Rico Leroy Marshall's friends and classmates at Forestville High School sought yesterday to reconcile their memories of the former football star with his death early Saturday, which police attributed to a cocaine overdose.
The shockwaves from Marshall's death, which came a few hours after police questioned the 18-year-old at a notorious street drug market, swept through the Prince George's County school as students returned to class after a three-day weekend.
Friends said Marshall's life style was not consistent with the stereotype of a person involved in the seductive and lucrative drug trade. They remembered him driving an old car. A girl he once went out with recalled that they split the cost of a movie date. His clothes, while fashionable, were hardly lavish.
"He wasn't the type that was concerned about money," said Andre Garvin, a friend at Glenarden Apartments, where Marshall lived.
Police have said that Marshall, who signed a letter of intent last week to play football at the University of South Carolina, was arrested along the same drug corridor Dec. 22 and charged as a juvenile with possessing 29 grams of cocaine. He was 18 on Feb. 9.
Meanwhile, police released additional details yesterday of officers' encounter with Marshall shortly before his death.
A Prince George's County police spokesman, Cpl. Bruce Gentile, said that at 1:30 a.m. Saturday two officers in a marked cruiser were making a routine sweep through the 1400 block of Nova Avenue off Marlboro Pike in Capitol Heights, less than a mile from the District line.
"They saw a young man standing next to a car and talking to its occupants. He looked up, saw the marked car and immediately ran off and the car sped away," Gentile said. "He almost ran simultaneously into the arms of two uniformed officers on foot. They stopped him, searched him and found six empty glassine envelopes and approximately $150 in currency."
Officers found no drugs on Marshall and didn't see him take or throw away any drugs, Gentile said, and so had no reason to arrest him.
Two and a half hours later, Marshall was dead. Police quoted a girlfriend of Marshall's, identified as Belinda Hill, as saying that Marshall had swallowed six small chunks of crack, a cocaine derivative, when the officers approached.
The time that elapsed between the police encounter and Marshall's death is consistent with the absorption rate into the bloodstream when a drug such as crack is swallowed, according to Dr. Charles Kokes, acting deputy chief medical examiner for Maryland.
The medical examiner's office said toxicology tests to determine the cause of death may be completed by Friday.
At the high school where Marshall was a star athlete, more than 200 seniors filed into the school's multipurpose room yesterday afternoon after asking a meeting with school officials to discuss his death.
During the closed 45-minute meeting, football coach Eric Knight said later, he urged girl students not to encourage boys to hustle drugs by accepting expensive gifts such as gold chains and other jewelry. "All that is is telling them is that it's okay to deal, and Rico died in vain," Knight reported saying during the assembly.
During a morning meeting with football players, Knight said, one of the players suggested that squad members be given drug tests. A majority of team members seemed to agree, Knight said.
Torrence Montgomery, a junior, said: "I think we should have drug testing. It would be a big step for Forestville. It's too bad that we had to wait too long before this kind of thing had to happen."
At Glenarden Apartments yesterday, Marshall's family was making plans for Thursday's funeral.
Friends and family walked in and out of the second-floor unit, away from the bustling Brightseat Road that leads to nearby Landover Mall.
"I just want to bury my son," Leroy Marshall said, his family standing around him. "My son knew God. He's in His hands."
Staff writer Eugene L. Meyer contributed to this report.