Robbers set E. Baltimore man on fire after they abduct him

September 07, 1994|By Elaine Tassy | Elaine Tassy,Sun Staff Writer

An 18-year-old man who said he was bound with tape and set on fire in East Baltimore by a pair of robbers remained in guarded condition yesterday in the burn center of Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center.

Tavon Alexander Louis Hopkins told police he was abducted early Monday while walking in the 2100 block of N. Wolfe St. by two men with rags over their faces.

Mr. Hopkins said the men forced him into a maroon van, and used tape to tie his hands and cover his mouth. The young man told police he was robbed of $60 and dumped out of the van in the 2400 block of N. Rose St., behind the Lake Clifton High School campus, where the assailants poured flammable liquid on him and set him on fire, according to Officer Robert W. Weinhold Jr., a city police spokesman.

Officer Weinhold said the attackers fled in the van. There were no witnesses, and officers were unable to extensively interview Mr. Hopkins because of his condition.

The fire apparently burned through the tape on Mr. Hopkins' hands, and he was able to get less than a mile to his home in the 1700 block of Darley Ave.

Family members were trying yesterday to understand how anyone could commit such a crime. "I am really hurt and angry that someone would do him like that," said his grandmother, Theresa Russell, sitting on the porch of her rowhouse across the street.

Karen Russell, 38, Mr. Hopkins' mother, said he had ironed his clothes and set out for a friend's house around midnight Sunday.

Ms. Russell said her son never arrived at his friend's house, and she does not know what happened before he got back to the house about 6 a.m. Monday with burns covering a third of his body -- his blue jeans and long-sleeved orange polo shirt gone, and his boxer shorts charred by fire.

A godson, Ray Parker, 18, who lives with Mr. Hopkins and Ms. Russell, heard loud knocks on the door and let Mr. Hopkins in. Ms. Russell said she awakened and went downstairs to find her son with injuries that looked like ripped skin, as if he had fallen from a moped, and that he told her, "Ma, somebody tried to kill me."

The flesh wounds, she said, had dirt enmeshed in them, presumably from his rolling on the ground to put out the flames.

His arm, chest and left hand were burned, bruised and blistered, she said.

"He was talking about, it was burning, and the pain . . . he never cried, though," Ms. Russell said, adding that her son smelled of gasoline. "I went to hug him, but I couldn't. . . . He held my hand and said, 'Ma, I never thought I was going to see you again.' "

She said she called 911 three times as her son paced back and forth, and that she rode with him in the ambulance to Bayview in Southeast Baltimore, site of the regional burn center. "I knew I had to get him to the hospital. He looked bad, but after they put some stuff on him for burns, I felt better," Ms. Russell said.

His doctor told her he slept through the night after being given morphine, she said.

Ms. Russell, a secretary for city government, described her only son as a boy who avoided trouble.

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