Tow truck driver, 23, killed in W. Baltimore

Ellicott City native had struggled with deaths of elder brothers

November 01, 2010|By Justin Fenton, The Baltimore Sun

A 23-year-old tow truck driver from Linthicum was killed early Monday in West Baltimore as he finished up his shift, according to police and the man's father.

Andrew Joyce was found dead of a gunshot wound inside his truck in the 500 block of Mosher St. about 2:30 a.m., police said. Mike Joyce, his father, said he was completing a shift that began at 5 p.m. It was the Ellicott City native's second month on the job.

Mike Joyce said his son was one week away from completing his probation stemming from a 2009 drug conviction. The Eagle Scout had been deeply affected by the deaths of his elder twin brothers, Joe and Ian, who suffered from a rare genetic disorder called Batten disease, which rendered them blind and mute and caused seizures and dementia. The family's efforts to bring attention to the disease brought them regularly to Capitol Hill.

When one of his brothers died of complications brought on by the disease, Andrew couldn't get closure: "Every time he looked at Ian, he saw Joe," his father said.

Andrew Joyce began self-medicating with drugs, and spent time at a treatment facility in Utah, his father said. When the arrest dashed his hopes of becoming an emergency medical technician, he vowed to do better.

"It was always the dark side versus the good side," Mike Joyce said of Andrew. "After the drug arrest, he said, 'I'll never do this again. I'll never be in jail again.' He had literally straightened things out."

Police said they located his tow truck in the Upton neighborhood with its bed down, about to load a vehicle. He had been shot once in the chest and was pronounced dead at the scene, said Detective Kevin Brown, a police spokesman.

Mike Joyce said the tow truck company told him that Andrew had been at the site of a tow request, confirmed by the vehicle's global positioning system. But nothing was stolen, and the motive was unclear.

His father said he didn't want special attention for his son's death, but added that he was frustrated that such crimes seem all too common.

"This is just something that happens too many times on a weekly basis down in Baltimore City," he said. "We think about these poor boys overseas fighting in the war, but we've got a war going on in the inner cities of this country, and it's a war we're ignoring."

The killing was one of two over the weekend on the city's west side; the other was an unidentified woman killed Sunday.

Eight others, including a city school bus driver and a 16-year-old for whom police have not located the next of kin, were killed last week. There have been 184 killings in the city this year, compared with 187 at this time last year.

Police confirmed Monday that the death of a 46-year-old Southwest Baltimore man who hit his head on the ground after getting into a fight Thursday was being investigated as a homicide. Police had a person of interest in the killing of Dobia Norris Wright, of the 1500 block of Cole St., but had not made an arrest.

Andrew Joyce's job as a tow truck driver took him all over the region, and he had asked that he not be sent out on repossession calls because he didn't want confrontations, his father said.

"I talked to his boss, and the tow truck companies are calling each other because they've never had a tow truck driver killed on the job," Mike Joyce said.

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