Marshall student, 16, is arrested in shootings

Attendance reportedly drops

officials deny school is unsafe

October 23, 2004|By Matthew Dolan | Matthew Dolan,SUN STAFF

Police charged a 16-year-old from East Baltimore with attempted murder yesterday in connection with Thursday's shooting of two brothers outside Thurgood Marshall High School, capping a difficult week for city officials trying to allay community concerns over school safety.

News of the arrest came after scores of Thurgood Marshall High students stayed home from school following Thursday's shootings in a campus courtyard, and ministers and police marched to another troubled school, Walbrook High Uniformed Services Academy, to promote reducing violence in city schools.

Since the beginning of the school year, more than 40 fires have been set in at least 14 schools.

This week, police used a disabling gas on students to break up disruptions after a fire evacuation at Highlandtown Middle School.

Antonio Williamson, 16, of the 700 block of Mello Court was charged as an adult in the Thurgood Marshall shooting with two counts of attempted murder and related offenses, Baltimore Police Commissioner Kevin P. Clark announced during a news conference.

Sources say Williamson has a lengthy juvenile record and was wanted on a separate arrest warrant at the time of the shooting. He recently enrolled at Thurgood Marshall after being expelled from Lake Clifton/Eastern High School, Clark said during an earlier interview.

In a telephone interview, one of the shooting victims, Lamar Taylor, 15, said he did not recognize the people who shot him. The teenager was at home recuperating from a gunshot wound of the hip; his brother, 19-year-old Terrell Scott, remained in Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center awaiting a second surgery for a gunshot wound to the leg.

There are 294 students enrolled at Thurgood Marshall High. School officials said they could not confirm the number of ninth-, 10th- and 11th-graders who attended school the day after the shooting.

One parent who toured the high school said only 55 students showed up for classes yesterday.

The attendance troubled city politicians, police officials and school leaders, who denied that some city schools are no longer safe to attend.

"I've told parents that the schools are safe environments for learning," said Russell Williams, Thurgood Marshall High's acting principal.

A handmade sign posted outside one of the school's windows read: "We have great kids here."

The only incident of violence reported by school officials yesterday was a student arrested for starting a fire at Francis M. Wood, an alternative high school.

Seeking a solution to school violence, about 40 people, mostly members of the clergy and police, gathered yesterday morning in a strip mall parking lot near Walbrook Academy to declare a new alliance in combating crime.

`Here to help'

"We want to let the community know both the clergy and law enforcement are here to help them," said the Rev. Carl Washington of St. Timothy's Christian Baptist Church.

Back at Thurgood Marshall High, city schools chief Bonnie S. Copeland stopped by to reiterate her earlier announcement that budget changes to be unveiled next week would improve communication and security at the school.

A visible symbol of that effort came when the police dispatched a marked squad car to monitor the school all day. Clark and Mayor Martin O'Malley met with school administrators to lend their support.

The high school's PTA president, Phillip A. Brown, who called for the organized absences, believed students stayed home for a good reason.

"There comes a time when you need to send a message. This is that time," Brown said, standing outside the school. His 10th-grade daughter, however, was at home.

Inside the school, the phones were ringing off the hook, according to Brown. "Parents were calling and asking, `Is my child going to be safe?'" he said.

For Brown and other parents and teachers at the school, the problems at Thurgood Marshall run deeper than Thursday's shooting.

Broken walkie-talkies prevent school staff from communicating with each other, Brown said, and malfunctioning locks on outside doors allow people to enter the school without notice. The availability of guns among children stunned many parents.

"It was a concern to me that it was no big deal to my son," said Helena McNeill, whose 10th-grader stayed home. But she also openly wondered why so few parents came to the school yesterday to find out more about what happened.

A letter to parents describing the shooting went home with students in the afternoon.

`I need to learn'

There was quiet desperation among those students who did come back.

"But I need to learn," said Jasmine Watkins, 15, a ninth-grader at Thurgood Marshall who stood outside the school before the first bell at 9 a.m.

Missing a day of class would only hurt her aspirations for college, Watkins said.

"I don't want it to be on my record that I missed some test," she said.

During the investigation into Thursday's shooting, Williamson was identified by students at the school and was arrested without incident at his home at 1:15 a.m., Clark said.

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