Man gets 50 years in shooting of students

`Suburban terrorist' fired semiautomatic gun into crowd at Randallstown High

September 24, 2004|By Jennifer McMenamin | Jennifer McMenamin,SUN STAFF

Calling the convicted gunman a "suburban terrorist," a Baltimore County judge sentenced a Baltimore man yesterday to 50 years in prison for his role in the May shooting at Randallstown High School that left one student in a wheelchair, three others injured and the surrounding community shaken.

Tyrone Devon "Fat Boy" Brown, 24, apologized for his actions during an emotional sentencing hearing in which the father of one of the shooting victims thundered at the defendant and told the judge that his son's dreams of studying electrical engineering and playing college football have been dashed by neck, back and lung injuries that have left him without the use of his legs.

Brown, speaking publicly for the first time about the Friday afternoon he admittedly opened fire with a 9 mm semiautomatic handgun into a crowd of students gathered in the parking lot at Randallstown High after a charity basketball game, told the court that "what happened that day was just a big mistake."

"We was out there fist-fighting," he said. "I don't even know what to say. I'm very sorry for what happened."

Baltimore County Circuit Judge Patrick Cavanaugh was unmoved.

He sentenced Brown to 30 years for attempted second-degree murder and a consecutive 20-year term for a handgun charge. It was the maximum prison term allowed under a plea agreement reached this month between county prosecutors and Brown's attorney.

"What you did was totally inexcusable," the judge said. "You are a suburban terrorist. There will never be closure for these families. ... The sentence you got is really not enough."

Two other suspects - Matthew Timothy McCullough, 17, who is also accused of firing into the crowd, and Antonio R. Jackson, 21, who is accused of meeting his friends at the school with the handgun - are scheduled to go to trial in November. McCullough's attorney, Timothy M. Dixon of Baltimore, has said the teenager was pinned to the ground by another student at the time and could not have fired the gun.

Charges against a fourth man, Ronald Patrick Johnson Jr., 20, were dropped in June.

Injured in the shooting May 7 were sophomore Andre Mellerson, junior Marcus McLain, senior Alex Brown and William "Tippa" Thomas III. Thomas, the most seriously wounded student, was a senior and had bullet wounds to the neck, back and lungs.

His father, William Thomas Jr., said yesterday in court that his son had intended to pursue an electrical engineering program at Morgan State University even after the shooting. But he had to withdraw from school due to his inability to get around campus in a wheelchair and is now in Atlanta, preparing to enter a spinal cord clinic and undergo a fifth operation, Thomas said.

One of the most emotional moments of the hearing came when Thomas set down the sheet of paper on which he had typed his prepared remarks and turned to the defendant.

"I want to look this guy in the face," he told the judge.

"Guys like me, my age," Thomas said, repeatedly thumping his fist on his chest, "went to jail in Baltimore City, picketed and protested so guys your age can go to the movies, go ride a bus and eat a hamburger. Where have your minds gone?"

Thomas is studying to be a minister and his remarks in court had the tone of an impassioned sermon. He emphasized every syllable when he mentioned that his son will likely be in a wheelchair "for the rest of his life." And his voice crescendoed until he was booming at Brown, who slumped in a chair at the defense table in an oversized white T-shirt and jeans.

Referring to his religious studies, Thomas said, "I'm being told I have to love you for your stupidness and I'm going to go to Hagerstown and Jessup for prison ministries to look at guys just like you. I hope the time you spend inside works on your mind and spirit so you can be a walking lesson to others."

Brown had previously been arrested on charges of theft, attempted first-degree murder, a handgun violation, conspiracy, reckless endangerment and robbery, records show. A spokesman with the Baltimore state's attorney's office has said that most of the charges, including the prior count of attempted murder, were not prosecuted because witnesses did not appear in court.

Brown's grandmother, who raised him, burst into tears as sheriff's deputies led her grandson away in leg irons. She leaned on her husband and other relatives as she left the courtroom, still weeping. The family declined to comment.

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