15-year-old goes on trial for murder in shooting

"This case is all about children killing children," a prosecutor told a Baltimore County jury yesterday as he began his case against 15-year-old Otha Keyitta Samuel, who was charged with shooting a Woodlawn High School student near a pay phone on Valentine's Day.

But the defense painted a different picture of young Samuel, as a boy who had been used by two older jailbirds to run drugs from the time he was 12.


And it was one of these men, defense attorney Robert Philip Thompson told the jury, who actually pulled the trigger on the gun that killed Erik Patrick Chestnut.

The Chestnut youth was felled by a shot in the back as he and a group of friends, including his younger brother, approached young Samuel near a pay telephone at an Exxon station near Security Square Mall at about 11 p.m. The boys were calling their mothers for a ride home, Assistant State's Attorney Robert A. Brocato told the jury.


But the Samuel youth, a few days shy of his 15th birthday, apparently felt provoked by the approaching teen-agers and pulled a handgun, the prosecutor said. "Everybody turned and started to run, but that wasn't enough to satisfy his machismo. . . . He fires the gun, and Erik is shot in the back."

The state's first witness was a friend of the victim, Damon Wiggins, who identified Otha Samuel in court as the youth who pulled the gun and shot his friend.

Prosecutors said there were no hostilities between the defendant and the others.

The Chestnut youth's death came just as the talented baseball player was recovering from a near-fatal shooting four months earlier, by a boy he had bested in a fight at school. The assailant in that case was treated as a juvenile and sent to the Charles B. Hickey Jr. School.

Earlier in the day, Baltimore County Circuit Judge James T. Smith Jr. denied a defense motion to have the Samuel youth treated as a juvenile, as recommended by the Department of Juvenile Services. According to reports at a hearing last week, the Samuel youth had no juvenile record, but he had been held back in school and had missed 70 days of classes.

According to testimony yesterday by a police officer and a paramedic, young Chestnut didn't realize at first that he'd been shot, telling them he was suffering an asthma attack.

The Chestnut youth died just after midnight at the Maryland Shock Trauma Center, but police had only a vague description of the killer as a teen-ager unknown to the group.

In May, there was a break in the case when Edward Lee "Gwato" Lewis, 34, one of the Samuel youth's two companions that night, decided to tell police about the shooting. He testified yesterday that he was pumping gasoline at the station when he heard "No, no" and looked up to see the Samuel youth shooting.


Lewis and the other man, Charles "Tate" Owens, 22, who are both being held at the Baltimore city jail on parole and probation violation charges, testified that they met the defendant two years ago in Edmondson Village and said he worked for them dealing cocaine.

After his arrest, the Samuel youth gave police several versions of the shooting, Mr. Brocato told the jury.