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Charges filed in school attack

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Police charged a 20-year-old man with attempted murder yesterday and issued a warrant for a 17-year-old student in the shooting Friday of four teen-agers outside Randallstown High School - an attack that police believe stemmed from a fight over a girl.

While police continued their search for the 17-year-old and two other unnamed suspects, two students remained hospitalized at Maryland Shock Trauma Center.

None of the four students injured in the shooting appeared to have been the intended targets, police said.

The most seriously injured, William Thomas, was listed in critical condition after undergoing two major surgeries. His aunt, Ann R. Godwin, said yesterday that doctors told her that if he survives, he might be paralyzed.

"It still seems like a nightmare," said Godwin, who took her nephew into her Pikesville home midway through his high school career. "But I did get a chance to see him. He moved his eyebrows a little when I talked to him, so I felt like he knew I was there."

A second student, Andre Mellerson, 16, was in fair condition last night after undergoing surgery on his arm. Family members said yesterday that he was alert and doing well.

Late yesterday afternoon, police charged Ronald Patrick Johnson, 20, of the first block of Enchanted Hills Road in Owings Mills with four counts of attempted first-degree murder. Johnson was arrested early Friday evening at a clothing store into which he had run, out of breath and shirtless, trying to buy a T-shirt.

Johnson appeared, wearing a coat but no shirt, before a District Court commissioner in Catonsville yesterday afternoon. He answered the commissioner's questions in a quiet voice and appeared to murmur to himself as he was led from the hearing room.

Johnson will be held without bail at the Franklin Precinct in Reisterstown pending a bail review hearing, scheduled for 10 a.m. tomorrow in Catonsville.

Also yesterday, police said they had issued a warrant charging Matthew McCullough, a 17-year-old student at the school, with four counts of attempted first-degree murder. McCullough is one of two young men who police said fired a semi-automatic handgun into a crowd of about 70 students milling around the school after a charity basketball game.

Last night, a woman who opened the blinds at McCullough's home in the 3900 block of Whispering Meadow Drive said, "No!" and walked away when a reporter identified himself and requested an interview. A strip of cardboard had been taped over the building number of the house.

Police said they are also still seeking the second shooting suspect, a heavyset young man whom they identified only by his alias, "Fat Boy," and an unidentified fourth man they say was involved in the shooting.

Baltimore County Police Chief Terrence B. Sheridan said at a late afternoon news conference yesterday that the shooting appeared to be related to a dispute over a girl earlier last week - but that none of the four victims was part of that dispute.

According to charging documents, Johnson drove with two other men to the high school in a black BMW after school Friday afternoon. They got there as the crowd watching an annual charity basketball game organized by Del. Robert A. Zirkin was breaking up.

The initial police account Friday stated that the shooting broke out almost immediately after the BMW arrived at the school. Yesterday, Sheridan offered a revised version.

After the BMW arrived, police said yesterday, the men in the car began fighting outside the school with some students. Outnumbered, one of them returned to the car and retrieved a semi-automatic handgun from its trunk, Sheridan said.

According to charging documents, witnesses saw Johnson possibly loading the gun and then giving it to either McCullough or "Fat Boy." One of the witnesses yelled, "They have a gun!" and told a friend to duck, documents state. She then saw a heavyset young man walk around the car and start shooting, the documents say.

Police said "Fat Boy" handed the gun to McCullough, who they say also fired at students.

Several bullets struck Thomas, who was at the scene by chance, his aunt said. Godwin said her nephew had stayed at school to watch the basketball game because his school bus did not show up. After the game, he had called his cousin, Godwin's son, for a ride home.

Thomas stood at the edge of the school driveway so he would see his cousin arrive - putting him within range of the shooters, Godwin said. His ride arrived just after he was shot, she said.

"He was an innocent bystander," Godwin said. "If you were in the way, you got it. That's the way that went."

Godwin said Thomas moved in with her after living in Georgia, where his mother had moved from Baltimore. She described him as an unusually focused teen-ager who worked four hours every evening at a nearby telemarketing firm and who plans to attend Morgan State University to study electrical engineering.

Thomas has a full summer lined up after graduation: a trip to a wedding in Los Angeles, a trip to Hawaii with his dance group, and then a six-week engineering program at Morgan.

"He always came home and minded his business," Godwin said. "He did what he needed to do. He was homebound because he wanted to focus on his education and maintain good grades."

As Godwin and the rest of Thomas' family stood watch at Shock Trauma, 16-year-old Marcus McLain's family was at home and greatly relieved. McLain, who was struck in the ankle by a bullet, was released from Sinai Hospital yesterday morning.

The junior star quarterback on the school's football team had a cast on his ankle but was grateful to have escaped more serious injuries, said his older brother, Marvin McLain.

"He's doing fine. He's in good spirits, but everyone's upset about the whole situation," he said. "We're worried about the other kids involved who are still in the hospital."

The fourth victim, Alex Brown, 17, was released from Shock Trauma on Friday night.

Meanwhile yesterday, school officials, students and their families tried to come to terms with the shootings, which have startled a Baltimore County suburb that prides itself on being an emerging success story for the black middle class.

The 1,500-student school has dealt with discipline problems in recent years but nothing similar to Friday's attack.

Baltimore County Executive James T. Smith Jr. compared local alarm over the incident to the reaction in Littleton, Colo., to the 1999 shootings at Columbine High School. "This community was just as shocked," he said.

School officials met yesterday in Towson to discuss how to handle the effects of the shootings when school resumes tomorrow. Some relatives of the victims said yesterday that they expected an explanation from officials about why more hadn't been done to quell the dispute that led to the shooting.

The relatives, who requested anonymity for fear of retribution by the shooting suspects, said school officials should have been aware that serious threats were being made against students involved in the dispute.

Marvin McLain did not blame the school, but he said his family had yet to decide whether his brother would return to Randallstown High or attend a private school.

"It's up in the air," said Marvin McLain, 23. "We've been living in this neighborhood for 16 years. ... He wants to play ball with his friends."

At the same time, he said, "This is serious right here, a guy shooting into a crowd of students. There's no place for that."

Sun staff writers Jeff Barker and Liz F. Kay contributed to this article.

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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