To school, not just another homicide
All the news reporters at The Sun are required to participate in a weekend work rotation, and last Friday, it was my turn to work the night police shift. Around 10 p.m., I heard from a city police department spokesman that a black juvenile male had been shot in the head. It didn't sound good, but we didn't know for sure if he was alive or dead. As midnight approached and with it the deadline for the paper's final edition, I was able to get enough details from the spokesman (some of them wrong, it later turned out) to squeak out a couple of sentences: A 17-year-old Baltimore resident was killed shortly after 9:30 p.m. at 28th Street and Hillen Road. As I left work early Saturday morning, I wondered about this boy: where he'd gone to school, what his life was like. I wondered, as I often do while writing homicide briefs on weekend shifts, how we would have treated his death if he were white and lived in Howard County.
At Tuesday night's school board meeting, I learned a bit more about him, about David Henderson, who was 18 and shot in the chest (or so the police later said). He was a student at Doris M. Johnson High School, where -- coincidentally -- I spoke to a few freshman English classes earlier this spring about how to write a newspaper profile. The students were writing profiles of the presidential candidates. To give them practice gathering information, I let them interview me about myself and my job. Their teachers were embarrassed when they asked how much money I make, how old I am and whether I'm married, but I told them that reporters have to ask uncomfortable questions and I answered everything they asked. They were a fun group.
The seniors at Doris Johnson were dancing at their prom Friday night when they learned their classmate had been murdered. And if that wasn't enough, four kids leaving the prom were in a car accident when their vehicle was struck by a drunken driver. One was injured seriously.
Speaking at the board meeting, a social worker from the school said David was a "really wonderful kid" who fell victim to senseless street violence. She said it would mean something to his mother that the school board had acknowledged his passing.