A mother's plea

Our view: Another teen shot in Baltimore, another parent grieves

December 10, 2008

A mother asks her son to run across the street to an elderly neighbor's and bring her some fresh fruit. Like a good son, the 14-year-old heads out the door. But the boy never makes it back home. He's shot as he gets to the neighbor's door and dies an hour later. This isn't a plot summary for a television crime drama. This is what happened on Myrtle Avenue at 9:30 Sunday night.

This is Baltimore at its cruelest.

The sidewalk in front of 1131 Myrtle Ave. is stained with Ronnie Jackson's blood. That's where he was headed with a couple of grapefruits for the woman who lived there. A boy doing an errand for his mother. Ronnie, an eighth-grader at Booker T. Washington Middle School, was gunned down apparently because his killer mistook him for someone else. That's what police suspect at this point, and how far that will take investigators is anyone's guess.

Ronnie wasn't involved with a gang or in trouble with the law. "He's one the streets hadn't touched yet," in the words of one police officer. He had won awards from school, which his mother's fiance proudly showed a Baltimore Sun reporter, and he played cymbals in the school band and was learning the drums. He played basketball at the local Police Athletic League.

Twenty-five teenagers have been murdered in Baltimore this year, too many by anyone's count, and five were just 14 years old.

Murders in Baltimore are down from last year, but juvenile homicides are tracking about the same. Some were no strangers to violence, whether at home, in school or on the streets. Some may have been caught up with the wrong crowd or victimized by one. Either way, their deaths underscore the tough work that remains to be done in this city with at-risk youths and their families. They should compel communities to reach out to those in need and condemn those who prey on Baltimore's youths.

Ronnie Jackson was Patricia Grant's youngest child. In her grief and pain, the mother asks this of her son's killer: "I just want them to turn themselves in. I want them to do the right thing."

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