Boy survived one shooting, not second

February 17, 1992|By Michael James | Michael James,Staff Writer

Sixteen-year-old Erik Patrick Chestnutt had only recently recovered from a gunshot wound when he was hit again by gunfire -- this time fatally.

The youth was shot in the back Friday night in Woodlawn, on a gasoline station parking lot, as he ran from a suspected teen-age drug dealer who pulled out a gun and "seemed to be just showing off," said Melvin McCullough, Erik's best friend.

"It just seemed like a game to [the killer]. He didn't seem to care and he was calm as can be," said Melvin, also 16, who tried to help his wounded friend before paramedics arrived.

The shooting occurred shortly before 11:15 p.m. when the Chestnutt youth and nine teen-age friends walked to the gas station parking lot near Security Square Mall.

Their intention was to call for rides home on the public pay phones, said E. Jay Miller, a Baltimore County police spokesman.

"We have no indication that the kids were instigating any trouble," Mr. Miller said, adding that the gunman -- believed to be 17 or 18 -- "was apparently intimidated by the group, that's all we can figure."

The stranger stepped between the youths and the telephones, pulled out a small-caliber handgun and fired one shot as the group scattered.

"The kid seemed nervous that there were a bunch of boys heading toward him. So he said, 'What's up," and he pulled out a gun," said young McCullough. "There was a guy in the car next to him, and this kid acted like he was trying to impress him."

Erik, who died on the way to the hospital, lived on nearby Timanus Lane, where just four months earlier he had been shot in the throat by a boy with whom he had gotten into a fight at Woodlawn High School.

But friends and relatives said that Erik, the most valuable player on Woodlawn High's junior varsity baseball team last year, was not one to look for trouble -- nor one to back away from it.

"He got shot before because he was sticking up for himself. He battled back from it, he went through therapy and was determined not to let it hurt his baseball game," said Erik's stepfather, Quenton Elder.

Police said they do not believe the shootings were related. The first boy who shot Erik earlier is in custody.

"Erik knew right from wrong. He was a good kid who didn't want any trouble," Mr. Elder said. "He hung around with his buddies on Friday nights only and he wouldn't go out during the week.

Erik and his younger brother won 14 trophies for their baseball play,and Erik "was sure he was going to be a major league baseball player," his stepfather said.

Joyce Elder, Erik's mother, said he always went out with his friends on Friday nights and never broke the family's midnight curfew. She said Erik and his friends had eaten dinner at Bennigan's restaurant in the shopping mall and visited McDonald's before walking to the gas station.

"He always called me and asked me to pick him up," she said. "He was very good about that. And now he gets killed because he wanted to use the phone."

Young Chestnutt's friends said they saw the gunman talking on the phone for about 15 minutes before the shooting. The killer seemed to have arrived with another older man who was driving a car, they said.

Police described the suspect as black, about 6 feet tall, with a light to medium complexion and a gold-topped front tooth. He had light brown hair, about an inch long on top and shaved close on the sides.

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