City police today continued to search for a West Baltimore man wanted in the fatal shooting of a 13-year-old boy last night. The teen-ager was killed after he and several friends angered a man while ringing doorbells in West Baltimore as a prank.
It was one of four killings in the city yesterday, a grisly day even in a year in which the city has recorded 282 murders. That is one ahead of this date last year -- and last year saw the most murders since 1978.
Police said Rubin Lawson, of the 900 block of Edmondson Ave., a student at Harlem Park Middle School, was shot while he was with a group of friends ringing doorbells in the first block of N. Smallwood St. Police said the youths ran away when occupants answered the doors or looked out their windows.
Shortly before 8 p.m., the youths rang the bell more than once at 28 N. Smallwood St. and apparently taunted the owner, William Cecil Brandon Sr., before darting away, police said.
When the bell-ringing was repeated, the occupant's son, William Cecil Brandon Jr., 49, of the 600 block of N. Brice St., who was visiting, opened the door.
Witnesses said the Brandons chased the youths off the porch and across the street to the entrance of an alley. The other youths ran away, but Lawson was caught by the men.
"Then he [the elder Brandon] started arguing and cussing and fussing. Moe [Lawson] was arguing back at him, too," said Kiana Tillman, the youth's cousin, who witnessed the incident.
At that point, witnesses said, the younger Brandon grabbed Lawson by the collar, lifted him off the ground and said "don't disrespect my father."
He then pressed a handgun to the youth's chest and pulled the trigger, police and witnesses said.
"He [the gunman] just stood there staring at him after he did it. He didn't run or anything. His gun handle fell apart so he picked it and walked up the alley," Tillman said.
The wounded youth was rushed to the University of Maryland Medical Center, where he was pronounced dead about 8:35 p.m. in the emergency room, police said.
Tillman said that although Lawson lived on Edmondson Avenue, he often stayed weekends at his grandmother's house in the 2000 block of W. Fayette St.
Police said they interviewed the elder Brandon and at least one of Lawson's companions and then charged the younger Brandon with first-degree murder and using a handgun to commit a felony. Police said the suspect was not at home and they continued to question relatives in an attempt to find him.
Shortly after the shooting, the younger Brandon was seen walking down an alley between the 2000 blocks of W. Fayette and W. Baltimore streets, wiping what appeared to be a gun with a cloth, police said.
Neighbors this morning said the shooting climaxed a long-simmering conflict between the elder Brandon, who lives alone, and area children.
Brandon's two-story house is the only one on the block with a "No Trespassing" sign. Brandon was unemployed and collected
aluminum cans to sell as scrap.
Neighbors said the elder Brandon never threatened any of the neighborhood youngsters, but was not liked in the area.
"If he saw kids he would say get the hell off of my porch all of the time," said Robert Blackwell, whose three daughters live with their mother next to Brandon. "He's an old man who everyone around here knows does not like children."
About three hours after Lawson was shot, firefighters responded to a truck fire at a parking pad adjacent to Brandon's house. Police said the Ford truck was owned by the younger Brandon and reportedly was set ablaze by unknown people in retribution for the killing of Lawson.
The shooting of Lawson reminded area police of the slaying on Jan. 4, 1980, of Albert Kahl, 18, of the 7100 block of Eastbrook Ave., Baltimore County, who was shot by Roman G. Welzant, then 68, of the 400 block of Overview Ave., after Kahl and other teen-agers threw snowballs at Welzant's house.
Six months after the shooting, a jury found Welzant not guilty of second-degree murder.
Three men also were shot and killed in other incidents in the city yesterday, police said.
One homicide started out as an attempted armed robbery of a man while he and his girlfriend sat inside an enclosed bus stop in northwest Baltimore, police said. Motives for yesterday's other two slayings were not known.
Police said the victim, Grant Holley, 46, of the 2500 block of
Druid Park Drive, was sitting in the enclosed bus stop in the 3800 block of Reisterstown Road with his girlfriend and her 2-year-old daughter about 10:30 p.m. when a man entered, pulled out a sawed-off shotgun and announced a holdup.
Police said the woman quickly got up and fled with her daughter to the safety of the street. Inside the enclosure, Holley resisted the robber and was shot once in the head.
Police said the gunman fled without robbing Holley, who was rushed to Sinai Hospital and pronounced dead on arrival.