he came back," said Adrian Mayo, 17.
When the car returned a few minutes later, Eric and his friends were walking south on Paca Street, about a block from where they had been sitting.
"I said, 'He's got a gun!' and ducked down behind a truck when he started shooting," Adrian said.
Another youth recalled that Eric tried to get away with his friends as they fled the gunfire. Eric didn't make it.
"It's going to take a while for us to get over this. He was the first grandchild and the oldest," Ms. Harris said.