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Youth leader gunned down on Baltimore's west side

Michael Mayfield, 17, was weeks away from graduating

By Justin Fenton, The Baltimore Sun

10:49 AM EDT, April 18, 2014

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Michael Mayfield did it all: The Baltimore teenager was a member of his school's Junior Reserve Officers Training Corps, played baritone horn in the band, was a force on the mound for the baseball team, and was a youth ambassador and peer mediator.

In a few weeks, he was set to walk the stage at the Edmondson-Westside High School graduation. He had been accepted into a private university in North Carolina.

What more Mayfield might have accomplished in life will remain forever unknown. Around 6 p.m. Wednesday, the 17-year-old was found inside a minivan in the 2300 block of Lyndhurst Ave. suffering from a gunshot wound to the head. He died at an area hospital a short time later, the sixth teen gunned down this year in the city.

"Of all the people it could have happened to, why — why him?" asked Diamond Simpson, who worked with Mayfield on a youth project in the Inner Harbor.

"He was a positive role model," she said. "He was a real figure you could look up to and say, 'Someone I know is trying to make it and doing positive things in life.'"

Police said they are looking for a single gunman. They are asking anyone with information to call homicide detectives at 410-396-2100.

When asked for comment Thursday night, Police Commissioner Anthony W. Batts said he knew "very little" about the case, and officials have not released a motive for the crime. Mayfield's friends can't imagine what it could possibly be.

Mayfield lost his mother years ago and was being raised by his sister, friends said. His family could not be reached for comment.

Mayfield immersed himself in activities. Adrian Hughes, 17, said he grew close to Mayfield through their involvement in the JROTC at Edmondson-Westside.

"Everything that I am now, he was there," Hughes said.

Hughes said Mayfield taught him the "basics of leadership:" How to drill, how to perform color guard duties, how to speak in a command voice.

"He taught me how to lead," said Hughes, who wants to join the Air Force.

Last week they both attended a military gala, and pictures posted to social media show Mayfield and his date — he in his uniform and hat, she wearing a blue gown. Hughes said Mayfield was considering joining the military after graduation.

But college was an option, too. The Rev. Craig Janney, the admissions director at Chowan University, a Baptist school in Murfeesboro, N.C., confirmed that Mayfield had been accepted. Mayfield visited Chowan in March for an event called Leadership Scholarship Day to compete for a scholarship, Janney said.

Others hoped he might play professional baseball. Mark Miazga, an English teacher and the baseball coach at City College, described Mayfield Thursday as a "one-man show of pitching, defense and hitting" who "lifted his team on his shoulders in a way that I really have never seen before."

"Mike was known around the city as one of its best baseball players," Miazga wrote in a blog post. "I was excited to play his team again to see the impressive display he was likely to put on."

Will Conrad, who graduated from City College last year, remembers pitching against Mayfield and trying to match his power. "He just made you want to throw as hard as you could to compete," Conrad recalled. He believes Mayfield had a future in the sport.

"So few kids have a chance to play in college coming out of Baltimore City Public Schools, but I definitely thought he was going to be able to do it," he said.

Amid all his extracurricular activities, Mayfield also was active in the Inner Harbor Project, an after-school program to offer ideas to make the Inner Harbor safe and inclusive for teens. Celia Neustadt, the program's director, said Mayfield had been recommended by the JROTC coordinator.

"Right off the bat, we knew we wanted him to be in the project. He had such a positive attitude," Neustadt said.

She said his work culminated with a speech on Federal Hill last May, where, dressed in his uniform, he talked about ideas to help quash conflicts between young people in the city.

"Increasing harmony among groups of youth in Baltimore city as well as the Inner Harbor will be a difficult task to accomplish," he said, according to a copy of his speech. "We have had incidents of physical and non-physical violence between teens at the Harbor. These incidents occur on a regular basis."

Mayfield said that conflicts at the harbor arise from beefs that occurred in neighborhoods and that peer mediation could help address the problem. He said social media could be used to monitor when conflicts would occur and address them before they happen, and to promote positive messages.

But his friends said they were not aware of any issues Mayfield himself had with anyone.

"He always had a good attitude; he wouldn't let nobody ruin his day, his future, or get in the way of his plans," said Rickya'h Brooks, 16.

"The one thing I want people to understand is this is not another bad kid getting shot," she said. "This is one of the good ones that was on the right track, that had goals, that loved helping other people get on their feet.

"He was a part of the future, that just got taken away. He was important to us."

jfenton@baltsun.com