Police investigate cause of boy's burns They seek to determine if 15-year-old was set on fire while passed out

November 24, 1998|By Peter Hermann | Peter Hermann,SUN STAFF

The health of a 15-year-old boy who was severely burned early Sunday improved yesterday as police tried to determine whether someone set him on fire after he had passed out from drinking.

George Oliver, who lives in Southeast Baltimore, suffered second and third-degree burns on 22 percent of his body and was in serious condition at the burn unit at Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center, city police said.

Investigators said they have not been able to interview the youth.

bTC "We couldn't confirm what happened with this kid," said Detective Scott G. Serio of the homicide unit.

Police said the incident began about 12: 30 a.m. when Oliver apparently passed out on a small porch of a house in the 300 block of Mason Court, in the Perkins Homes public housing complex, about two blocks from Broadway.

Agent Angelique Cook-Hayes, a police spokeswoman, said Oliver's friends left him on the porch and went inside. "It is uncertain what transpired in the 30 minutes after witnesses entered their homes and left the intoxicated and incoherent victim," she said.

Shortly before 1 a.m., residents reported hearing screams and saw Oliver running through a back courtyard. Cook-Hayes said they ran out, helped Oliver and got him into a car to drive him to the hospital.

Police said neighbors flagged down a passing officer, who escorted them to Hopkins. Oliver had been in critical and unstable condition until yesterday afternoon.

The investigation has been switched from the homicide unit to the Southeastern District. Detectives said the injured youth may not be able to talk until Thursday. Police said they are considering everything from an intentional burning to a prank that got out of control.

Serio said Oliver had matches in his pocket and was a known smoker.

He lived a block from where the incident occurred, but family members could not be reached to comment yesterday. No one answered the door where the incident occurred.

Pub Date: 11/24/98

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