Police identify victims in East Baltimore firebombing, announce $12,000 reward for suspect

Grieving mother of one of the firebombing victims: "It's the worst, the worst."

Local and federal law enforcement officials on Sunday identified the two teenagers killed in the East Baltimore rowhouse firebombing Saturday, raised the reward to $12,000 for information on the suspect, and released surveillance video they said showed him kicking down the front door and throwing two Molotov cocktails inside.

Shi-Heem Sholto, 19, and Tyrone James, 17, were found dead on an upper floor of the burned-out home in the 1200 block of Greenmount Ave. in the Johnston Square neighborhood, police said. Six other people in the building were injured in the fire, one critically.

The federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives offered a $10,000 reward — in addition to the $2,000 Metro Crime Stoppers reward — for information leading to the arrest and conviction of suspect Antonio Wright. Police have named Wright, 26, of Baltimore, Public Enemy No. 1.

Shi-Heem and Tyrone did not live in the rowhouse, police said.

Injured in the fire were two women, ages 38 and 20; two girls, ages 17 and 16; and two boys, ages 11 and 4, police said. The 20-year-old woman remained in critical condition at a local hospital Sunday, police said. The other five had non-life-threatening injuries and were treated and released.

Police Commissioner Kevin Davis called the firebombing a "cold, calculated, premeditated act of cold-blooded murder."

"We had an 11-year-old and a 4-year-old in the house," Davis said. "He just didn't give a damn who was in that house, didn't care. I think when society sees that, society wants him to rot in jail — under the jail, that's where he belongs."

There was no answer Sunday at the door of a rowhouse on East Preston Street where Wright is believed to have stayed.

On Sunday night, a Facebook user posted an audio recording of a man who identified himself as Antonio Tyrell Wright.

"I want everybody to know that I did not commit that crime, and my heart go out to that family," the man said.

Police said they were aware of the recording and were evaluating it. Police spokesman Donny Moses said he could not confirm that the man on the recording was Wright.

Karleen Sholto, Shi-Heem's mother, said her son had gone to the house on Greenmount Avenue to visit Tyrone, a childhood friend.

Sholto said her son was "a homebody" who had attended Digital Harbor High School until recently. He was working as a porter at a nursing home.

"He was staying out of trouble, he was working, he loved his job," she said.

In his free time, Sholto said, her son enjoyed visiting her house and hanging out with his younger brothers, ages 15 and 2 months.

"He was a good-hearted person," she said. "He was always laughing — silly."

Sholto said she learned of her son's death from a cousin, who called and told her people were posting pictures of her son on social media with "RIP" underneath.

She said she went to the scene and met with Tyrone's mother, who was crying. Tyrone's mother could not be reached Sunday.

"She was distraught over this and so am I," Sholto said. "It's the worst, the worst."

She said she wants to see the suspect arrested, but was at a loss for a motive.

"I can't figure out why he would do something like that," she said.

The firebombing followed a nonfatal shooting in the same block about 11 p.m. on Thursday, police said. They said the shooting was part of a long-running neighborhood dispute.

The injured victim ran inside the rowhouse, police said. The victim in the shooting was not injured in the firebombing, police said.

On Sunday, the windows and door of the house were freshly boarded and a bottle of New Amsterdam pineapple vodka and a pink candle adorned the steps. Three police cars were parked at the corners of Greenmount Avenue and East Preston Street nearby.

Ronald Williams, 50, lives nearby.

"I think it's really sad, I really do," he said. "It's a shame and I'm just going to pray for the family. I hope the family's OK."

Fallston Moran, 46, another neighbor, had just heard about the firebombing.

"This block, I try my best to stay off it," he said, as he held the hand of his young daughter. "The neighborhood is what it is. It's been like that for 20, 30 years."

Another neighbor was feeding a stray cat in the alley facing the burned out house.

"I hope they catch him real fast," said the man, who declined to give his name for fear of retaliation. "That kind of stuff is ridiculous."

He said someone should go through the neighborhood "with a loudspeaker" publicizing the reward for information that leads to an arrest.

Wright was convicted of armed robbery in 2012 and sentenced to seven years in prison, according to court documents. All but three years were suspended.

Davis was asked whether police could have prevented the arson by deploying additional officers to the area following the shooting.

"Those deployment efforts always exist after acts of violence," he said.

"Sometimes — in spite of deployment, in spite of police presence in the community, in spite of command ownership of responsibilities following violence — this will occur when evil exists."

cmcampbell@baltsun.com

@cmcampbell6

Copyright © 2017, The Baltimore Sun, a Baltimore Sun Media Group publication | Place an Ad