Community bewildered by teen's death

May 17, 2006|By ANNIE LINSKEY | ANNIE LINSKEY,SUN REPORTER

When he went to parties and mixers Justin J. Fisher, 18, liked to dance -- really dance.

"He could do crazy stuff with his feet," said a former high school classmate, Ryan Krueger, 18.

And on the football field he would charge his opponents, said another, Kevin Smith, 17: "When he puts on that helmet he doesn't feel anything."

This is the Fisher -- fun-loving and popular, a former honor roll student and captain of the lacrosse and football teams at Cardinal Gibbons School in Baltimore -- whom friends and coaches recalled yesterday.

They're struggling to reconcile their memories of the Glen Burnie teen with Anne Arundel County police officers' description of the suicidal young man they shot early Sunday after he rushed toward them with a pair of scissors.

"Everyone is so angry that something like this could happen," Krueger said. "It makes them so angry that there are four guys, four police officers, can shoot this kid because he had a pair of scissors running at them."

Sixteen cars were parked last night in front of the Fishers' blue, two-story home, heavily shaded by tall trees and fronted by a sweeping, neatly mowed lawn.

C. Daniel Held, the family's longtime lawyer, said, "We're just trying to get though this week. You just try to take a day a time, or if you can't do that, take one hour at a time."

The family remained in seclusion and declined to comment for this article.

But in an obituary sent to The Sun, his older brother, Brandon J. Fisher, recalled, "Justin treasured every minute of every day. ... [He] would often go to shoot pool, go to the movies, or just enjoy good company. He loved to eat and was always known to enjoy a casual nap."

Fisher became hooked on football when he was young, and was on the Pasadena Buccaneers team when he was 8, according to Brandon Fisher's statement. Playing college ball was one of his goals, and Justin made the varsity team as a freshman this year at Salisbury University.

Donald Davis, Fisher's high school football coach, called the 6-foot teenager "an effort player."

"That kid would run though a wall for me. Literally," said Davis, who described Fisher as "like a son."

Fisher was the one, Davis said, who conspired with team members to pour Gatorade over the coaches' heads after games or at the end of a season. He doused every coach on the staff but one -- the oldest coach somehow outran him.

When Fisher moved on to other teams, he made it a habit to always give his old coach a gift, Davis said. Davis received a whistle inscribed "Go hard all the time."

Recently, Davis said, Fisher was going through a rough time. The transition to college, he said, was difficult.

He often came back to Cardinal Gibbons, a Catholic boys school, to watch games. Megan Bowers, his guidance counselor, last saw him in January on the sidelines of a basketball court.

"He's wearing the Gibbons shirt. It hardly fits him," she said, her voice cracking. "I just expected to see him on the sidelines for a very long time."

The Fisher family has a tight connection with the school: Justin's father, Dennis, graduated from there, as did Brandon, in 2002. The funeral will be held Friday in the auditorium.

"He was just always going to be a Gibbons boy, with that beautiful smile he had," Bowers said.

Krueger, who was on the wrestling team with Fisher in high school, said the two had planned to go to Ocean City over the summer. Sometimes, with a group of friends, they would go pool hopping -- cruising suburban neighborhoods and splashing in someone else's swimming pool until they got chased off.

Krueger said that when he learned of his friend's death, he froze: "I wanted to tell my mom, but I couldn't. My body wouldn't move."

According to police, Fisher's mother, Janice, called 911 at 4:24 a.m. Sunday and told them she feared he had hurt his girlfriend and was suicidal. The two had attended the girl's Northeast High School prom earlier in the evening. Janice Fisher told police that her son might have skipped taking prescribed medications for a mental illness, police said.

Police went to the girlfriend's home in Pasadena and found Justin Fisher nearby, driving a silver Honda Accord. He got out of the car holding scissors to his throat, police said. During a 35-minute standoff, police said, he asked for his family, so his mother and other members of the family came to the scene.

At 5:06 a.m. Fisher turned away from a police sergeant who had been talking to him and ran toward a line of officers, holding out the scissors, police said. They fired at him, hitting him five times. He was pronounced dead at Baltimore Washington Medical Center.

Ellen Neufeldt, vice president for student affairs at Salisbury University, estimated that 100 to 150 students and faculty came out to a candlelight vigil held behind his dormitory Monday night.

"They put up pictures of him, and people were able to sign and write notes and thoughts about him," she said of the biology-predentistry major.

The mourning is even deeper at Cardinal Gibbons.

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