Candlelight vigil, and a birthday

A mother, remembering a son fatally shot on the street, says, `Put the guns down'

November 14, 2006|By Annie Linskey | Annie Linskey,sun reporter

Just after dusk yesterday, Shawn Tiller's mother arrived at an East Baltimore street corner with bundles of colorful balloons and teddy bears for her boy.

Friends embraced her and passed out candles. In hushed tones, they asked if it would be appropriate to sing "Happy Birthday."

Tiller would have turned 17 yesterday. Instead of celebrating, his parents and about 50 of his friends stood on the cracked pavement where he was gunned down over the weekend for a candlelight vigil. They tied the balloons and toys to a signpost.

"The one thing I tried to save him from is the one thing that took him away," Linda Robinson, his mother, told the group. "Shawn chose to leave home and be out here in the street. ... My son wrote me a letter and told me he wasn't a baby. I told Shawn, `You'll always be my baby.'"

Robinson said her son moved out of the family's home at 600 N. Clinton St. in August. "He didn't want to follow the rules," Robinson said. He was living with a friend near the corner where he was killed.

Robinson said her son was a "ladies man" who always had a cell phone glued to his ear. He was a linebacker in a city league and attended Harbor City Learning Center, where he was a good speller, his mother said. He reached ninth grade, but last year he stopped going to school. "Somebody introduced him to the streets," she said.

Police said Tiller was found suffering from gunshot wounds to the chest and head about 6:30 p.m. Saturday at East Hoffman and Luzerne streets. He was taken to Johns Hopkins Hospital - where his mother is a clerk - and declared dead. Later, his brother went to the morgue to identify his body.

Taunses Robinson, his father, also addressed the crowd yesterday. "We have to encourage the men that there are better things to do," he said. "We're thinning out. The young ones are leaving us first." Robinson works at a company called Pallet Guy, and he said he would help anyone in the group find a job.

Tiller's cousin spoke about the senselessness of the killing. "The white people aren't killing each other out on the streets," said Kia Tyson. "This is crazy. When are you all going to stop?"

Women cried. Men told each other to turn off their cell phones. People held hands, closed their eyes and prayed. In the middle of the vigil, everyone sang a slow and tearful "Happy Birthday."

Tiller's family members were not the only ones who decorated the street corner. Graffiti typically associated with the Bloods gang was scrawled on a building across the street. Someone had painted a letter "B" with an arrow pointing up under the words "RIP Shawn." The words "one blood" were scrawled in black paint on the ground.

Police have made no arrests in the case, and they said it is too soon in the investigation to know whether the killing was linked to gang activity. Linda Robinson said her son was not involved with gangs.

Robinson said she works at the hospital at night and sees people rushed to the emergency room. "Everyone needs to put the guns down," she said. "I wish it would stop. He was a child, and someone took his life."

annie.linskey@baltsun.com

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