Man, 57, guilty in killing of teen

Boy, 15, was shot in back while trying to steal bike

Intention of shooting is disputed

W. Baltimore handyman convicted of manslaughter

August 24, 2004|By Allison Klein | Allison Klein,SUN STAFF

A West Baltimore handyman was convicted yesterday in city Circuit Court of manslaughter in the 2002 shooting death of a 15-year-old who was trying to steal a red mountain bike from the man's yard.

In an nearly inaudible voice, Edward Day, 57, entered an Alford plea, meaning that he did not admit to the crime but agreed that prosecutors had sufficient evidence against him.

Still in dispute is whether Day intended to simply scare David Stewart or shoot the teen dead as a punishment for attempting to steal the bike.

Stewart was shot once in the back with a double-barreled shotgun as he ran from Day's fenced-in yard in the 2300 block of Harlem Ave.

Day's lawyer, Kenneth W. Ravenell, said the shooting was an accident by Day, a Vietnam veteran with a neighborhood nickname of "Mr. Fix-it."

"He did not intend to fire the weapon at all," Ravenell said after yesterday's hearing.

But prosecutor Wesley Adams said that Day was fed up with rowdy teens in the neighborhood and took it out on Stewart.

"My belief is that he leveled the gun and shot him to teach him a lesson," Adams said. "He executed a kid who was committing a petty misdemeanor."

Day barely spoke at the hearing, frequently shaking his head "no" when Adams read a statement of facts into the record.

Prosecutors tried to charge Day with first-degree murder, but a Baltimore grand jury instead returned a charge of second-degree murder.

Because of the plea agreement, Day was convicted of manslaughter, a lesser charge than second-degree murder.

His sentencing is scheduled Oct. 18, when he could receive a maximum of eight years in prison.

Day, who has lived on the block for most of his life, has already served nearly two years on home detention.

Stewart's mother, Marnice Cooper, was sobbing and shaking so severely after the hearing that she could not answer questions from a reporter.

But the teen's grandmother, Cynthia Stewart, said she was upset that Day was not convicted of second-degree murder.

"I don't understand how that happened," Stewart said as a tear trickled down her face. "He was shot in the back. There is no justice."

David Stewart's cousin, Eric Harris, 11, said he misses his cousin tremendously.

"I was the closest thing to him," Eric said.

The shooting happened about 3 p.m. July 11 as Stewart was riding his dirt bike with friends in the alley behind Day's rowhouse. They saw Day ride by on a red mountain bike and asked him if they could buy it, Adams said.

Day, who was fixing the mountain bike for someone in the neighborhood, told the teens they could buy another bike for $100, according to Adams. Day then put the bike in his yard and went in his house.

Stewart offered to pay a friend $5 to go into Day's yard and take the red bike. After the friend refused, two of the boys rang Day's doorbell to try to distract him, and Stewart went into his yard to steal the bike, Adams said.

Day came out of the house and fired once with a shotgun, hitting Stewart in the back, the prosecutor said.

Stewart died a short time later at Maryland Shock Trauma Center.

About a dozen of Day's neighbors showed up in court yesterday and said they were prepared to speak on his behalf. Judge John M. Glynn told them they could all speak at Day's sentencing in October.

In the past, neighbors have said Day is known for fixing things in the neighborhood such as bicycles and televisions sets. He also would sweep sidewalks, chop down trees, cut lawns and trim hedges for cash.

Day's lawyer described his client as "an odd bird."

He did not have a full-time job, and neighbors have said he may have collected veteran's benefits.

"He sees the world a bit differently," Ravenell said. "He is generally a harmless person. Edward is a very gentle soul."

The incident was similar to another alleged vigilante justice shooting last week, in which an off-duty police officer with the state's Department of Health and Mental Hygiene was charged in the shooting of a 14-year-old he said was breaking into the shed at his home.

D'Koy Dancy was shot in the back shortly after midnight - minutes after he had called his mother to assure her that, although he had missed his 11:30 p.m. curfew, he would be home soon, police said.

Ronald Johnson Sr., 30, an officer at Spring Grove Hospital Center, is charged with second-degree murder. He is accused of shooting the teen from a second-story bedroom window.

Johnson told Baltimore police officers that the shooting was an accident, and that the gun fired as he stumbled over clutter in his 12-year-old son's bedroom and fell into the window screen.

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