Gina James remembers a staff member at the Foundation School in Largo delivering a sketch to her office one day. It was a drawing of a rose by Eliezer Reyes, 14, the youngest of the slain students. Reyes was gunned down a little after midnight on Dec. 5 while walking along a Lewisdale street with two acquaintances.
His companions, police said, were “documented” members of a gang known as the Lewisdale Crew. It is unclear whether Reyes belonged to the gang.
Reyes’s father, Jose Reyes, said he had implored his son to say home that night. But he said the boy was in the habit of going out when he pleased.
Police said the alleged drive-by shooter, who has been charged with murder, is a member of Mara Salvatrucha, or MS-13, a gang that has been feuding with the Lewisdale Crew. One of Eliezer Reyes’s companions was wounded in the attack.
“I still have the picture” of the rose, said James, director of the county-supported Foundation School, which specializes in educating youngsters with emotional and behavioral problems. “I think he wanted to be an artist.”
In the other allegedly gang-related killing, Marcus Jones, 16, a sophomore at Friendly High, was shot just after midnight on Jan. 20, shortly after leaving a house party in Fort Washington. “He was just a happy 16-year-old,” said his grandmother Barbara Beverly. He liked football and basketball, she said. He was an Eagles fan and collected tennis shoes.
It was his choice of friends — meaning his gang affiliation — that got him killed, police said. They said Jones belonged to a crew called Danger Boys. When a dispute erupted outside the party, bullets flew and Jones collapsed to the pavement. Two alleged members of a rival crew called Baby Haiti have been charged with murder.
“These young people,” Beverly said. “They done lost their mind.”
And there was 17-year-old Stanley, the first of the six students slain. What separates her case from the rest is that Stanley, unlike the other victims, could hardly have been in a safer place when she was killed.
She was in her Kettering home.
About 10:30 p.m. Aug. 22, police said, an intruder burst in, chased Stanley to her bedroom, shot her, then walked out of the house and vanished.
Law enforcement officials said detectives are exploring whether the assailant killed Stanley by mistake, whether the intended target was another 17-year-old girl living in the house, a foster child with a troubled past.
Stanley was a senior at Charles H. Flowers High, an honor student in a science and technology program who hoped to go to medical school. Like Ross, she occasionally modeled.
“I want to know why,” said Gaither, her mother. “That’s the main thing: Why?”
Months after her burial, college information packets addressed to Stanley continue to arrive in the mail, a reminder for her mother of what might have been.
“I just can’t begin to even try to reason as to what’s all this going on with the kids,” Gaither said of the students who have been slain. “I guess it just stems back to what’s going on with the world situation. I guess they feel that if these adults don’t really care, then why should they care?”
“I don’t know,” she said. “I have no idea.”
Dan Morse and Clarence Williams contributed to this report.