Neighbors can't believe story of gun Slain man was quiet and thoughtful, they say

March 03, 1997|By Marilyn McCraven | Marilyn McCraven,SUN STAFF

Sean Freeland Sr. was a loving father, loyal son and a good neighbor -- but not anyone who was known to carry a gun, say friends and relatives.

However, police say Freeland, who has had run-ins with the law, was trying to shoot a police officer when he was killed Saturday night in an incident that nearly sparked a riot in Upton in West Baltimore.

Yesterday, residents of the 700 block of W. Lanvale St., where the shooting occurred, and relatives recalled the former Southwestern High School football player fondly.

"It's surprising to me," said Eddie Carr Sr., a neighbor who had known Freeland for several years. "He always seemed like a nice fellow to me. I've never known him to carry a gun."

Freeland's mother, June Bennett, who lives on Druid Park Drive, said she never knew her son to carry a gun, either.

"I'm not going to tell you that he's never been in trouble, because he has," Bennett said. "But I can't see Sean pointing a gun at the police. I can't see him putting his life in jeopardy like that -- especially with his son sitting right outside.

"I could see him holding his hands up, surrendering to them, like this, and maybe they thought he was pointing a gun," she said, holding both arms in the air.

Since dropping out of school in the 11th grade, Freeland had drifted aimlessly, fathering two sons by different women and spending time in jail, said relatives and friends.

But they described him as a quiet, thoughtful person who relished playing with his 4-year-old sons. They said he was always eager to help others, including Ronald Lynch, 20, a neighbor who has used a wheelchair since he was shot by a robber three years ago.

Lynch said Freeland was slain as he was preparing to turn his life around.

"He told me he had signed up to take his GED test" for a high school diploma, Lynch said. "He wanted to open his own barber shop. When Sean would see me getting out of a cab, he would help me pull me up the back steps of the house. And he wouldn't let me pay him for it. Without me asking, he would volunteer to go to the store for me."

Yesterday, no one on the block could recall Freeland's even yelling at anyone -- in a neighborhood dotted with boarded-up rowhouses where people involved in the illegal drug trade are often heard yelling at each other.

No one other than police witnessed the struggle and shooting that led to Freeland's death. But neighbors and friends say Freeland had gone into the building not to flee police, but to retrieve personal items before leaving for his home.

Friends and relatives said Freeland lived with a girlfriend at Eutaw Place and Wilson Street.

Freeland had lived at the West Lanvale address with a longtime family friend, Ella Ball, 43, and her family for about five years in his late teens and had been a regular visitor since, Ball said. He had fathered a son by a neighbor on the block, Daria Weeks, and was visiting that son, Sean Freeland Jr., Saturday night, friends and neighbors said.

Ball and several neighbors on the block recalled seeing Freeland sitting on the stoop of Ball's building, talking to an adult male friend and blowing soap bubbles that his son was poking with his hand.

Pub Date: 3/03/97

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