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On 'Zero Murder Day,' even the heavens weep

November 23, 1991|By David Simon and Rafael Alvarez Brian Sullam of The Sun's metropolitan staff contributed to this article

"The jury can't hear you," the judge said.

It was Zero-Murder Day in Baltimore, and at 3:30 p.m., the phone again rang in the homicide unit, this time with the news from

patrol officers who found Mr. Coles on the floor of the Mainline Auto Parts store. On a day when no life was supposed to be taken, Mr. Coles became the 263rd victim of 1991 -- a total slightly ahead of 1990. He was killed by one of two gunmen when he picked up an old .45-caliber semiautomatic and tried to order the robbers to disarm.

It was Zero-Murder Day in Baltimore, and even as the small rally broke up, the people seemed to sense the magnitude of the problem. Otyce Byrd, an assistant elementary school principal who brought a group of fifth-graders to hear yesterday's message, was surrounded with 10-year-olds fresh and wide-eyed, quick to spout the "Just Say No" message. But Ms. Byrd has seen such innocence fade as children grow.

"Peer pressure, not enough parental care and concern and the problems outside of school contribute to it -- the ones without values loudly let everyone know that they don't care," she said. "The money in drugs is so fast and enticing with kids, they see the ones with fast money and cars and it influences them.

"Life has no value for these kids," she said, acknowledging the casket on the stage. "So death has no value."

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