'I Saw Him Grabbing For Life'

December 02, 1993|By Michael James | Michael James,Staff Writer

In the past eight years, the Rev. Willie Ray has led dozens of "Stop the killing" rallies on Baltimore's crime-ridden streets, but last night's vigil hit home harder than ever before.

The victim being remembered was 16-year-old Hosea Parker, gunned down Nov. 24 two doors away from Mr. Ray's rowhouse in the 2800 block of Harlem Ave. Hosea died while the minister prayed over him on the sidewalk.

"When they gunned this young man down, I heard the shots. I heard his dying words: 'Go get my mother,' " Mr. Ray told last night's crowd of about 40 people, who chanted "Save the Youth" and "Down with dope, up with hope."

The group had gathered on the spot where the boy died.

"One of the kids went and got his mother. Both she and I watched him die, gasping for breath as we prayed over him," Mr. Ray recalled.

Police believe Hosea Parker, who had just moved to the West Baltimore neighborhood three days earlier, may have been killed by a local gang of youths who thought he was crowding their territory. He was shot in the back around midnight after he and a friend walked by several teen-agers and were taunted with insults.

Mr. Ray -- a 45-year-old associate minister of Mount Lebanon Baptist Church who leads more than a dozen "Stop the Killing" rallies in Baltimore each year -- said Hosea's death vividly showed him the horror of gunfire.

"I watched the whole drama. I watched him fall. I heard him scream. I saw him grabbing for life," Mr. Ray said. "After eight years, it's finally happened to me: I've seen it."

Avis Pettaway, Hosea's mother, told the crowd they should realize that murder can happen outside any home. Her son is one of 324 murder victims in Baltimore this year, just 11 less than the record set a year ago.

"Like a lot of people, I was on the inside looking out, saying things like, 'Oh, crime is bad, but it happens,' " Ms. Pettaway said. "But when it hit home, it hit me very hard. We have to put an end to this madness."

Speaking through a megaphone, Mr. Ray told the crowd that two hours before Hosea's murder, he had been at a peace rally sponsored by the city state's attorney's office and a local radio station.

"I was visiting a friend's house up the street when I heard the shots. Bam! Five of them," he said. "Here I was, just back from a 'Stop the killing' rally. And here was this young boy, lying on the sidewalk, dying and hollering, 'I've been hit.' "

"Kids out there have to realize this isn't a movie like 'Boyz 'N the Hood' or 'New Jack City.' They have to know there's nothing good about taking a life," he said.

Mr. Ray is the coordinator of Save Another Youth Inc., a program that offers counseling, job referrals and other help to Baltimore youths.

Last night's vigil was videotaped as part of a documentary, "What's Up, Yo," that he is putting together to show at churches and recreation centers.

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