'Put these guns away,' mother says

January 05, 1995|By Brad Snyder | Brad Snyder,Sun Staff Writer

As mourners gathered in Northwest Baltimore last night to pray for a slain 10-year-old, the mother of a boy accused of the shooting delivered a brief, compelling message: "Just ya'll put these guns away. I'm sick of them."

More than 30 people -- relatives, neighbors and children, as well as the mayor and City Council president -- joined in prayer outside the adjoining Towanda Avenue rowhouses of young William Munford Jr. and the grandmother of the 10-year-old boy charged with killing him.

The accused boy was inside his grandmother's house during the gathering and was visited by Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke -- a former prosecutor -- as he stepped inside both rowhouses to offer sympathy and concern.

The boy, who is not being named because of his age, has been charged as a juvenile with first-degree murder and a number of related offenses in the Dec. 21 shooting. But both families and much of the community have voiced their belief that the shooting was accidental -- a tragedy that occurred as the boys played with a sawed-off shotgun they had found in a nearby alley.

The Rev. Willie Ray, a Baltimore minister who has been crusading for several years in a "Stop the Killing" campaign, organized the event -- the latest in a series of street gatherings and candlelight vigils for victims.

Using the Munford porch as a podium, Mr. Ray announced that the gymnasium of Robert W. Coleman Elementary School is being named in memory of the victim, who was a fifth-grader there.

Mr. Ray led a candlelight march, and Mayor Schmoke used his candle to light those of about a dozen children. They walked one block along Towanda Avenue behind Mr. Ray.

Mr. Schmoke and Council President Mary Pat Clarke offered brief remarks about the slaying and the wider problem of guns.

"We've got to make sure we're keeping guns away from our children," the mayor said. "That's the responsibility of each and every household. It's not just the government's."

Mrs. Clarke added: "We have to get rid of these guns -- out of homes, out of alleys. We pray to God that this is a new life for Baltimore."

The victim's mother, Edna Munford, 35, thanked everyone for supporting her.

Mr. Schmoke, interviewed after his private visits to the families, said children must learn when they see guns to "tell an adult and call 911."

He said he asked the accused boy, who is staying at home pending juvenile proceedings, how he was doing, and was told he was "feeling better." The boy was released to the custody of his family four days after Christmas.

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