Teen accidentally trips car alarm and is slain

May 22, 1994|By Darren M. Allen | Darren M. Allen,Sun Staff Writer

A 17-year-old boy playing with two friends in his Northeast Baltimore neighborhood was shot fatally early yesterday after he bumped into a parked car and set off its alarm, police reported.

Vernon Alexander "Beethoven" Williams of the 4000 block of Sinclair Lane was standing next to a red 1987 Toyota Forerunner when as many as six shots were fired from a window in the 4300 block of Clareway St. At least one shot hit him in the back, and he died instantly, police said.

Police charged the car's owner, William Norman Jr., 29, of the 1800 block of E. Belvedere Ave. with first-degree murder and two counts of attempted murder. He was being held last night without bail in the Northeast District lockup.

Friends and relatives -- in an account confirmed by police -- said young Williams was "horsing around" with two friends about midnight as they walked down Clareway when he was pushed into the Toyota, activating its alarm.

As young Williams stood by the car, his two friends ran.

No one apparently saw a man open a window and point what police said was a mini M-14 rifle toward the car.

"My son had a look on his face, a type of look like, 'What the hell hit me?' " said the victim's father, Bernard Williams, describing what he saw yesterday at the chief medical examiner's office. "His eyes were open, his mouth was open, like he was trying to say something."

After hearing the shots, young Williams' companions rushed to his side, where he died shortly after midnight.

"This really hurts me," Mr. Williams said in the living room of his apartment just blocks from the shooting. "That man shot my son in the back. Why?"

Police said there was no indication that young Williams and his friends were trying to steal the car. Officers at the Northeast District and a homicide detective would not release more information about Mr. Norman.

Mr. Williams recalled his son as an intelligent boy who -- like so many of his friends -- dreamed of leaving the city's housing projects and playing professional basketball. "It was his dream, but I told him he had to get a diploma and a college degree, just in case," Mr. Williams said.

Vernon was a natty dresser, who always "looked just right," his stepmother, Margaret Williams, said. He was killed wearing his favorite pair of basketball shoes -- that he and Mrs. Williams spent four hours selecting -- black pants and a leather jacket he had purchased recently.

He was a freshman at the Fairmont-Harford Institute, a vocational school on Harford Road. He was taking printing courses, his father said.

His father and friends said Vernon was able to resist the temptations of drugs, and, in recent weeks, was depressed and expressing a desire to get out of the neighborhood.

"He was saying, 'I've got to get away. Something bad's going to happen here,' " said a basketball buddy, Eric Hall.

Gunshots and lives cut short were nothing new to the dozen people sitting in Mr. Williams' living room yesterday. For Mr. Williams, his oldest son's death was the sixth in his family this year, he said. For Vernon Williams' friends, the death of the boy they knew as Beethoven was but another reminder of how guns have turned their neighborhood into a danger zone.

"He was a good boy, a good man," his friend Eric said. "Beethoven's always going to be there. We'll always hear his voice, always see him playing basketball, always hear his jokes."

Krystal Williams, 23, was his cousin and a confidante. "It's a terrible loss to me. He was always telling me he doesn't have to sell drugs, because he had everything he wanted. Beethoven was good kid," she said.

Vernon Williams picked up a basketball as a youngster and never put one down, family members said.

Funeral arrangements were incomplete last night. The family had little insurance, and friends were taking up a collection in the neighborhood yesterday.

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