Boy, 13, fatally shot while visiting friends White Marsh youth was playing with gun, 3 others when killed

August 21, 1998|By Dail Willis | Dail Willis,SUN STAFF

A 13-year-old boy was fatally shot yesterday afternoon in a normally peaceful townhouse development near White Marsh while he and three friends played with a gun, Baltimore County police said.

John Joseph Price, who would have started ninth grade at Perry Hall High School next week, died about 4: 30 p.m. during a visit to a friend's residence in the first block of Pine Cone Court, police said.

The shooting stunned residents of the northeast Baltimore County area, and left the families of the children involved visibly distressed.

Shortly after the shooting, the mothers of three of the children became distraught and fought with each other so violently that police had to pull them apart.

What remained unclear last night was how the boy died -- by an accidental shooting or a homicide. Police said a ruling on his death would be made after an autopsy, which could be performed as early as today.

"There were four kids in the house, all neighborhood kids," said Sgt. Kevin B. Novak of the Baltimore County Police Department.

He said John lived with his parents in the first block of Beaver Oak Court, not far from the cluster of rental townhouses on Pine Cone Court where the shooting occurred.

No adult was in the house at the time of the shooting, Novak said.

Two other boys and a girl, all younger than age 14, were in the brick and wood townhouse, police said. One of them found a handgun in the house, police said.

Police declined to provide some details of the incident, saying only that a single shot was fired, striking John in the head. He died in a front bedroom.

One of the children called 911 from the house at 4: 40 yesterday afternoon, Novak said. Police declined to identify the other three children, who were being questioned last night.

As police cruisers and ambulances filled the parking area, residents -- many of them children -- gathered to watch and mourn.

"He was just a neighborhood kid," said Peter Scibelli, 21, of Pine Cone Court who knew the dead boy. "He played football, Rollerbladed, played hockey. No trouble. Nothing out of the ordinary. He was OK, a decent kid."

Uniformed police comforted the distraught members of the children's families, many of whom stood weeping on the sidewalk for more than an hour.

A woman police identified only as the victim's mother fought briefly with two other mothers whose children had been in the townhouse during the shooting, then wept uncontrollably as she clutched an officer who helped break up the fight.

She was taken to a hospital by ambulance, and Novak said she complained of chest pains.

Residents said the area was quiet, and such incidents were uncommon in the apartment complexes that line Beaconsfield Road near The Avenue at White Marsh.

"It's always been a good neighborhood," said Vickie Knowles. But the opening of the mall has brought more property crime to the area, she said.

Novak said that regardless of whether police decide the shooting was accidental or intended, the child who pulled the trigger will not be charged as an adult because he is younger than age 14.

Novak declined to comment on whether the adults living in the townhouse would be charged with failure to secure a firearm.

"What a shame," said Galen Knowles, who shares a townhouse in the complex with his daughter Vickie. "A young life like that, and it ends like this. The parents got to suffer, everybody's got to suffer."

Pub Date: 8/21/98

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