14-year-old boy dead after shooting at party

Mother finds teen at house in east-side neighborhood with fatal wound in neck

January 11, 2000|By Tim Craig | Tim Craig,SUN STAFF

Darlene Alston is the first to admit her 14-year-old son bumped into a lot of obstacles.

His father died when he was 5 years old. He had trouble paying attention in elementary school. He was locked up several times for juvenile crimes. He was expelled from Lombard Middle School last spring for bringing an unloaded gun to class, angry that a group of students was making fun of him.

She said she guided him through it all, but early yesterday she could only weep when she found Donnell, the eldest of her four children, in a nearby house with a fatal bullet wound in his neck.

"Two girls came to my house and said my son is around the corner with a hole in his neck," Alston said.

Police said young Alston became the city's seventh homicide victim of the year about 1: 30 a.m. while he was at a small house party in the 1600 block of E. Lanvale St. He apparently got into an argument with someone who pulled a handgun and shot him once, police said.

The party -- where 10 friends were drinking beer -- then emptied, and Alston was left slumped in a hallway leading to the front door. Police said they have identified all of those at the party, as well as the middle-aged man who rented the house. They have not named a suspect, but said they expect to make an arrest soon.

"All of them just left him for dead," said Trina Taylor, Alston's cousin.

Girls went to mother

Two teen-age girls went to the Alston home, around the corner in the 1800 block of N. Caroline St., and notified family members that Donnell Alston had been shot.

Paramedics and police responded, but Alston was pronounced dead at the scene.

"I didn't like seeing him like that. I was hoping it was not him," his mother said. "It's devastating. He was a normal kid."

That phrase -- "normal kid" -- was repeated more than a dozen times yesterday by school administrators, teachers, neighbors and relatives.

Police, too, were stunned by the crime, and word of the killing elicited swift action from city police officials.

Authorities respond

Maj. James L. Hawkins, the Eastern District commander, was awakened with the news and went to the scene yesterday morning. The city homicide unit has assigned at least four detectives to the case -- double the number of investigators assigned to most homicides.

"We always tried a team approach, but when it involves youths of this age, we all feel an urgency to put as many resources as we can to find out what happened," said Lt. Ben Lieu, a homicide unit supervisor.

Acting police Commissioner Ronald L. Daniel, who has pledged to decrease the city's homicide rate, also said he was troubled by the age of the victim.

"Certainly, we regret the loss of life of anyone in the city, particularly the young and elderly," he said.

Police and family members said they don't know why the youths were in the middle-aged man's home drinking beer. The man, whom police did not name, told homicide detectives that he was not home at the time of the incident.

"I feel like he should be held responsible. He should know who is in his house, and why is my child in there after hours?" Alston said.

Relatives and friends gathered yesterday at the Alston home to mourn the teen-ager who liked to rap and play basketball.

"I don't know what Baltimore is going to do," said Mary Shannon, a family friend. "Can Baltimore do anything about all this killing?"

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