Marckel Ross, 18, who was a senior at Central High School in Capitol Heights, was one of six teenagers killed in Prince George’s County in a six-month period during the last school year. None of the shootings happened in a school.
Ross was shot walking to school. “He didn’t even get to see 19,” Williams a crowd gathered Tuesday night in Central High’s auditorium at a forum on youth violence organized by Men Aiming Higher, a mentoring organization. “I know life is short. Anything can happen any day. . . . I try to put my mark on the world, and I always pray.”
Darryl Barnes, president of the mentoring group, told the crowd that it is urgent to find solutions to violence against youth. “Look at what happened here at Central High School. Look at what happened at Suitland High School, where a child was shot for Timberlands,” Barnes said. “We have to stop the violence.”
The killings that jolted the county last year just as a new school year was beginning seemed to make little sense. A community was left struggling over how to keep teenagers safe when there is no pattern to the crime, no rule to follow, no instruction that could offer security.
Ross was fatally shot September 2012 as he walked to school. Police believe that he might have been a robbery target. Days earlier, Amber Stanley, a senior at Charles H. Flowers High School, was killed in her home in Kettering. In December, Eliezer Benjamin Reyes, 14, a student at Foundation School, an alternative school in Largo, was killed in a drive-by shooting while walking with two acquaintances. Marcus Jones, a sophomore at Friendly High School, was shot in January shortly after leaving a party in Fort Washington.
In February, Aaron Kidd, 18, a freshman at Suitland High School, was killed while hanging out with friends outside an apartment complex, and Charles Walker Jr., 15, also a freshman at Suitland, was fatally shot while walking to school. Police said Walker was robbed by assailants who wanted the Timberland boots he was carrying in a shopping bag.
And if those crimes hadn’t done enough to shake the resolve of parents, many then had to explain to their children the acquittal of George Zimmerman, who was charged in the slaying of Trayvon Martin, an unarmed 17-year-old.
In the quiet auditorium at Central High, more than 100 parents, community activists, and county and state officials sought answers to how to keep more children from dying violently.
Despite the violence and the challenges that youths face, most are thriving, said Darius A. Stanton, the panel’s moderator. “The focus here is not to bash anyone. We want to know how we can impact young people so we don’t lose more lives.”