An elderly target, alone and confused Shooting: A teen's death leaves some city residents wondering who is the real victim.

July 10, 1998|By Rafael Alvarez and Peter Hermann | Rafael Alvarez and Peter Hermann,SUN STAFF Sun staff writers John B. O'Donnell and Paula Lavigne and newsroom intern Rachel Elbaum contributed to this article.

In his private stretch of no-man's land along Baltimore's Llewelyn Avenue, Albert Sims went to work every day, tended to his Cadillac, sought out a good game of checkers and waited in vain for his long-dead wife to come home.

But instead of welcoming his beloved Ella Mae to the house they'd shared at 1620 Llewelyn -- the last occupied dwelling on a desolate block of dead-end rubble -- the 77-year-old janitor was preyed upon by burglars and kids who had fun making him miserable.

Rocks were thrown at the elderly man's house, his car and his person. And three break-ins have been reported since Memorial Day -- Sims' reward for clinging to well-worn comforts on a crime-riddled block that everyone else had fled.

Now, Sims is gone too. Said to be no more aware that he is accused of killing a boy than the fact that his wife is gone for good, Sims sits in the city's central lock-up charged with the Sunday night shooting of 15-year-old Jermaine Jordan.

After Sims' arrest, his unguarded house was broken into twice, once after police had boarded it up. Officers arrested two men and recovered a box of jewelry belonging to Sims' late mother. And his Cadillac, vandalized and ransacked on Monday, was towed by police to keep it safe.

Police say Jermaine -- whose parents sent him to a Georgia military school two years ago to escape the street warfare in Baltimore -- was riding bicycles Sunday night with a group of boys who threw a brick at Sims' 1984 Cadillac DeVille.

Back home for a two-week vacation, Jermaine was shot once in '' the back and collapsed in an alley behind the row of houses across from Sims' home. Services for Jermaine are scheduled for 10: 30 a.m. Monday at the March Funeral Home on East North Avenue.

The case is nearly identical to a 1994 East Baltimore case in which retired steelworker Nathaniel Hurt fatally shot a 13-year-old boy who was with a group of children vandalizing Hurt's car. Gov. Parris N. Glendening commuted the 65-year-old man's five-year prison sentence in December after he had served 14 months.

And like the Hurt case, Sunday's incident -- in which an otherwise peaceful senior citizen was pitted against chronic harassment by youngsters -- has folks wondering where to lay their sympathies and others unashamed to say that some of today's youth deserve whatever they get.

Said 68-year-old Francis Hayward Brown, who lives about two blocks away: "Some of the people I've been talking to, especially elderly people, are sorry the young man got killed but they're not sorry the man shot him. The elderly have been having a pretty rough time with young people -- you just can't seem to get them to see that older people should be able to walk down the street without getting beat up."

Retired Bethlehem Steel worker Robert F. Goode, 84, moved out of 1609 Llewelyn Ave. a year ago after breaking a hip. He'd lived there for about 30 years and now resides with a son in Northeast Baltimore.

"The longer I stayed, the worse it got," he said, citing the street's drug problems. He also was critical of unruly children. Recalling an incident when "a 7-year-old boy cussed me out," he lamented that "people don't raise children no more."

Such youngsters, said Alfreda Hill, a longtime Sims friend, singled him out as a target for pranks even though he gave candy to neighborhood children, many of whose snapshots decorated his home.

Hooligans, said Hill, loved to throw rocks at Sims' car, a prized possession he bought used about 18 months ago.

Attorney Mitchell A. Greenberg said his client admits firing two shots from his .25-caliber semiautomatic handgun after hearing a ruckus near the car Sunday evening. But Sims had no idea he'd hit anything until police rammed down his door to arrest him nine hours later.

Sims is now aware that a child is dead, said Greenberg, but doesn't understand how grave a matter that is compared with his other concerns -- like getting back to work.

Jacqueline Smith, Sims' niece, arrived from Georgia on Tuesday and visited her uncle's condemned house for the first time yesterday, sorting through belongings ransacked by intruders.

Smith said her uncle's routine was simple: He went to work as a janitor at a Baltimore County development firm and came home. He shunned the telephone, preferring to talk in person, and kept family matters to himself. Every fall, he returned to his hometown in Americus, Ga., to hunt.

Inside the rental property -- now in such a shambles that the family will leave most of his belongings to a city wrecking crew -- is unopened mail dating to 1972.

His wife, Ella Mae, died of pneumonia in 1984, but Sims apparently couldn't accept that his partner was gone. He kept her clothes neatly folded in a dresser for her return and refused to turn on an air conditioner she'd bought 20 years ago because, said Hill, "he didn't want to touch her things."

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