By Justin Fenton, The Baltimore Sun
8:31 PM EDT, August 6, 2013
Barbara Poindexter saw the death of her son coming.
She likens it to watching her mother's health deteriorate. In her son's case, death followed a slow and agonizing descent into gangs and criminal activity.
"When my mother came to the end, I was not surprised," Poindexter said. "When my son came to the end, I was not surprised.
"I just didn't know when."
On May 4, 2012, Quintin Poindexter got out of a car with three men, who were recorded on surveillance video walking behind Windsor Hills Elementary School. Six shots are fired, and Quintin's three companions run back across the frame.
His body was found the next morning by a woman walking her dog.
His family's story offers a window on a struggle among Baltimore families: the tug-of-war between relatives intent on guiding children toward productive lives and criminal organizations in search of recruits.
At the time of his death, relatives and law enforcement authorities say, 18-year-old Quintin was a member of the Black Guerrilla Family gang. Police say he was killed over a missing gun.
"My son was not born a gang member," Barbara Poindexter said. "Someone introduced him to that life, and God forbid, if my son would have lived, he may have introduced someone to that life."
Kyle Williams, 27, pleaded guilty last month to first-degree murder in the killing. He was sentenced to 35 years in prison.
Quintin knew Williams — he had sat at his mother's dinner table, slept in his bed, and played with his younger siblings.
"A fundamental characteristic of gang activity or organized crime," Judge Michael W. Reed said at Williams' sentencing last month, "is often people are killed by people who are known to them or closest to them."
Williams acknowledged that he was present at Quintin's killing but insisted he didn't know what was going to happen.
"It was unfortunate how it all played out," Williams told the judge at his sentencing, as Quintin's family sat a few feet away. Quintin "became a part of something that was vicious."
Quintin was the youngest of four raised by a single mother in Southwest Baltimore. Barbara Poindexter, now 52, worked in health care — working her way up from nursing assistant to owner of two assisted-living facilities — and says she provided a stable home.
For a time, they lived in Baltimore County, where Quintin attended public schools. As a child, his mother says, he was exuberant, inquisitive and obedient.
It was when the family moved back to Baltimore during his middle school years — they landed in the Park Heights area — that Barbara says she began to lose her son.
"His first year in middle school, it was like one person went in, and another came out," she said. Before then, she said, "he didn't know anything about cutting school and smoking weed."
Relatives believe the fatal shooting of one of his best friends in seventh grade was a pivotal moment. He had never been to a funeral before, let alone seen the head of a good friend stapled back together in a casket.
It was an image Quintin could not shake. He stopped going to school. Then he started vanishing altogether, going days without coming home, sometimes dropping in only for family gatherings.
Though Quintin hadn't had any scrapes with the law, Barbara Poindexter says she took a proactive approach. She sent him to the Mountain Manor treatment facility and the Victor Cullen Center.
David Miller, director of the Urban Leadership Institute in Baltimore, says that youths who get sucked into criminal activity do not always come from low-income neighborhoods. He said lack of fathers and glorification of violence is often a major factor.
"You have a lot of kids growing up in good families, doing everything they can to combat this nonsense, but there's some larger forces out here," Miller said.
Quintin's aunt, Robin Poindexter, remembers seeing her nephew fighting with an older man on the street. It was Williams, and he was teaching Quintin how to defend himself.
Robin Poindexter says she approached Williams.
"Is this something he's not going to be able to get out of, like a die-out thing?" she says she asked.
"He can walk away any time he wants to," she says Williams responded.
Quintin got a tattoo on his arm: "2900," a reference to the seedy apartment complex in the 2900 block of Garrison Blvd. where he was spending more and more time.
Barbara Poindexter would send his brother Gerard to find him and bring him home.
"I'd get up in the middle of the night, because he'd be in all kinds of different situations, more than I can remember," said Gerard Poindexter, 28. "The people he associated with lived in deplorable situations. … That apartment complex was a breeding ground for everything that had ill will and bad intent."
Quintin's first arrest came in November 2010, when a loaded handgun tumbled out of his waistband as he ran from police.
In August 2011, his brother found a gun stashed in the family couch, leading to a fight that ended with his mother taking out a protective order so her son could not return home.
In February 2012, Quintin was caught selling heroin in Southwest Baltimore.
Barbara Poindexter says her son had for the most part confined that activity to the streets. In her presence, she says, he was always contrite, even ashamed.
She says she never saw anything to suggest her son was in a gang, and would have rejected the assertion if someone else had made it. But she went digging through his things after his killing and found a Black Guerrilla Family rule book.
The surveillance tape from Windsor Hills shows three people involved in Quintin's killing. Detectives received tips that Williams was involved. In a search of his home, they found the murder weapon.
During questioning, police say, Williams gave the names of the other people with him that night. But no one has been charged or even questioned.
This upsets the Poindexter family.
"You had two black men that had records," Gerard said. "One died, and the other went to jail, and the case was closed as far as they're concerned.
"They do enough to get by, to quiet the families, to push ahead to the next case."
Williams was sentenced July 26 in a cramped courtroom by Reed. There were only two benches for members of the public.
That meant families of the victim and the suspect had to scrunch together in the few seats available.
A skirmish had broken out during a different hearing earlier that day, and the relatives of Poindexter and Williams were warned to keep their emotions in check.
The Poindexters delivered their victim impact statements. Barbara Poindexter was first.
"I didn't know I could hurt this bad," she told Reed. "I didn't know I could drive around the city and get lost in a place I've lived my whole life."
She then turned her gaze to Williams. Separated by less than 10 feet, two attorneys and some rickety wooden chairs, she told him that he had betrayed young Quintin.
"You may have been in the same gang, but Quintin loved you. He looked up to you. He respected you," she told him. Williams, with his thick beard and bald head, stared right back.
"If you never know another person who loves you, know that Quintin did," she said.
Gerard got up and unleashed a quiet fury.
"I will always have the hatred I have, and it will never go away, diminish or die," he said calmly. Perhaps some day it will subside, he said. "But today I hate."
When it was his time to speak, Williams said that he did not shoot "Dexter" or know that it was going to happen.
He said he took the plea deal only because his "back was up against the wall" and he would have faced more prison time had he not accepted.
On Tuesday, he tried to revoke the plea, but a judge denied the request.
As for Quintin's immersion into gang life, Williams said he "didn't have anything to do with that, but I let him become a part of it."
"He made the decision himself, as a man," Williams said.
Since Quintin's death, Barbara and Robin Poindexter have been visiting schools, showing his picture and speaking about the insidious nature of gang violence.
They talk about decision-making, and urge kids to stay with their "original gang — your family."
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