Dealing with a new breed of juvenile delinquents

May 06, 2006|By GREGORY KANE

I guess compared with Jerrod Hamlett, Bryant C. Jones, Jennifer Lynne Morelock and Jason David Woycio, I got off lucky.

Last June, a 13-year-old boy hurled a bottle at Hamlett and then fatally shot him in the dispute that followed. The boy had turned 14 when he was committed to an out-of-state juvenile facility.

Jones was holding a "Sweet 16" birthday party for his daughter last month. When he tried to eject an unruly 16-year-old boy, the kid allegedly pulled a gun and fatally shot Jones.

The kid who murdered Hamlett wasn't found guilty. We don't use harsh terms like "guilty" to describe cold-blooded, remorseless, conscienceless juvenile killers. We use lofty terms like "facts sustained." So it was "fact sustained" that the kid killed Hamlett.

The 16-year-old who is accused of shooting Jones has been charged as an adult. His case hasn't gone to trial. But, like Hamlett's killer, he has an extensive juvenile record, according to news reports which note police as their source.

Morelock and Woycio are the two Carroll County residents who apparently went to West Baltimore recently to buy drugs, according to city police, and were gunned down on Arunah Avenue. A 17-year-old has been charged in the killings. Police said he sent an incriminating text message to a friend.

Written in fluent text-message-ese, police said the note reads: "I killed 2 white people around my way 2day & one of them was a woman."

You've no doubt noticed that the typical gaggle of black "leaders" hasn't touched the subject of that text message. But had it been a white guy who said he'd killed two black folks, we'd be hearing about how all those awful white folks are racists who are out to kill all black folks. The NAACP would have been calling for a Department of Justice investigation 10 seconds after the story broke.

But that's not the topic of this column. Homicidal, dangerous, feral juvenile predators are. One took Hamlett's life. Two are accused of taking the lives of Jones, Morelock and Woycio.

A week ago, I had my own run-in with Baltimore's new breed of juvenile delinquents.

I was driving home from work when some kid hurled a bag at my car. I stopped to see what it was. Looking in my side view mirror, I noticed a brown bag and what looked like play money on the ground. Some kid on a bike pulled up beside my car.

"Is that real money?" I asked him.

"Yeah, it's real," he answered.

"That's not real money," I concluded.

"You give me some money," the kid demanded.

So that's what it was: a shakedown.

"I'm not giving you any money," I told him and started to drive off. He grabbed the door of my car.

"Give me a ride," he demanded.

"Don't do that!" I shouted. "It's not safe!"

The kid let go and ended up falling off his bike. He was up in an instant, claiming I'd tried to run him over. He came back to my car and threw a punch. Something bad had happened to him as a result of his own stupid actions, yet he figured he was the victim.

Gee, wherever could he have learned that mindset?

I sped up the street and parked about half a block from my house. I was headed home when the kid confronted me with a posse of his homeys. I was squared off against two of them when another clocked me from behind. I fell to the ground, momentarily stunned. I got up and got clocked again. I went down a second time.

By this time, neighbors were intervening, assuring the thugs that cops were on the way. The feral posse took off. I was left to ponder what sort of people had spawned this motley group of sociopaths. Did they have juvenile records, like the kid who killed Hamlett and the one accused of killing Jones?

Does the 17-year-old charged as an adult with murdering Morelock and Woycio have a juvenile record? Margaret Burns, a spokeswoman for the state's attorney's office, said she couldn't tell me. Protection of juvenile sociopaths who murder and brutalize with neither conscience nor hesitation is far ahead of public safety as a priority in this town.

But Burns did say the juvenile charged in the Morelock and Woycio homicides is the eighth juvenile charged as an adult with murder this year. That number, Burns said, is about one-fourth of the 30 homicide arrests made by police so far this year.

The youngest of those accused killers is 14. At least two are 17. That's about the age range of my attackers.

Burns also said that the number of juveniles killed so far this year is nearly as high as the total for last year. Twelve juveniles have been homicide victims this year as of yesterday. Thirteen were killed in all of 2005.

Were they killed by other juveniles, much like the group of sociopaths I had the bad luck to run across? Were some like the ones in that group -- angry, hostile and eager to hurt someone?

We may never know those answers. But, as I said, I was darn lucky. Given the totally random way these hoodlums chose their attack victim -- who could have been me or someone even more homicidal than they were -- another thing is clear.

They were darn lucky, too.

greg.kane@baltsun.com

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