Teen fatally shot at game `was a real joy'

Family mourns death of Derrick Blanton, 15

gunman fired at group

October 22, 2001|By Michael Scarcella | Michael Scarcella,SUN STAFF

Jacqueline Blanton says her son's life revolved around basketball - at Baltimore's Northern High, where he made the varsity team as a freshman last year, and after school on a makeshift court near his home.

But gunfire Saturday night ended any dream that 15-year-old Derrick A. Blanton had about basketball. He died at Maryland Shock Trauma Center shortly after he and two others were shot on the neighborhood court, in an alley where they often played under the streetlights.

"He loved basketball," his mother said last night, distraught, barely able to utter the words. "He'd play every day right down the street. He'd say, `Ma, I'm going down the street.' He always told me where he was going."

Police said a gunman stepped out of a gray or tan van about 8:50 p.m. and fired into the group of 10 to 15 people. The others wounded - one 15, the other 20 - were treated and released. Police have withheld their names because they are witnesses. Police said the motive and intended target remained unknown.

Blanton said her son often played on the alley court off Leith Walk in his Ramblewood neighborhood in Northeast Baltimore, up to an hour before his 11 p.m. curfew, after doing his homework. "It was just the neighborhood boys - they all grew up around here," she said. "Derrick was the youngest one. He played with these guys every day."

Friends and family gathered last night at the Blanton home in the 1200 block of Ramblewood Road, offering condolences and the feeling that Derrick was a good kid caught in the wrong place.

"He was a real joy to be around," Paul Holmes, Northern basketball coach and athletic director, said after visiting. "It seems like the good ones you lose fast."

Derrick had been the only freshman to make the team last year, Holmes said of his young point guard. "We had some reservations in the beginning. At the position he played, we thought he would develop faster at the varsity level. He wanted to be better, and he worked at it," he said.

Holmes noted another attribute that made his death all the more devastating : "He was a gentleman - well-mannered. You don't see that too often these days."

His mother has asked that Derrick be buried in his team uniform, but funeral arrangements were incomplete last night.

Police asked that anyone with information about the shooting call Detective Mark Hughes at 410-396-2100.

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