Relatives mourn 14-year-old fatally shot Thursday

December 24, 2010|By Julie Scharper, The Baltimore Sun

Issac Joyner's Christmas presents are tucked away in a closet in his aunt's house: shirts, sweaters, a new camera. His aunt had planned to buy the 14-year-old a pair of new shoes on Christmas Eve. Instead, she spent the day comforting relatives and planning for his funeral.

"His Christmas gifts are all here," said the aunt, Michelle Joyner. "And he's not here to open them."

Issac was standing outside with two other teenagers in the 1000 block of Ashburton St. in West Baltimore — a few blocks from his home — at about 7:30 p.m. Thursday when a gunman opened fire.

Issac was struck in the head and pronounced dead an hour later at the Maryland Shock Trauma Center. A 17-year-old and a 15-year-old were taken to nearby hospitals with non-life-threatening injuries, according to police spokesman Detective Jeremy Silbert.

Police say they have not identified a suspect or motive in the shooting, but homicide detectives have questioned several witnesses.

Family members described Issac as a "sweet boy" who excelled at baseball and stayed away from drugs and gangs.

"He would tell me every night that he loved me," said his grandmother, Vernette Joyner. "If I was asleep, he would shake me real good until I woke up and say, 'I love you, Grandma.'"

The second of three children, Issac lived with his grandmother and mother, Shenia Joyner, in the 2500 block of W. Mosher St., but frequently visited his aunt a half mile away in the 1600 block of Claymont.

Relatives and friends gathered at his aunt's home on Christmas Eve, carrying buckets of fried chicken and biscuits. Two of his friends sat quietly on folding chairs while the boy's young cousins tugged on their arms.

"I don't even remember when we met," said a friend, Jabril Hall, 14. "Issac was so close, he was more like family."

Issac was an eighth-grade student at The Alternative Learning Center, a school for students with academic or behavioral problems, family members said. He had gotten in trouble at school a few times, but had no serious juvenile charges against him, family members said.

Michelle Joyner, her face streaked with tears, flipped through a stack of photos of Issac — sporting gold-rimmed sunglasses at his elementary school graduation, clowning in a fountain on a trip to Kings Dominion last summer.

Her wide-eyed 3-year-old grandson clung to her arm. "Issac in heaven," he said.

The teenager spent his final hours in his aunt's house, eating Salisbury steaks and roughhousing with his young cousins, his aunt said. After dinner, he carried a television into the house for his aunt and her daughter. The two women left to do more shopping; it was the last time they would see Issac alive.

When Michelle Joyner came home, she spotted the blinking lights of fire trucks and police cars. Then she received a text message with the grim news.

"I ran over there, but by that time he was at Shock Trauma," Michelle Joyner said. The police "said he was just standing there and some guys came up. I don't think it was intentional."

"He didn't deserve this," said her daughter, Tenika Wallace. "He was just a baby."

Last year, while a student at the Success Academy, Issac joined other male students to view a documentary called "Men II Boys," about the difficulty of growing up without a father. The event was hosted by the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, and a story about it appeared in the JHU Gazette.

Afterward, Issac shared his thoughts with a reporter. "The film really made me think about how hard it is being a black man in America," he said.

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