A boy's slaying, a wall of silence

January 01, 1994|By Gregory P. Kane | Gregory P. Kane,Staff Writer

On Nov. 11, Jacquin Van Landingham turned 17.

At 7 p.m. the next day, he lay dying from a barrage of bullets that cut him down as he left a carry-out store in the 500 block of N. Loudon Ave., a block south of the 4000 block of Edmondson Ave. in West Baltimore.

His aunt, Omega Van Landingham, 34, was waiting for him to help her with shopping for Thanksgiving dinner. He was visiting some friends in West Baltimore "just to mess around" before coming over, said Ms. Van Landingh am, who worried about some of the company he was keeping.

"I had talked to him maybe six or eight hours before," said the aunt, who lives in the 300 block of N. Robinson St. in East Baltimore. "He said, 'Remember we're going shopping for Thanksgiving dinner. Call me when you're ready.' "

Ms. Van Landingham was not ready for the response when she beeped her nephew on the pager he had used for about six months. She answered her telephone, thinking it was Jacquin, and asked, "Are you ready?"

"Who's this?" a man's voice asked.

"Who's this? demanded Ms. Van Landingham. "And what are you doing with my nephew's pager?"

The man identified himself as Baltimore homicide Detective David Neverdon, who told her, "There's been an accident."

Detective Neverdon advised Ms. Van Landingham to call her sister-in-law, Jackie Goode-Cooper, who said, "I know he was your baby, Mega, but we have some bad news for you."

Ms. Van Landingham begged, "Please don't tell me what I think you're going to tell me." Then her niece, Marlo Goode, told her that Jacquin was in the Maryland Shock Trauma Center, "but you can't see him, because he's already gone."

"I couldn't believe it," Ms. Van Landingham said.

Her disbelief and anguish turned to anger when city homicide detectives ran into a stone wall as they sought witnesses to the shooting of the Northwestern High School 10th-grader.

"Nobody's telling me anything," said Detective Neverdon. "But the corner where he was shot has people on it 24 hours a day."

Ms. Van Landingham said she believes someone saw her nephew gunned down.

"I even went to investigate myself with my husband and brothers," she fumed as she sat in her living room, where a picture of Jacquin hangs on the wall. "There ain't no way nobody saw what happened," she said. "Somebody seen something. They seen something."

She added, "People even came out of their houses to look at us while we were asking questions, trying to find out what happened. I asked them, 'You can see us but you can't see a 17-year-old boy getting shot?' "

Ms. Van Landingham -- who was "Aunt Mega" to Jacquin -- described her nephew as a very outgoing, loving and inquisitive youth who could not wrest himself from friends she considered a negative influence.

"I told him that if he kept on going the way he was going, he'd never make it to 18. I always told him, 'Those streets are going to eat you up, boy,' " Ms. Van Landingham said.

Ms. Van Landingham has heard rumors that Jacquin was killed because some of his buddies beat up a man known to her only as "Stacy." Stacy's friends may have wanted to retaliate, she said.

When asked if she thought her nephew was killed for that reason, she responded softly, "Yes, I know so."

The pattern of retaliatory violence may not have ended, and may be obstructing police efforts to find Jacquin's killer, she said.

"I think, truly, his buddies feel guilty about Jacquin being killed. They know who did it." And they plan to handle it their way, the aunt is convinced.

"I got an anonymous call. Someone said, 'Don't worry about it, it's going to be handled," she explained.

"His buddies say they ain't going to let it go like that," agreed Ms. Van Landingham's daughter, Tiffani, 14.

But Ms. Van Landingham says that retaliation is exactly what she and other family members don't want. Her brothers and sisters have raised $1,000 as a reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of Jacquin's killers, she said.

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