Guilty plea in school gunfire

Man acknowledges firing into crowd after game at Randallstown High in May

50-year sentence likely

2 others also face charges in shooting of 4 students

September 15, 2004|By Julie Bykowicz | Julie Bykowicz,SUN STAFF

The man known as "Fat Boy" and identified as one of the gunmen in the May shooting in the parking lot of Randallstown High School pleaded guilty yesterday to attempted murder and weapons charges that will likely leave him with a 50-year prison sentence.

Tyrone Devon Brown, 23, acknowledged in court that he opened fire into a crowd of students after a charity basketball game at the school May 7. Prosecutors said during the court hearing that Brown then passed the handgun to a Randallstown student, Matthew Timothy McCullough, 17, who is accused of continuing to shoot into the crowd.

Four students were injured, one so seriously that he remains in a wheelchair. That student's aunt said she was pleased that Brown "won't be able to hurt anyone else."

"Something hideous like this should never happen to anyone," said Ann R. Godwin, William "Tippa" Thomas' aunt. "We're still numb from the whole ordeal."

Brown's guilty plea came during a motions hearing in Baltimore County Circuit Court in which McCullough's lawyers asked that his charges be handled by the Department of Juvenile Services. Also, lawyers for McCullough and the third defendant, Antonio R. Jackson, 21, asked prosecutors to provide them with witnesses' addresses - something the state has been reluctant to do because, they said, witnesses are "petrified."

Assistant State's Attorney Ann Brobst said in court that one of the Randallstown students who witnessed the shooting was told, "You saw what we did to your buddies, wait until you see what we do to you."

That threat and the nature of the shooting have left lingering worries at Randallstown High School, Brobst said. "There's still a lot of tension and still a very potentially dangerous situation out there," she told the judge.

Judge Patrick Cavanaugh denied McCullough's motion to be transferred to Juvenile Services, saying, "You don't get much more serious than this case. Thank God nobody died."

But the judge directed prosecutors to turn over the list of witnesses' addresses. Defense attorneys agreed not to share those addresses with their clients.

The account of the shooting that Brown accepted as fact in pleading guilty describes an atmosphere of fear and chaos that afternoon. Brobst read this account into the court record yesterday:

McCullough, who had a disagreement with another Randallstown student, had not attended school May 7, but he picked up Brown and Ronald Patrick Johnson Jr., 20, and drove them in his gold Honda Accord to Offutt Road, near the school.

There, they met Jackson, who prosecutors said had driven to the school in his BMW and brought with him a 9 mm semiautomatic handgun.

In the parking lot, as a charity basketball game was letting out about 4 p.m., McCullough started a fistfight with a student, Brobst said. Other fistfights broke out, and Brown retrieved the handgun from Jackson's car and "repeatedly fired into a large group of students" gathered near the car, the prosecutor said.

He then passed the gun to McCullough, she said, adding that McCullough continued firing into the crowd. His lawyer, Timothy M. Dixon of Baltimore, has said the teenager couldn't have shot anybody because he was pinned to the ground by another student at the time.

Injured were sophomore Andre Mellerson, junior Marcus McLain, senior Alex Brown and Thomas. Thomas, the most seriously wounded student, was a senior and had bullet wounds to the neck, back and lungs.

After the shooting, McCullough ran toward his car and tossed the handgun into some bushes near the school, the prosecutor said. Police found it and linked it to 11 spent shell casings found in the school parking lot, she said.

As they were searching for suspects in the first few days after the shooting, police said they were looking for a man they knew only as "Fat Boy."

Brown will be formally sentenced Sept. 23, when the victims and their family members will be allowed to tell the judge the impact the shooting has had on their lives.

Under the terms of Brown's plea agreement, he would serve 30 years for each of four counts of attempted second-degree murder, but he would serve them concurrently. He would serve a 20-year prison term for one count of use of a handgun in the commission of a crime of violence after completing the sentences for attempted murder.

Brown made no statements in court yesterday, other than to answer yes or no to questions posed by his lawyer and the judge. At the time of the shooting, the Baltimore man was on probation from a disorderly conduct conviction in the city.

He also had been arrested in the past on two felony drug charges, theft, attempted first-degree murder, a handgun violation, conspiracy, reckless endangerment and robbery, court records show.

The other two defendants, McCullough and Jackson, are scheduled to be tried together Nov. 15 in Baltimore County Circuit Court. Prosecutors dropped charges against Johnson in June.

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