Deadly shots shatter a vigil

Man felled nearby as parents pray for son slain a year ago

November 12, 2007|By Julie Bykowicz | Julie Bykowicz,Sun reporter

Three loud bangs caught the attention of Linda Robinson as she was passing out T-shirts that read "Tears still falling." She was about to begin a vigil last night for her 16-year-old son on the East Baltimore corner where he was shot to death one year ago.

Were they firecrackers? A distraught woman wandered toward Robinson and pointed toward Grogan Avenue: "Somebody just got shot."

Within moments, patrol cars swarmed the area. Paramedics carried a shirtless man, bleeding, from a rowhouse on a stretcher. Police officers passed four screaming toddlers and babies from inside the house to screaming women outside. A man was handcuffed.

Around the corner, at Luzerne and Hoffman streets, the vigil for Shawn Tiller was just beginning. Bathed in the blue-and-red police lights from the shooting scene, Robinson and about 50 friends and relatives bowed their heads for a quiet prayer.

"What is it going to take?" asked Diana Hood, the woman leading the prayer. "What is it really going to take, Lord, for us to say, `No more'?"

Travis Williams, Shawn's cousin, sang, his voice carrying over the squawking squad cars, "I don't know about tomorrow. Just live from day to day."

Last Nov. 11, two days before he would have turned 17, Shawn was shot several times. He was taken to Johns Hopkins Hospital, where his mother is a clerk, and was pronounced dead.

The man shot last night, multiple times in the chest, also was taken to Hopkins, where he was pronounced dead, said Officer Troy Harris, a department spokesman. Police released no further information about the man.

Everyone who spoke at Shawn's vigil acknowledged last night's shooting.

"How can it be that seconds before we start our rally, we hear the bullets shot again?" asked Marvin "Doc" Cheatham, president of the Baltimore branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. "This was a message tonight. ... It has got to stop."

Robinson told the group that when others thought the bangs might have been firecrackers, she immediately feared worse.

"I know what gunshots sound like," she said.

Afterward, she said she would not be holding any more vigils for her son on the corner. It is still too dangerous, she said.

"It just makes me so angry," Robinson said. "I am so hurt. I am just sick of these murders. I am just tired. I just wish they would stop."

There have been 256 homicide victims this year in Baltimore. The "Tears still falling" T-shirts that Robinson wore and passed out to others bore her son's baby photo on the front and the names of last year's 275 homicide victims on the back. Shawn was No. 236.

Police have said they believe that Shawn's killing was gang-related, but no arrests have been made. Like his elder brother, Shawn had apparently joined the Bloods.

In the days after his killing, the letter "B" with an arrow pointing upward was written under the words "RIP Shawn," and the phrase "one blood" was spray-painted on the ground, according to an account in The Sun.

Robinson said she didn't believe that Shawn was in a gang until droves of young men, dressed all in red, showed up at his funeral.

At yesterday's vigil, Shawn's mother and father, Taunses Robinson, begged the dozens of teenagers present to get off the streets and stop hurting one another. "If you have a friend that you know carries a gun, ask them to put that gun down," she said.

Later, Taunses Robinson urged anyone who wanted a job to come to him. He said his pallet company has never turned away a young person seeking work.

As he spoke, a teenage boy in a red ball cap zoomed past on a red motorcycle.

We need a "movement to save our young people ... so we won't continue to hear gunshots before a vigil," Taunses Robinson said. "It's crazy."

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