University mourns after death of student

Baltimore man, 22, slain last week in Virginia

Police investigation continues

April 13, 2004|By Ryan Davis | Ryan Davis,SUN STAFF

HAMPTON, Va. -- Christopher B. Weaver's killers asked for him by name at his door.

Then they stormed the apartment of the student from Baltimore -- 22-year-old grandson of a former city school superintendent -- and shot him at least three times as he lay on his bed.

As friends gather at Weaver's funeral in Baltimore today, police here say they are attempting to solve the slaying. And students at Hampton University -- an elite, traditionally black college -- are wondering how the violence might affect the institution Weaver attended.

He was the second Hampton student to be fatally shot this school year.

Around the gated campus in this city on the Chesapeake Bay, many knew Weaver as "Dread," a reference to his shoulder-length dreadlocks. Some knew him as "Chris from Baltimore."

The senior business major graduated from Gilman School in 2000 with an extensive resume: Eagle Scout, Special Olympics lifeguard, volunteer at Johns Hopkins Hospital, tutor at Roland Park Elementary-Middle Schools.

He was the son of a dentist and a lawyer from Northwest Baltimore, and grandson of Alice G. Pinderhughes, the city's first female superintendent of schools.

At Hampton, he became known for his easygoing manner and frequent gatherings at the off-campus two-bedroom apartment he shared with a roommate. They weren't necessarily big parties, friends said, but different groups of students socializing.

Inside Weaver's apartment, they played video games. They talked about his favorite rapper, Nas. They had cookouts. And although Weaver was the host, he was rarely the focal point, said his friend Jon Smith, a senior from Richmond, Va.

Some students like to clear people out when they want to study, Smith said, but Weaver would sit down at a computer to work while his friends remained.

"He never wanted to break up a good time," Smith said.

The last gathering occurred Tuesday night last week -- to celebrate the birthday of Weaver's girlfriend, police said.

Police said they know of only three people who were still there about 12:15 a.m. Wednesday when the knock came at the door.

Weaver was in the master bedroom with his girlfriend, and another man -- police would not say whether it was the roommate -- answered the door.

Two men were there, at least one of them concealing his face with a hood or mask, police said. They came in uninvited, one entering the bedroom while the other stood guard in the living room and watched over the man who had opened the door, according to police.

An argument ensued in the bedroom between the gun-wielding intruder and Weaver, whose unidentified girlfriend took cover. Then the gunman shot Weaver at least three times, in the buttock, back and left side of his chest, said Hampton police Cpl. Jimmie Wideman.

Upon hearing the gunshots, the man who had answered the door tried to flee. He was also shot, and played dead on the floor, police said.

The attack was over in no more than five minutes, and the assailants fled down the 15 wooden steps from the apartment.

The man in the living room was hospitalized. Weaver was pronounced dead at a hospital.

According to court documents, police removed several items from the apartment, including 10 beer bottles, a champagne bottle, six paper drinking cups, three cellular phones, two marijuana cigarette butts and six bullet casings.

Wideman said an obstacle confronting investigators is that, of the two people known to have been there and survived, one took cover and the other played dead.

Everyone interviewed by detectives had positive comments about Weaver, Wideman said.

Friends echoed that sentiment in interviews yesterday.

"He was just the sweetest thing," said Chanice Vaughn, a junior from New York City who had studied with Weaver for a finance test he was to take the day he died. She lives down Lantana Lane from Weaver's apartment, off a main road and tucked behind a gas station, where the neighbors are mostly students and military personnel from Langley Air Force Base.

Police say crime there is not extraordinary for the city, which has a population of about 150,000. The city has had seven homicides this year -- about a tenth the number in Baltimore.

Lantana Lane is 3 miles from the 5,700-student Hampton University and its campus rules that include a freshman-year curfew, a ban on wearing so-called "do-rags" as headgear, and a prohibition against braiding hair in public lobbies.

Students described Hampton University yesterday as a conservative private school with a keen eye on its image. It's thought of as an Ivy League-type school among the nation's traditionally black colleges.

Dean of Students Bennie McMorris Jr. described it as "the best midsize university in the country -- black, white, orange or green." He said it's a place where students who might have had to dumb-down to be cool in high school can come and "celebrate intelligence."

Students acknowledged a certain elitism. And that's part of what drew them here from all over the country to this sleepy seaport, they said.

They said they were startled when a 21-year-old student was killed in October at an off-campus apartment. Now some say they're scared.

Signs taped around campus in memory of Weaver ask, "When will the violence stop???!!!"

Students said their school -- much like Weaver -- doesn't fit the mold for such violence.

"Hampton is considered a black, elite school -- upper class, " said Carl Gray, a senior from Landover. "And Hampton is a small city. It's considered a safe haven."

Students said the university has not encouraged talk about Weaver's killing or announced a memorial service. Students noted that it happened at the same time high school students were checking out the campus during Easter week.

School officials said the tragedy speaks not of Hampton, but of society.

"If we could take a cocoon and put it around ... every young person in the world, we would," McMorris said. "But there are certain realities you just can't get away from."

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