Two years ago, Jermaine Jordan's family sent him to a Georgia military school, not because of disciplinary problems, but to help him escape the violence consuming his East Baltimore neighborhood.
Home for a two-week vacation Sunday, the 15-year-old was shot in the back and killed, allegedly by a 77-year-old man who fired at a group of four teen-agers, one of whom had thrown a brick at his gray 1984 Cadillac.
The case is closely parallel to that of Nathaniel Hurt, who four years ago fatally shot 13-year-old Vernon Holmes, who was among a group of children vandalizing Hurt's car outside his East Baltimore home. Gov. Parris N. Glendening commuted the 65-year-old man's five-year prison sentence in December after he had served 14 months.
Jermaine's family, grieving yesterday in a house one block from the shooting, said a stiffer sentence for Hurt would have sent a warning that shooting at and killing children is no way to deal with disruptive youth.
"The message for this city should be that people can't do what they want to do," said Veronica Williams, 41, the victim's aunt. "We have laws. I can't go out and shoot somebody because I don't want them playing near my car. I don't care about the [suspect's] age. I want justice to be served."
Police charged Albert Sims yesterday afternoon with first-degree murder and using a handgun in the commission of a felony. Sims lives alone in the only occupied dwelling in the 1600 block of Llewelyn Ave., an isolated dead-end street ravaged with trash and debris from 19 condemned rowhouses.
A court commissioner yesterday ordered Sims held without bail at the Central Booking and Intake Center. Sims, who police said has no criminal record, could have a bail hearing with a judge today.
He was arrested in his two-story brick rowhouse about 3 a.m. yesterday by officers who broke down his door with a battering ram and said they confronted Sims holding a .25-caliber handgun. Police said Sims reluctantly surrendered after he initially refused several orders to drop the gun. It will be tested to determine if it is the murder weapon.
Sims was not assigned an attorney yesterday and it could not be determined if he had relatives in the area. Several nearby residents said they had never met him. His front window was covered with a tarpaulin surrounded by Christmas lights.
A small sign in the window says, "Notice, unauthorized persons keep out." Next to that is a small statue of Jesus and a National Rifle Association sticker. Police said they seized a shotgun, two rifles and two .25-caliber handguns from the house.
Jermaine grew up in East Baltimore and attended Dr. Bernard Harris Sr. Elementary School, where a school clerk said yesterday that he had a good record. Two years ago, when he was 13, his father, Darian Jordan, enrolled him at Spencer High School, a military-oriented school at Fort Benning near Columbus, Ga.
Jordan, a staff sergeant at the base, drove his son to Baltimore on Friday. Jermaine went to his grandmother's home on East Oliver Street, one block from the shooting.
A family holiday weekend
On Saturday, he joined relatives for a cookout at Williams' home in Northeast Baltimore, where he played with his aunt's dog, Sasha, and grilled hot dogs and hamburgers.
On Sunday, he joined three unidentified friends and rode mountain bikes up and down mostly deserted Llewelyn Avenue, using discarded boards to practice makeshift jumps.
Detective Donald Gordon of the homicide unit said that shortly after 6 p.m., one of the youths threw a brick at Sims' Cadillac. Police said they do not believe Jermaine threw the brick, but said they haven't pinpointed a culprit and are questioning his companions.
Police said Sims walked out of his house holding a gun. The frightened youths ran inside an open door of a vacant rowhouse across the narrow street. Police said Sims fired two shots, and one bullet went through the doorway and hit Jermaine in the back.
He collapsed in an alley in back of the house and was pronounced dead shortly after he arrived at Johns Hopkins Hospital.
Williams said her nephew was a polite child who enjoyed basketball, bicycle riding and dogs, "but he usually kept to himself," she said.
Jermaine would have spent his two-week break sweeping the floor and cleaning parts at Roger Taylor's auto repair shop on Belair Road. Taylor met the teen-ager, who was his wife's nephew, at the Saturday picnic, and was impressed enough to offer him a job that might have paid him $5 an hour.
"He seemed outgoing, and he wanted to work," Taylor said. "This would have been his first day. What happened is real dirty, real bad."
While in Baltimore, Jermaine was staying with his grandmother, Annie Morton, 66, in the 1600 block of E. Oliver St. His mother, Monica Morton, 32, visited yesterday. He has two sisters, Jamilla Williams, 16, Jasmine Williams, 10; and a brother, Joshua Williams, 6, all of Baltimore. Funeral plans were incomplete yesterday.