Funeral cry: 'When is it going to stop?' Mourners frustrated by violence that killed teen who coached youths

October 06, 1995|By NORRIS P. WEST | NORRIS P. WEST,SUN STAFF

The streets always seemed to tug at Ricardo Banks, trying to pull him away from the devoted grandmother, the basketball court that he loved so much and the talent shows where his fancy footwork dazzled the crowds.

Ricardo usually managed to stay out of trouble, relatives said, finding time to coach a peewee basketball team or to attend church.

But the streets claimed him Saturday night when a gunman approached as he stood with friends near his East Baltimore home and fired a shot into his chest. Police have issued a warrant for James Albert Henderson, 18, of the first block of North Milton St. Police said he shot Ricardo, 17, in a dispute.

At Ricardo's funeral yesterday at Trinity Evangelical Lutheran Church, speakers were frustrated by the violence that vexes some city neighborhoods.

"When is it going to stop?" asked Ricardo's godmother, Jeannette Sykes-Atkins, during her passionate remarks to 350 people that included street-tough youngsters. "Some of you sitting here today know you are toting guns and selling drugs. Some of you adults here today know you are guilty of giving drugs to the youth. I'm asking you today to stop."

Mrs. Sykes-Atkins said she has gone to six funerals of young people this year.

Ricardo was raised by his grandmother, Emma Diggs, in a rowhouse in the 600 block of N. Montford St.

The grandmother laid down strict rules in a tough neighborhood.

"I used to say, 'At 8 o'clock, be on the front steps,' " Mrs. Diggs said a couple of hours before the funeral. "Kids would tease him. I used to say that the reason I want him to be on the steps is because I love him. He would come home, but he wouldn't be happy."

Mrs. Riggs doubts that Ricardo was involved in a dispute, insisting that he was the kind of person who always walked away from a fight.

The 6-foot-1 teen dreamed of playing professional basketball. He used his basketball knowledge to coach a team of children ages 8 to 10, said Mrs. Sykes-Atkins, who is director of the Tench Tilghman Recreation Center.

But he had problems in school. He disappointed his mother in March when he dropped out of the Francis M. Woods alternative school. She said he never lived up to his ability in school.

Two weeks ago Mrs. Diggs thought things were improving when he enrolled at the Fairmount-Harford Institute to earn his high school diploma and was talking about being a carpenter. The last time she saw Ricardo was Saturday, a few hours before the 5:30 p.m. shooting ended the tug of war that was his life.

"Ricardo's struggle between the world and the things that are above is over," said the Rev. Mary B. Zurell, co-pastor of Trinity. "And I believe that God won."

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