Teen's 'one more chance' ends in fatal shooting

Days before death, 14-year-old released from home detention

November 20, 2008|By Gus G. Sentementes and Julie Bykowicz | Gus G. Sentementes and Julie Bykowicz and,gus.sentementes@baltsun.com and julie.bykowicz@baltsun.com

The 14-year-old, a boy who had sold drugs while his father was behind bars for attempted murder, was getting one last chance, his uncle said.

For about a month, Steven Graham was on community detention in Brooklyn, his every move tracked by an electronic monitoring ankle bracelet, the uncle said. The restrictions came after an arrest for drug possession, and there were other recent arrests for assault and suspected drug dealing. His uncle also thought he might be mixed up in a gang.

On Friday, court officials removed the ankle bracelet because Steven had fulfilled the orders of a Juvenile Court master in the drug case. Tuesday evening, Steven was shot to death while riding his bicycle past Engine Co. 35 fire station in Brooklyn, a few blocks from his house. Police said they think it might have been a drive-by shooting but had no suspects last night.

"If I had kept him under house arrest, he might still be alive," said his uncle, Harold Wilson, who said he lived with the boy and was helping to raise him. "We let him off after a month to give him one more chance."

Steven, whose nickname was "Jamaica," was an eighth-grader at Masonville Cove Community Academy in Brooklyn. He lived in the 500 block of Annabel Ave. with his uncle and other relatives.

His mother lives in Jamaica. His father, also named Steven Graham, has been locked up since his arrest in June 2006. In March 2007 in Baltimore Circuit Court, Graham pleaded guilty to attempted second-degree murder and using a handgun to kill Donta Roberts, 28, in Northwest Baltimore. Graham is serving his five-year sentence at the Maryland Correctional Institute in Hagerstown.

Wilson, 30, knew his nephew was in trouble, but he says he didn't know the extent of it. Steven was evasive when asked about his friends and activities, the uncle said.

For the past few months, Steven had been having problems. Three weeks ago, while Steven was walking home from school and wearing a red jacket - a color associated with the Bloods gang - he was jumped by boys who tried to beat him up, Wilson said. But he was able to run away.

About a month and a half ago, Wilson said, Steven claimed that his friend had been kidnapped and shot in the neighborhood. The friend survived, Wilson said, adding that he knew little about the crime, including the friend's real name.

Tuesday morning, city police officers came to his Annabel Avenue house looking for Steven's friend, Wilson said. Officer Troy Harris, a police spokesman, said the warrant apprehension task force went to the house to look for a suspect in a recent crime. The Annabel Avenue address came up because the suspect, whose name was not released, was a friend of Steven's.

That evening, Steven left the house. Wilson said he didn't know where his nephew was heading.

About 7:30 p.m., Kenya Johnson, a firefighter-paramedic at Engine Co. 35, was in a firehouse office when he heard a loud bang. He suspected that it was a gunshot and started walking toward the front of the station when he heard someone pounding on the large roll-up garage door and yelling: "Somebody's been shot!"

"I heard the shot. It was a loud shot, not a popgun," Johnson said. "That wasn't a firecracker."

He and other emergency workers rushed outside. Steven was lying on the ground, about 20 feet in front of one of the garage doors. "He wasn't conscious," said Johnson, 34, a former city school teacher. "He was out that fast."

Steven appeared to have been shot once in the torso while riding past the station, Johnson said. His bike lay about two feet away. Paramedics transported Steven to Maryland Shock Trauma Center, where he died a short time later, police said.

This year, 19 children have been ruled Baltimore homicide victims, compared with 27 last year, according to police data. The Department of Juvenile Services reports that four of those teens, including Steven, who was on probation, were under their watch.

Steven was the third Baltimore 14-year-old to be shot to death this year. The others were Edward Smith on Jan. 14 in the 800 block of Bethune Road and Shaundretta Griffin on April 14 in the 1900 block of Patterson Park Ave.

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