Hundreds gather to remember Michael Ledford, 17, Briana Macapagal,… (Baltimore Sun photo by Justin…)
Hundreds of people gathered in Federal Hill on Monday night to remember three young people killed late Sunday when police say they were struck by a stolen vehicle.
Holding candles and wearing shirts adorned with the victims' pictures, there were attempts to give testimonials and sing "Amazing Grace," but the group — representing generations from the Morrell Park neighborhood — was at a collective loss of words. Most just needed a shoulder to cry on.
"They were just kids," said neighbor Tony Beckner, 40. "You have three kids doing nothing wrong, and you're gonna take them from us?"
Michael Ledford, 17, Briana Macapagal, 17, and Kevin Thomas, 18, were killed late Sunday after their 1994 Ford Tempo was struck as they drove through the intersection at Hanover and Ostend streets about 11:30 p.m. Police said a stolen 2002 Lincoln Town Car tore through a red light, sending their vehicle spinning into a row of parked cars. The driver of the stolen vehicle, 19-year-old Charles Johnson III, was caught by officers as he attempted to flee on foot. He faces charges including vehicular manslaughter and car theft.
Ledford and Macapagal were dating and had a 5-month-old daughter; Ledford and Thomas had been friends since childhood.
"A little baby is out there without a mother and a father," said Thomas' father, Nelson.
Police blocked off traffic Monday on busy Hanover Street as the crowd grew. The tone of the memorial swung between grief and anger.
Court records show Johnson, of the 900 block of Argonne Drive, was on probation for a theft charge in Baltimore County. In October 2009, he was convicted and sentenced to 18 months in jail, with all but 12 months suspended, and was placed on probation through March 2011.
He has since been picked up on two violations of that probation, and was released in late August on the most recent violation — an arrest for assault and destruction of property in the city that was dropped.
Thomas' mother said the charge of vehicular manslaughter — which carries a maximum penalty of 10 years — was not sufficient, and she grew more upset when told that a second man in the stolen vehicle had been released without charges.
"Where's the justice for those three little angels? It ain't right," the mother said.
Police spokesman Anthony Guglielmi said that the second man cooperated with investigators and apparently had not known the vehicle he was riding in was stolen.
Guglielmi also denied claims — by witnesses at the scene and family and friends of the victims — that police had been chasing the stolen vehicle, which he said were not supported by 911 calls and radio dispatches from Sunday night.
An officer was in the area at the time, police said, and arrested Johnson as he tried to run. He searched him and found a bag of suspected marijuana in Johnson's pants pocket.
Witnesses said at least one of the victims was thrown from the vehicle and that a passer-by attempted to perform CPR on Macapagal. She was pronounced dead about 2 a.m. at Maryland Shock Trauma Center. Thomas and Ledford were pronounced dead just after midnight.
At the vigil, a woman passed out cups to catch the dripping candle wax. Balloons tied to a tree blew in the wind, as mourners attached cards, posters and toys to its trunk.
Macapagal's father attempted to address the crowd but was overcome with emotions.
"Last night was my last hug for my daughter," he said. "If I knew it would happen like this, I would not let them go last night."
"My niece gotta grow up with no parents!" a woman next to him wailed.
Nelson Thomas said the group of teens had been hanging out Sunday night at Macapagal's home in South Baltimore and were heading back home. He was asleep, he said, when police came to the house, handed him his son's wallet and told him that he was dead.
"It's the worst feeling a man can go through in his life," he said.
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