Student slain

15-year-old stabbed outside his west-side school

teen questioned

November 22, 2008|By Justin Fenton and Sara Neufeld | Justin Fenton and Sara Neufeld, and

A 15-year-old student was stabbed and killed outside his West Baltimore middle school yesterday afternoon, the first killing of a youth on city school grounds during school hours in more than 20 years.

Police got a call for an injured person shortly after 1 p.m. and found the boy in the back of William H. Lemmel Middle School suffering from multiple stab wounds to his upper torso, according to Agent Donny Moses, a police spokesman. The teenager was taken to Sinai Hospital, where he was pronounced dead.

Shortly before 9 p.m. yesterday, a boy about 14 or 15 years old turned himself in at the Northwest District precinct house and said he was there in connection with the stabbing, said another spokesman, Officer Troy Harris, later.

FOR THE RECORD - Several articles and headlines about the Nov. 21 stabbing death of Markel Williams, a 15-year-old student at William H. Lemmel Middle School, did not provide sufficient context about the history of violence in Baltimore schools. On Jan. 17, 2001, just before school began, Juan Matthews was fatally shot near the entrance of Lake Clifton-Eastern High School. The Baltimore Sun regrets the errors.

The boy was being questioned last night by detectives, he said.

School officials said the victim and his suspected attacker were students at Lemmel. The victim was found near the entrance to a charter school, ConneXions Community Leadership Academy, which operates independently in the middle school building.

Education and city officials, including schools chief Andres Alonso and Mayor Sheila Dixon, quickly arrived at the school yesterday. Alonso and Dixon spoke to teachers in the library and to a group of students in a hallway.

"It shows that even as we improve we have extraordinary challenges," Alonso told The Baltimore Sun. "My thoughts are with the families, but this will impact the children, the parents and the community in the school, who have been trying so hard to make the school a good school."

Dixon said grief counselors were at the school and would remain there into next week.

"We have to show young people that there are other choices when they are trying to work out differences," the mayor said outside the school.

The student is the 23rd juvenile homicide victim this year in the city, and the second this week. Steven Graham, 14, was fatally shot in South Baltimore on Tuesday.

City officials said they could not recall a killing of a student on school grounds during school hours in the past several years.

Lemmel and ConneXions, an independently run, public charter school with an emphasis on the arts, have not been untouched by violence this year. In January, Edward Smith, 14, an eighth-grader at ConneXions, was fatally shot in Cherry Hill. And in April, a 14-year-old boy was stabbed in the neck with a pair of scissors during an altercation in a first-floor hallway at Lemmel Middle.

Lemmel houses a third school, the Alternative Learning Center at Lemmel, which is geared toward students who have fallen behind or have behavior problems.

Moses, the police spokesman, said the victim of the stabbing yesterday had been on a list of the Northwestern Police District's most troubled juveniles.

His name was not immediately released. Police confirmed that he had been arrested several times but did not divulge the nature of the charges.

The school, in the 2800 block of N. Dukeland St., is next to Gwynns Falls Elementary School, and police maintained a heavy presence with patrol cars posted at intersections as classes let out. School police officers kept people moving along sidewalks as students talked about the incident and tried to determine the identity of the victim and suspect.

Detectives blocked the entrance to ConneXions with yellow warning tape, and a winter coat appeared to be lying in the middle of the secured area. Police cadets were brought in to search for evidence.

Since Alonso's arrival in Baltimore in 2007, he has taken a number of steps to make schools safer. He gave schools the option of installing metal detectors, which about 40 of them have done. He increased the number of alternative schools for students with behavior problems, including opening one in the central office for students on long-term suspension and expulsion.

But repeatedly, he has said that schools alone cannot solve the problem of violence; the community must be involved.

To that end, after a video of a student beating a teacher at a city high school was publicized in the spring, Alonso called for members of the community to volunteer in the schools, and hundreds of people responded.

Alonso said yesterday that the fatal stabbing reinforces "our efforts to make our schools and communities safe so that every child has a [chance] at life."

Many parents learned of the killing yesterday as they picked up their children.

"It scares me, and I'm sure it scares my boys," said Jameelah Adell as she picked up her son, Ira McCollum, 12, and her nephew, Terry Cannady, also 12. "The kids need to know at all times that they should be where they're supposed to be. The teachers are not responsible for you when you leave this building."

Those leaving the school said they were concerned about the stabbing and wanted to know how the students were able to get outside, but they added that they were not necessarily surprised at the violence.

"I don't feel unsafe because it happens all the time," said Lauren Brunson, 14, an eighth-grader. "There's not much you can do except watch your back."

Schools and police officials could not recall a more recent death on city school grounds involving students since the shooting death of Brent Jordan, who was killed in a Lake Clifton hallway on Jan. 29, 1986. Jordan's death came three months after a 17-year-old student was killed in the Lake Clifton yard, in front of students, during a fight with young men who were not students there.

A 14-year-old ninth-grader was shot and killed in a hallway of the former Harlem Park Junior High School in November 1983. Police said DeWitt Duckett was killed by a teenager who wanted his Georgetown University athletic jacket. School officials said at the time that the shooting was the first homicide to occur in a Baltimore public school.

Baltimore Sun reporter Nick Madigan and researcher Paul McCardell contributed to this article.

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