Slaying victim's passions were his sons, basketball

Man fatally shot trying to force thief from car

January 17, 2002|By Del Quentin Wilber | Del Quentin Wilber,SUN STAFF

Tifford Fields purchased the car of his dreams - a mint-green 1992 Lexus - three weeks ago and drove it to a West Baltimore bar and grill Tuesday night.

His wife, Tracy Fields, says she became suspicious when she noticed several young men and a woman keeping an eye on them as they ate dinner.

"I told him to go check on his car," she said.

Mr. Fields rushed outside where he found a man sitting behind the Lexus' steering wheel, police said. As Mr. Fields tried to yank the man out of the car, someone opened fire with a handgun, fatally wounding Mr. Fields in the upper torso, police said.

Mr. Fields, 36, father of two sons who had recently moved with his family to Woodlawn, became the city's ninth homicide of the year.

He and his wife had stopped at Roots Unlimited Kitchen in the 2100 block of Vine St. to eat fried chicken and french fries before picking up their 11-year-old son, Trinity, from basketball practice at a nearby gym. Tracy Fields had eaten at Roots a few times with co-workers and thought her husband would enjoy the food, she said.

"He wanted to eat at the Cheesecake Factory, but I thought he would like the country cooking," she said.

Police said they had no suspects in the killing, and Vine Street residents complained yesterday that the area has become an open-air drug market, which police seem unable to control. Police officials were unable to provide crime statistics about the neighborhood yesterday.

Mr. Fields was recalled yesterday as a family man devoted to his wife, sons and basketball, one of his passions in life. He grew up in Queens, N.Y., and played small forward for the varsity basketball team at Benjamin N. Cardozo High School, a basketball powerhouse, and was constantly looking for pickup games the rest of his life.

Mr. Fields graduated from Cardozo in 1983. Though he always dreamed of playing hoops in college, he became a truck driver to help support his pregnant girlfriend and future wife, Tracy. A few years ago, he began driving a truck for Long Island Pipe Supply and moved to Woodlawn in November 2000 after the company opened a branch in Glen Burnie, family members said.

On Tuesday night, as Mr. Fields and his wife ate at Roots - a windowless, corner building that requires a bartender to unlock a door to let patrons in - they spoke about how much progress they had made in Maryland. They were about to move into a new house being built in Woodlawn, where they rent a townhouse.

"We were talking about how good we felt, what we had accomplished," said Tracy Fields, 35. "The good outweighed the bad. ... I lost my best friend and the boys lost their father."

Nearly every night, Mr. Fields spoke by telephone with his eldest son, Tifford, who remained in Queens to finish his final year of high school. Tifford, 17, plays small forward for the Cardozo High School varsity team. During a game last week, he scored 17 points in an 80-38 victory and was mentioned in the game's box score in the local newspaper, Newsday.

"He was so proud that I was in the paper," Tifford said. "He wanted me to be in the paper again."

Mr. Fields also loved music - from jazz to rap - and owned several hundred compact discs, family members said.

Funeral arrangements are pending, family members said.

Anyone with information is urged to call homicide Detective John Riddick at 410-396-2100.

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