Two opposing forces in youth's life bury him Teen killings in city continue to increase

July 14, 1998|By Rafael Alvarez | Rafael Alvarez,SUN STAFF Staff writers Liz Atwood and Dan Thanh Dang contributed to this article.

The folks dressed up for church knew the 15-year-old in the coffin as "Scrunchie," and wept at pleas for forgiveness and hymns for his soul. The kids in street clothes on the funeral home parking lot remembered a homeboy they called "Forty," and scowled at the idea of forgiving the man who shot him.

The body of Jermaine Jamar Jordan -- Scrunchie and Forty, one and the same -- was laid out across this divide yesterday at the March Funeral Home on North Avenue in Baltimore.

"This boy was very much loved," said Troy Collick, a neighbor of the boy's aunt who attended to support the bereaved. "I believe in the God of second chances. It's a shame he came all the way back to Baltimore just to meet his maker."

Scrunchie was shipped from East Baltimore to a Georgia military high school two years ago to escape a ghetto that eats hundreds of teen-agers alive every year. Forty returned to that ghetto to hang out with his friends on East Oliver Street last week and was shot in the back after one of them threw a brick at a Cadillac in the 1600 block of Llewelyn Ave. Albert Sims, a 77-year-old janitor, has been charged with first-degree murder.

Levon Anthony, a 15-year-old who says he was riding bikes with Jordan and two others when his friend was shot, says the youths didn't know Sims and didn't think anyone was living on the street. He said, "They [are] trying to make it look like we were going around trying to break somebody's car up, but that car just sits there all the time. A brick hit the car, but I ain't going to say it was on purpose."

Lavelle Peterson, 17, another friend at the funeral, said the youths were "just playing a childish little rock-throwing game."

Sims remains without bail at the city's Central Booking and Intake Center. Family and friends buried Jermaine Jordan yesterday in an Owings Mills cemetery. And parents struggling to raise children in parts of Baltimore so bleak that the city's common response is a bulldozer say you can work yourself to death and still the ghetto wins.

Often, said 50-year-old Irene Jordan, who is no relation to the dead boy, the way a kid turns out is as much luck as anything else. She has lived on North Bond Street near the site of the shooting for more than 35 years and raised three sons.

Her first-born joined the Army. Another is in prison for drugs. And her youngest, a 17-year-old who lives at home, won't walk down the street alone to go to the store because of predators.

'It depends on the child'

"I raised a bad kid," said Irene Jordan, a single parent who says she's been robbed twice at gunpoint and had her home broken into twice. "I didn't teach him to do drugs, but he did. I had to have him incarcerated. It didn't do any good. Some kids make it around here. Some don't. Peer pressure is hard. Poverty is hard. It depends on the child how they deal with it."

No one wants to take anyone's life, said Irene Jordan, "but to be truthful, around here, some of us would like to. My home has been broken into twice. If I caught one of them in my house, I would hurt them, seriously."

And so the violence goes, round and round, tit for tat.

On Sunday, sitting on the front steps of a rowhouse in the 1600 block of Bond St. -- just a few blocks from Llewelyn -- Janay Castle and her 16-year-old cousin, Mona Gladney, tickled the bellies of two puppies.

Training her eyes on a young man wearing a black skull cap, 10-year-old Janay whispered, "He's a dealer." Seconds later, she whispered again about a muscular man strolling down the tree-lined street: "That guy is, too, and he sells crack."

This is everyday life in the East Oliver neighborhood where Jermaine Jordan became the city's 159th slaying victim and the good kids say everybody blames kids and something this terrible can't be all their fault.

For 1997, 64 of the people killed in Baltimore were age 19 and under. As of yesterday, 167 people had been killed in the city this year, 37 of them 19 and under.

"It's crazy," said Janay. "Grown-ups killing people. Kids robbing, killing and shooting people up. I stay in the house and watch a lot of TV. Not all kids are as bad as everyone thinks."

Florence Jordan, also no relation to Jermaine, is the mother of girls ages 12 and 19.

'You keep trying'

"You keep trying and you keep talking," she said, sitting in the Sunday sunshine a day before Jermaine's funeral. "They know right from wrong by the age of 5, but when they leave your sight you don't know what they're doing."

As Florence talked, drug addicts gathered on a nearby corner to buy dope, laughing boys threw aluminum cans at a pay phone and her youngest daughter, Ashley Jones, put her sympathies down with Forty.

Pub Date: 7/14/98

Baltimore Sun Articles
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.