Man 'sorry' in death of teen

October 25, 1994|By Norris P. West | Norris P. West,Sun Staff Writer

A somber Nathaniel Hurt yesterday apologized for the death of 13-year-old Vernon Holmes and thanked supporters who bailed him out of jail.

"I'm very sorry," Mr. Hurt said at his first news conference since his arrest in Vernon's shooting death. "I had no intention . . ."

Mr. Hurt's relatives have said that he was shooting into the air to scare the children away from his home in the 800 block of E. North Ave. and never meant to strike the children.

Vernon was shot when he and other boys were throwing rocks at Mr. Hurt's car on Oct. 10. Police say the man shot into the crowd of boys with a .357-caliber Magnum, striking Vernon in the back. He is charged with first-degree murder and a weapons violation in the incident.

"I didn't even see Vernon," Mr. Hurt said. "I didn't see Vernon that night at all. I didn't even know he was in the crowd."

The expression of sorrow was all Mr. Hurt would say about events leading to the death of Vernon, a foster child who was living in the 700 block of E. 20th St. Mr. Hurt's lawyer, Stephen L. Miles, said other statements about the incident would come "only from the witness stand."

The news conference was held in the Northeast Baltimore home of a man who helped raise money to bail Mr. Hurt out of jail while he awaits trial. A trial date has not been set yet. Before yesterday, his only public statement about the incident came in an interview with a local radio station.

Mr. Hurt, 61, tall and gray-haired, appeared serious and showed little emotion as lights from the bank of television cameras glared his face.

In a raspy voice, he gave short, straight-forward answers to queries about his work in the community, his plans to retire from Bethlehem Steel after 43 years, his struggle to keep the neighborhood clean and his gratitude to those who bailed him out of "that hole" -- his cell at the Baltimore Detention Center.

Baltimore homicide detectives say the Oct. 10 shooting culminated an escalating cycle of revenge between Mr. Hurt and boys in the East Baltimore Midway area.

Detectives say the incident began after 4 p.m. that day when four boys threw two buckets onto the fire escape of Mr. Hurt's immaculate corner rowhouse. The boys later told police the man owed one of them money for doing some work for him last summer. Mr. Hurt retaliated by catching one of the boys an hour later and punching him several times, detectives say.

Angered by the beating, a group of six or seven boys -- including Vernon -- threw rocks and bottles at Mr. Hurt's car, smashing the windshield. Mr. Hurt fired four shots from the second-floor of his fire escape, detectives said. One bullet struck Vernon in the back.

Friends and family members describe Vernon as an average child who lived an unstable life and got into some mischief. He was a special-education student in the Baltimore County school system and in Baltimore. He was a seventh-grade student at Lombard Middle School in East Baltimore.

At yesterday's news conference, Mr. Hurt said he has lived in his community since the 1970s and has worked hard to take care of his property. But, he said, neighborhood children regularly trashed his back yard.

"They would throw trash on the landing, bust bottles, break my hose. This went on every night for a month," he said.

Mr. Hurt was released on a $200,000 bond Oct. 16. One condition of his release prohibits him from staying at his house, a stipulation imposed out of concern that neighborhood boys might seek revenge. He is staying with a sister in East Baltimore, his lawyer said.

Phillip A. Brown Jr. called the news conference. He helped raise money to bail Mr. Hurt out of jail -- he also tried to raise money for Vernon's funeral.

Mr. Hurt thanked everyone who contributed money and put up property for his bail. He said he planned to return to work today.

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