The telephone call that families in Baltimore have come to dread -- a detective saying that a loved one has been killed -- came once again to the tidy rowhouse on Ambrose Avenue in Northwest Baltimore.
There, on the porch and in the living room, people gathered in stunned silence and fear and anger. For the third time since last July, there was another funeral to plan and the passing of a loved one to mourn.
On Thursday night, Dorian Lamont Brown, 25, was walking home from a church in the Pimlico neighborhood. He had served as pallbearer for his nephew, Michael Tillman, 20, who was shot to death July 10 while sitting on the front steps of a rowhouse in the 500 block of Gold Street.
Police said two men walked up to Mr. Brown and shot him several times before fleeing on foot.
Last year on July 14, Mr. Tillman's 15-year-old cousin, Adrian Edmonds, was fatally wounded when gunfire erupted near her home at Division and Preston streets in West Baltimore.
Mr. Brown, accompanied by his wife, Zena Maria, and a friend, had left the funeral at the New Fellowship Christian Community Church in the 5200 block of Park Heights Ave. shortly after 9 p.m. They were walking down a dark alley off the 3200 block of Woodland Ave. when a young man wearing baggy shortscrept DTC behind Mr. Brown and fired a 9mm bullet into his head.
Mr. Brown collapsed to the cobblestone alley, dropping flowers to the ground, and the gunman pumped another bullet into his head.
The male friend, whose identity is being withheld by police, began to run. The gunman gave brief chase and fired two rounds at the fleeing man but missed.
Michael Tillman was buried yesterday, but now the family must plan a second funeral.
Homicide Detective Donald Ossmus said yesterday that police are looking for a black man in his early 20s, about 5 feet 6 inches tall, who was last seen dressed in dark blue "baggies" and tennis shoes.
"It appears the gunman either followed the victim from the church orwas lying in wait in the alley," Detective Ossmus said. "We don't know if it was a spinoff murder of his nephew or if it was totally unrelated. Robbery was not an issue here. The gunman said nothing."
As of last night, 188 people had been murdered in Baltimore this year, compared to 176 in 1992.
Jocelyn Rogers, 39, is Mr. Tillman's mother and Mr. Brown's sister-in-law. She sat in her living room with about a half-dozen other family members, trying to make sense of the events that have devastated them.
While trying to cope with this latest tragedy, they expressed fearabout giving police and reporters their names, wondering if the young man wearing the baggy shorts would visit them, too.
"When they killed Michael, they tore this family apart," said Donald Rogers, 43, Mr. Tillman's stepfather. "Their deaths are related. Dorian might have known the people who killed Michael."
Mr. Rogers said if his stepson had not been laid off from his full-time job a few weeks ago, "he would not have been just hanging out. . . . He would have been working." He said that while his family has suffered immensely, the murders are symptoms afflicting an entire city.
"There is a lot of pain in this family," Mr. Rogers said. "But all over,young men are being killed off for nothing.
"The guys who are doing the shootings, they have no heart and no morals. They still sleep soundly at night," he said.
Mrs. Rogers says she, in turn, "has to cry herself to sleep at night."
Family members said that Zena Maria Brown, 29, left town shortly with her 13-year-old daughter after her husband's murder for their own protection.
Mr. Tillman's girlfriend, Drenary Foster, 19, is 8 months' pregnant with the victim's son.
"I feel deprived," she said in a low voice. "I feel sorry for him because he was a responsible person. I feel sorry for the baby."