Neighbor arrested in boy's shooting

Teen known as helpful, friendly toward victim

July 19, 2002|By Josh Mitchell | Josh Mitchell,SUN STAFF

In their rough West Baltimore neighborhood, Perry Spain would occasionally surprise 10-year-old Tevin Montrel Davis with candy bars and sodas.

Yesterday Tevin's family was shocked to hear that police had arrested Spain, 19, in the shooting Monday night that left Tevin critically injured in his father's arms on the front steps of their rowhouse.

Spain, who lives 12 doors from Tevin in the 1900 block of W. Fairmount Ave., faces charges of attempted first-degree murder and a handgun violation.

"Right now, I'm kind of hurt because it was him," said Tevin's father, Rodney Harden. "I wasn't expecting him to be the shooter. He spoke to me all the time and he spoke to my son. He knew my son very well."

Spain's arrest is an example of how a young man described as generous and smart - Spain planned on attending Morgan State University in the fall, his lawyer said - can become a criminal suspect on Baltimore's violent streets. Police documents described Spain yesterday as having a juvenile arrest record and as being known by neighbors to keep a chrome-colored, semiautomatic handgun hidden in his basement.

"This case underscores what might be the most critical problem in this city: youth violence," Police Commissioner Edward T. Norris said.

Norris said the case also demonstrates the lack of cooperation police often receive from witnesses of crimes. Despite the presence of many potential witnesses during Tevin's shooting, as many as 40 failed to provide detectives critical information, Mayor Martin O'Malley said.

Norris spoke sharply of the problem.

"I can't imagine how someone could go to sleep knowing they had information for us and had not told us," Norris said. "Everyone in the city has a stake in" helping stop youth violence.

Police say the shooting happened about 9:15 p.m. when a group of men tried to steal money from a craps game that involved Spain and others at Fairmount Avenue and Monroe Street. As gunfire erupted and the men scrambled, a bullet struck Tevin in the neck.

He was listed in good condition yesterday at Johns Hopkins Children's Center and is expected to recover.

Spain has lived in the same house all his life, and although police say he has a juvenile record, he has helped some of his neighbors. Tevin's father recalls that, two weeks ago, Spain bought two dozen eggs for a neighbor in need.

His personality and his image around the neighborhood make it hard for Tevin's parents to understand how Spain could have been involved.

"I just want to know why he did it and how he feels knowing that he shot someone he knew," said the boy's mother, Antoinette Davis.

Spain's attorney, Warren A. Brown, said Spain "absolutely" denies being the shooter and claims police are basing their case on one eyewitness. Charging documents mention a direct eyewitness, but police do not identify the person.

"That is the sum and the substance of what they're working with - one anonymous witness," said Brown. "Was it a junkie? A person who should have had glasses on? Somebody who didn't like my client? Who knows?"

Police said that in addition to the eyewitness, they also gathered evidence from neighbors and others who know Spain. They arrested him at 5:40 p.m. Wednesday as he parked a car in front of his house.

Eyewitnesses said the incident began when four men stepped out of a Jeep Cherokee parked nearby on Fairmount Avenue about 9 p.m. The four walked to the corner where the craps game was being played and some of the men began to argue. About 15 minutes later, the four men ran to the car as gunfire erupted, the eyewitnesses said.

Spain ran away when someone started shooting, Brown said. Tevin appeared to be the only one injured. "It is important to note that this is in the block that he [Spain] lives in," Brown said. "People know you. There would be no shortage of people ... that would implicate you."

Spain's mother, who said she offered her condolences to Tevin's family after the shooting, said her family has lived in the same house for 52 years. She said her son is popular with the neighbors and stays out of trouble.

"You don't have to ask him for anything," Patrice G. Spain said. "If he sees that you need anything and he has it, he will give it to you."

Perry Spain enjoys astronomy and wants to study engineering in college, his mother said.

"He's on his way to doing something with his life," she said.

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