— Shortly after Tyrone Hall was sentenced Wednesday for the fatal shooting of Brandon Carroll and the wounding of Ellis Hartridge Jr., the families and friends of all three young men involved in the incident last April stood outside Allegany Circuit Court.
Some cried openly; others seethed quietly.
Neither side seemed satisfied with Judge W. Timothy Finan's decision to send the 21-year-old Glen Burnie man to prison for five years.
"Is it fair? Somebody died, so somebody had to pay," Hall's father, Tyrone Sr., said as he fought back tears. "But I don't think he should be going to the Department of Corrections — he's not that type of kid."
A few minutes earlier, reading from a statement, Carroll's mother, Faye, said, "We did not get justice for our son's murder. Allegany County after only 31/2 hours of deliberation gave the shooter what amounts to no more than a 'time out' for this crime. They have set a regrettable precedent for cases of this type in the future."
Hall had testified last month that he fired a shotgun at both men in what he said was self-defense. After a jury was unable to agree on a verdict, Hall, who was initially charged with first-degree murder, first-degree attempted murder and first-degree assault, pleaded guilty to voluntary manslaughter under an agreement limiting his possible prison time to eight years. Finan sentenced Hall Wednesday to 10 years, with five years suspended, followed by two years of unsupervised probation.
In court Wednesday, Hall apologized to the families of the two Frostburg University basketball players. Carroll, 20, died at a nearby hospital the night he accompanied Hartridge to Hall's off-campus residence. Hartridge, then 21, had gone there to fight Hall after a woman both men had dated told Hartridge that Hall had slapped her at a party earlier that night.
"I'm truly sorry," Hall said "I pray for them and both their families every night."
Hall, who had gone to the Western Maryland school after what had been a promising soccer career begun at Mount St. Joseph High School stalled at two other colleges, told those in the courtroom that "at no time did I act out of hate; I simply acted out of fear."
Those words rang hollow for Carroll's family and friends, many of whom cried when seeing Allegany State's Attorney Michael O. Twigg place an enlarged photograph of a smiling Carroll behind the witness stand while his mother; his father, Malcolm; and his stepfather, Michael Stewart, spoke of their slain son.
"Brandon was a decent human, and he did not deserve to be shot like an animal and left on the street to die," Faye Carroll said. "I can't fathom what could have gone through the minds of those five young men" — Hall and four friends at his house the night of the shooting — "that they would allow something so cold-blooded to happen to someone, and just walk away like nothing happened."
Said Malcolm Carroll, "Brandon had a choice to take Ellis to Hall's apartment, but Tyrone Hall made the choice for him to live or die."
Hall's parents spoke on behalf of their son, with Hall's father asking Carroll's family and Hartridge's relatives "to please accept our condolences. … This is a terrible situation for all involved."
Though Carroll's family initially called the senior Hall's apology "perfunctory," Malcolm Carroll seemed satisfied later when Hall's mother, Kim, and sister, Tanai, tearfully hugged him as he left the courthouse.
"It's just a terrible situation," Malcolm Carroll said. "Three lives are lost by this senseless act. You go to school to learn. My son transferred to Frostburg, and nine months later we're putting him in the grave."
Hartridge, who has returned to school and resumed his basketball career despite having lingering pain where he was shot, had his sister, Chanel, read his victim impact statement. It was the first time that Hartridge had publicly expressed regret for going to Hall's residence after Patrice Britton told him about her alleged run-in with Hall earlier that evening.
"My decision to go over to 68 East College to fight was not smart at all but I never expected this to happen," Hartridge wrote. "I replay my decisions over and over in my head all the time and I wish I could have done something different."
Later in the statement, Hartridge wrote, "I have two massive scars and a little scar that I have to see every morning I awake. By seeing these scars it reminds me of the day I lost my friend and I almost lost my life."