Suspect in youth's death free on bond


A 61-year-old man charged with fatally shooting a 13-year-old boy after the youth allegedly vandalized his car last week was released on bond yesterday after supporters posted homes as collateral, pledged money for his defense and said the shooting was provoked.

Nathaniel Hurt of the 800 block of E. North Ave. was freed yesterday afternoon when he posted the $200,000 bond required by a District Court judge after his Oct. 10 arrest Monday in the shooting death of Vernon Lee Holmes Jr.

Mr. Hurt and three friends and relatives pledged their homes, and John H. Griffin, a supporter and bail bondsman, pledged cash as collateral.

Mr. Hurt declined to comment as he was whisked out of the Baltimore City Detention Center by Mr. Griffin.

Two of Mr. Hurt's sons and several friends who were at the jail awaiting his release said they believed the Bethlehem Shipyard steel worker did not belong behind bars despite what happened.

"The youth these days have an attitude that they don't give a damn, and my father just got tired of it and he just reacted," said Anthony Hurt, one of Mr. Hurt's five children. "There are a lot of people out there, senior citizens, who are afraid, and they're glad that someone did something."

Phillip A. Brown Jr., president of the Cecil Elementary School PTA and a candidate for Baltimore City Council, said that about 20 people have donated money to Mr. Hurt and that roughly $2,000 has been raised.

He said that in the past week many donors have come up to him "on the street," said they were familiar with the case, and given him cash and personal checks for $25 to $50 to help Mr. Hurt because they are fed up with juvenile crime.

"I don't think people believe that he took the law in his own hands so much as he reacted to a given set of circumstances," Mr. Brown said.

Mr. Hurt was charged with first-degree murder and handgun violations in the death of the Holmes youth, a Lombard Middle School student who lived in a foster home in Mr. Hurt's neighborhood.

Police said the shooting occurred about 7 p.m. after the youth and a group of friends smashed the windshield on Mr. Hurt's 1983 Chevrolet Caprice, which was parked near the defendant's back yard.

After Mr. Hurt's windshield was smashed, he emerged from his back yard and beat up a boy, police said. An hour later, the teens returned and began throwing bottles at the car, police said.

Police said Mr. Hurt, standing on his second-floor fire escape, fired one shot, which hit the Holmes youth in the back. The youth was pronounced dead at Johns Hopkins Hospital two hours later.

At the jail yesterday, Mr. Hurt's family and friends described him as a steady worker, a good father and a volunteer in his community.

"My father never let any of us disrespect any adults when we were growing up," said Leroy Hurt, 43, who came to Baltimore from Jacksonville, Fla., to help secure his father's release.

Milton Smith, 60, a friend who worked with Mr. Hurt at Bethlehem Steel, drove to the jail yesterday in the battered, blue 1977 Chevrolet Monte Carlo that he said Mr. Hurt gave him three years ago.

Mr. Smith said that he came with $200 to give to Mr. Hurt as "spending money" and that he made sure the title to his Irvington home was in order because he was going to offer it as bond if there were snags in securing Mr. Hurt's release.

"I know that he'd do the same thing for me," Mr. Smith said.

Mr. Hurt's supporters complained that many youths today are more disrespectful and prone to violence than those of past generations.

"When I was 11 years old, I didn't cross the street without my parents' permission. Now you got kids that age staying out all night," Mr. Smith said.

The victim's mother, Avis Cross of Essex, declined to comment yesterday on Mr. Hurt's release. But others who are familiar with the case said that, even if the youth had vandalized the car, the shooting should not be condoned.

"The youth today are angry, and they're retaliating, and they're lashing out, but that doesn't give us the right to shoot them," said the Rev. Willie Ray, who is active in the Stop the Violence Campaign in Baltimore.

Mr. Ray said he will hold a vigil at the scene of the shooting, in

the 700 block of E. 20th St., at 5:30 p.m. Wednesday.

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