John Stewart and his family planned to see the hit movie "Lethal Weapon 3" as a family outing yesterday to observe Father's Day.
That never happened.
Early the day before their "date," the Stewart family's youngest member, a 13-year-old son, slipped out of his house as his parents slept. A few minutes after 4:30 a.m. Saturday, police said, someone placed a gun in Antwan "Troy" Stewart's mouth and pulled the trigger.
He died immediately, police said, falling on his back in the 2300 block of Whittier Avenue.
He was about four blocks from his home in the 3500 block of Holmes Avenue in the Greater Mondawmin neighborhood just west of Druid Hill Park.
City police department spokesman Sam Ringgold said police think the shooting was drug-related because empty plastic bags used to package cocaine were found on Antwan's body. But no drugs were found, and the boy's parents find it hard to believe their son was involved in drugs.
The Lemmel Middle School seventh-grader was one of four males killed in unrelated homicides in Baltimore Saturday. The killings pushed the city's homicide total to 148 this year, Mr. Ringgold said. No arrests in any of the killings had been made by last night.
Police are waiting for an autopsy to learn the caliber of weapon used to kill Antwan Stewart. Police said they had few clues about why the killing happened, and no suspects.
On Father's Day, instead of chatting about an action-packed movie and being pampered by his three children, John and Emmaline Stewart discussed their son's unexpected, violent death. Mrs. Stewart even offered a plea to her son's peers:
"If your parents tell you to do something, do it. Don't wait until they are asleep and sneak outside, because you may end up like my son."
The only way parents can guard their children from society's violence, is "to lock them up and throw away the key," she said.
Mr. Stewart, who is 38, said that police knocked on the family's front door about 5 a.m. Saturday, awakening him and his wife to go to Whittier Avenue to view a body, which officers suspected was that of their son.
"I didn't want to see him that way," said Mr. Stewart, a soft-spoken construction worker who holds down two jobs. The boy was lying in a pool of blood. His eyes were closed.
"I still can't believe it," Mr. Stewart continued yesterday, obviously drained physically by his son's death. "It just hurts me to think about it."
"Every time the door opens, I think he'll walk through the door, said Mrs. Stewart, 39, wiping away tears. "My life will never be the same."
The couple sat in the living room of their modest rowhouse. Mr. Stewart pointed to the ceiling that he and Antwan -- who wanted to be a carpenter -- had rebuilt.
He said he couldn't explain why his son was out so late and couldn't believe his son was involved in drugs. He said the family had seen no signs of such activity.
During the school year that just ended, however, the boy's schoolwork had dropped, his father said, and he and his wife were called to Lemmel at least 10 times because Antwan had been cutting classes and coming to school late.
Still, Saturday night was the latest Antwan had stayed out, his father continued. "I guess when you're out that late, anything can happen."
Mr. Stewart said he paid his son $30 a week to perform household chores so he would stay out of trouble. He said that he always warned the boy to stay away from Gwynns Falls Parkway and Reisterstown Road, where drug trafficking and violence are reportedly common.
"Once you cross Gwynns Falls, you can forget it," said Mrs. Stewart, a supervisor for Blind Industries and Services of Maryland.
"He didn't listen," Mr. Stewart said of his son, who liked rap music, animals and sports. Antwan was precocious, his father said. "I told him to 'stay in your place. You can't go out there acting like a man. They'll treat you like one.' "
The night Antwan was killed, Mr. Stewart said he and his wife thought Antwan and his 16-year-old sister were asleep. Another brother, who's 20 years old, lives elsewhere.
Since the shooting, Mr. Stewart said, neighbors have told him different versions of what happened.
One version was that two boys "stuck up" his son. Although Antwan emptied his pockets to show he had no money, he was still shot.
Another was that a woman who lives in the area, known for performing sexual favors for young men to get money to buy crack cocaine, had called Antwan outside her house so two men she knew could shoot him. What the woman's motive could be was unclear. Police investigators were unavailable for comment.
Several neighbors said yesterday that Whittier Avenue, lined with big trees and brick rowhouses, is plagued by drugs and violence.
One resident said six homicides have occurred there since 1986. Another said that Antwan's death didn't shock her, but wondered why "a 13-year-old would be out" so late.
The shooting is a sign of the times, another woman neighbor said. "It's getting terrible around here. I never go out around dark."
Antwan's funeral will be held at 7 p.m. Thursday at Leroy O. Dyett & Son Funeral Home on Liberty Heights Avenue.