A 14-year-old boy was arrested and charged as the driver of a stolen Jeep Liberty that slammed into a 9-year-old girl, killing her and injuring three other people, police said Friday.
Police found the boy at his home Thursday evening after they say he fled the scene of crashed cars, stunned elementary school students and fatally injured third-grader Amirah Kinlaw, who was leaving school Thursday when she was struck.
"It's two young people," Baltimore police spokesman T.J. Smith said. "This kid's 14. Made a horrible, horrible, horrible mistake. Made a horrible, horrible, horrible decision. It's two lives of two young people who are forever damaged. One is gone and one is in the system. It's a tragedy all the way around."
The teenager faces vehicular manslaughter, auto theft and traffic charges, police said. He is being charged as a juvenile because of his age and the nature of the crime, Smith said.
The collision's impact continued to reverberate throughout the Union Square neighborhood of Southwest Baltimore, where Amirah's classmates and teachers mourned her Friday.
Outside Steuart Hill Academic Academy, children placed star- and heart-shaped balloons with heartfelt messages.
"Love you. I wish you could be here," one student wrote in black marker on a red balloon tied to a tree, next to a pink one decorated with Disney princesses.
On the spot where first responders tried to resuscitate the girl, her friends left stuffed animals and flowers. Inside, the principal recalled a "star student" who aspired to be a scientist and loved to write poems.
The events that preceded the crash began when the Liberty SUV, registered to an address in South Baltimore, was reported stolen Thursday. Residents near Steuart Hill Academy called police about 2:20 p.m. to report a suspicious Jeep circling the neighborhood. An officer on patrol passed the SUV in the 300 block of S. Gilmor St. and activated her lights in an attempt to pull it over.
The Jeep sped off, and the officer did not pursue it, Smith said. Thirty seconds later, the SUV barreled through a red light at Lombard Street, struck a Nissan Sentra and other cars, brushed a crossing guard and hit Amirah, police said.
The teen driver ran, police said. The crossing guard remained in a hospital Friday, but her condition was upgraded to serious from critical, Smith said. A man in the Sentra and a 9-year-old girl hit by flying debris were treated at a hospital and released.
With the help of surveillance video, investigators found the teen at his home near the crash site. He suffered minor injuries and was being treated, Smith said.
Police did not release his name because of his age.
"It's something he's going to live with for the rest of his life," Smith said.
Smith said the Jeep was stolen after someone popped the ignition.
Police Commissioner Kevin Davis met with Amirah's family Friday to update them and offer condolences.
"What can you really say to someone about to pick up their child from the school?" Smith asked. "A family, instead of celebrating at the end of the year, is preparing for a funeral."
Christy Flint, whose daughter Caitlyn was a friend of Amirah's, stopped by Steuart Hill on Friday afternoon to leave a bouquet of flowers near the crash scene, where shards of glass and pieces of a car fender remained.
"In Loving Memory of Amirah Kinlaw, Love Caitlyn Flint and classmates," an attached note read.
Flint said her daughter was standing on the sidewalk waiting for her grandfather to pick her up from school when she witnessed the crash. She said Caitlyn was speaking with grief counselors who had come to the school. "She's not good," the mother said.
Principal Tanyaneka Lipscomb said students "have persevered through this difficult time," and staff has been "making sure we are strong at this difficult time."
She said counselors led activities to help student cope with the loss and remember Amirah. Students drew pictures and wrote letters to remember their classmate.
Lipscomb described Amirah as a creative student who excelled in all areas. She said Amirah liked to write poetry and sing, and was a member of an after-school tennis team. In an end-of-the-year "memory book," she said, Amirah wrote that she wanted to be a scientist when she grew up.
"Amirah was a star student," she said, adding that she regularly received awards for attendance.
"This is my first experience with a loss," she said. "We all here are doing the best we can. Our hearts are very heavy. I just ask everyone to keep us please keep us in your prayers. … Pray for the staff and, more importantly, the family of Amirah."
At the crash scene Friday, Pat Giroux's husband tried to start their son's Toyota 4Runner, which was struck in the crash, while she picked up pieces of a bumper from the street.
Giroux witnessed part of the crash from her front steps down the street.
"It was like everything was flying all over," she said. She walked up to the scene and saw a police officer trying to resuscitate the little girl in the grass.
"The cop was there pressing on her chest to try and revive her, but she didn't come back," Giroux said.
Baltimore Sun reporter Tim Prudente contributed to this article.