A younger brother of basketball star Len Bias, whose cocaine-induced death rocked college athletics four years ago, was shot and killed yesterday after an argument in a jewelry store in Prince George's County, police said.
James Stanley "Jay" Bias, 20, was pronounced dead of two gunshot wounds at 2:52 p.m. at Leland Memorial Hospital, the same hospital where his brother was taken unconscious from a cocaine overdose on June 19, 1986.
A suspect was charged with first-degree murder last night in Jay Bias's death after surrendering at a police substation.
Len Bias's death four years ago became a symbol of the drug epidemic sweeping the area. After the death, his mother, Lonise, crusaded throughout the country against the scourge that took her son's life.
Yesterday, the second of her three sons fell victim to the violence that has proliferated in the area with the advent of crack cocaine and readily available weapons and, according to law enforcement officials, has become a frightening part of everyday life locally.
Len Bias, a collegiate All-American, collapsed in his University of Maryland dormitory room and died after celebrating his selection in the National Basketball Association draft by the Boston Celtics.
There was no indication yesterday that the death of Jay Bias was drug-related.
Rather, police said, the shooting apparently stemmed from a sudden and capricious argument in a jewelry store at Prince George's Plaza near Hyattsville between a clerk, her boyfriend and Bias.
Charged last night with murdering Bias was Jerry Samuel Taylor, 24, of the 4900 block of Iverson Place, Temple Hills, county police said. They said Taylor, who was being sought as a suspect, turned himself in at the Oxon Hill police station. He was being held without bond.
According to Prince George's County police, Bias and two friends were looking at a ring in Kay Jewelers when a man entered the store and, becoming belligerent, accused Bias of flirting with his girlfriend, the clerk. The store manager, hearing the commotion, ordered the men to take their argument outside, police said. Manager Mike McCutcheon, 28, said police and the company had asked him not to talk about the incident.
The man left, but Bias, who was overheard to say that he did not want to get into a fight, remained inside the store for a short time, police sources said.
As Bias and his friends were driving out of the parking lot in the 3400 block of East-West Highway, a Mercedes-Benz pulled alongside their four-wheel-drive vehicle, police said. Bias's friends told investigators that he told them to "just ignore that guy." But the man took out a handgun and began shooting, police sources said.
Bias, who was riding in the front seat, was shot in the back and pronounced dead about an hour and a half later.
Another passenger in the vehicle, Andre Campbell, 24, was treated at Leland for facial cuts, a hospital spokeswoman said. The vehicle's driver, who was not identified, was not injured, police said.
Police said after they charged Tyler with murder last night that they still were seeking the driver of the Mercedes for questioning. They said they had found that vehicle in the District.
Shoppers knew all about the shooting last night. Manzi Coles, shopping at Pyramid Book Store in Prince George's Plaza, said, "It's like the wild, wild west . . . . Have they no value on human life? It seems like they just don't care."
In 1986, the family's private sorrow became the stuff of national obsession as allegations of cocaine use by Bias and members of the University of Maryland basketball team were played out during the trial of Bias's friend, Brian Tribble.
Tribble, who recently pleaded guilty to unrelated drug charges, ultimately was acquitted of supplying Bias with the fatal dose of cocaine.
When Len Bias died, Jay was one day short of his 16th birthday and already a basketball star at Northwestern High School. The day after his brother's death, Jay played in a summer league game, telling friends that he was doing so in memory of his brother.
In many ways, Jay Bias was a younger and rowdier version of his brother Len and had perhaps even more versatile ability.
His coach at Northwestern, Robert W. Wagner, said of his skills in 1986, "Jay is a more rounded player. He can run, he can dribble, he can dunk. Leonard was more of a standup player, an insider at this point."
At the same time, Jay Bias, was prone to on-court fights, including a bench-clearing brawl against Eleanor Roosevelt High School, and had grade trouble that forced him to miss several games his senior year.
Bias was named to the first team All-Met as a senior, but fell short of meeting the requirements for a Division I college scholarship. Instead he signed with Allegany Community College. He attended the school in Cumberland for a year before dropping out.
Recently, friends said, Bias had been working for a local bank and considering returning to college.
Members of the Bias family gathered at their home in Landover last night. Asked how the family was coping with their loss, a woman who said she was Bias's aunt said, "We're taking it . . . . Just pray for us, just pray."
A steady stream of visitors approached the house, which had its shades drawn and a single light in the window, and were admitted through the narrowly cracked door.
"All he was trying to do was fill his brother's shoes and go the one step his brother wasn't able to go," by playing for the NBA, said a neighbor. "It just wasn't meant for him to do that."
In interviews after Len Bias's death, his mother, Lonise, talked of the pain of losing her oldest son before his 23nd birthday and her fears that her other children would not reach their next birthdays.
Naming each of her children and their pending ages, she remarked, "if God willing . . . I say the will of God, because I thought Len Bias would see age 23. And he did not."Staff writers Keith Harriston, Donald Huff, Lisa Leff and Michele L. Norris contributed to this report.