Bus driver is killed as he walks to work

January 12, 1994|By Michael James | Michael James,Staff Writer

A Baltimore bus driver was fatally shot in the face and chest yesterday morning as he walked to work -- on the same day he was scheduled to deliver words of inspiration at a friend's funeral.

Norman Cornelius Williams, 28, a religious man who often spoke at funerals and church meetings, collapsed and died in a gutter with his Mass Transit Administration uniform on, police said. He was less than 20 yards from the door of his house in the 2000 block of E. Lafayette Ave.

Police think Mr. Williams may have been the target of a robbery attempt when he was shot in the chin, neck and chest about 6:45 a.m. But his wallet was not taken, police said.

"You can't really say why anybody would want to kill him," said his aunt, Mildred Wilkes. "He wasn't the kind of person you couldn't like. He went to funerals just because he wanted to say kind words."

His mother, Delores Williams, said her son had been going to speak last night at the funeral of a former neighbor, Deborah Regina Berry, 40, whose body was found in the harbor Jan. 3 in Canton. Ms. Berry was an apparent drowning victim, police said.

"He was supposed to preach at her funeral, to make the pain of her death a little easier for people. But now he can't be there," Ms. Williams said. "It's a shame. He was a true peacemaker who loved to tell people about God. Now he's a murder victim."

Mr. Williams is the city's 10th homicide victim of 1994, down from 13 at this time last year, the city's deadliest year ever.

Known to friends and family as Neil, Mr. Williams -- had just left his East Baltimore home yesterday morning to report to his part-time job at the MTA's Kirk Avenue division. Within moments, he was shot, police said.

He staggered a short distance and collapsed. Last night, a trail of blood was still visible at Castle Street and East Lafayette Avenue.

"We haven't established a motive for the murder; it's unclear why anyone would have wanted to kill him," said Agent Doug Price, a police spokesman. No witnesses had provided information, he said.

Ms. Wilkes said she thought her nephew had died trying to run away from the killer.

"He must have been trying to run, trying to make it back to the house," said Ms. Wilkes, a data entry operator for the FBI office in Washington. "It was this neighborhood that got him. He knew things were getting bad with crime and drugs around here. He wanted to get [his mother] out of here."

Mr. Williams lived with his mother in the rowhouse. He had been an MTA driver since March 1992, and before that he held a variety of jobs, including driving a hearse for March Funeral Home and delivering mail, his family said.

Interested in religion since he was a boy, Mr. Williams often spoke at services at El-Bethel Prayer Tabernacle Church on North Gay Street, said his mother, a data entry clerk at the Social Security Administration.

"He even looked at his work in an uplifting way," she said. "He loved doing whatever he did. He told me once that he loved the job as a bus driver because he could bring kids to [Western High] school. He could take the kids out of the bad neighborhoods and bring them to school. He took pride in that."

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