It was a mistake. A wrong turn that led 19-year-old Maishan St. Patrick Nelson to the wrong place at the wrong time.
And to the wrong person, a teen-ager wielding a handgun.
Perhaps it was also a case of mistaken identity. A mistake that cost Maishan his life.
On Friday, after a call to his father in East Baltimore, Maishan drove a friend to Govans and apparently got lost along the way. Less than 12 hours later, he died in a downtown hospital after being shot in the head -- the 223rd homicide victim in Baltimore this year.
"He called me about 8 p.m., excited about a new computer program he was working on for the MBNA bank in Towson," his father, Patrick Nelson, said yesterday from his Madison Street rowhouse. "He told me he was going to go to a party with some friends after work and would be home about midnight."
But Maishan never returned home. By midnight, the Morgan State University honor student would be fighting for his life at Maryland Shock Trauma Center. A machine would be breathing for him.
According to police, Maishan was traveling west with two friends on McCabe Avenue about 10 p.m. Friday, on his way to pick up another man who lives in the 700 block, when he got lost and turned left down an alley.
"He apparently drove past his friend's house and turned into the alley to turn around," said homicide Detective Sean Harrison, the lead investigator in the case. "A male teen-ager was in the alley, some distance from the car, and opened fire."
One bullet hit Maishan's green 1995 Toyota Corolla; another struck Maishan in the head. No one else was injured.
"It doesn't surprise me, really," said 15-year-old Shannell Colbert, a neighbor who said drug-dealing and drive-by shootings were common occurrences in the neighborhood during the 1980s. "I've lived here all my life and I've seen it all here."
"The area is known for drug trafficking, but there was no indication of any type of drug activity by [Maishan]," Harrison said. "It's a possibility it could have been a case of mistaken identity."
Almost immediately after the shooting, the quiet of the Nelson home, where Maishan's parents were getting ready for bed, was shattered by a ringing telephone.
"I'll never forget that call," said Nelson, 38, an electrician. "Maishan's friend told me he had been shot. I dropped the phone, threw it down. I didn't want to hear anymore.
"I thought it was just a bad dream, that I'd wake up and Maishan would walk in the house," in the 2600 block of E. Madison St., where he had lived for the past three years.
But it wasn't a dream. By Saturday evening, Nelson would be making funeral arrangements for Maishan. It was the first funeral he would have a hand in planning -- Maishan's great-grandparents, now in their 90s, survive the youth.
Maishan was born in Jamaica on May 31, 1978, the son of two teen-agers who thought they were too young to care for him, Nelson said. After Maishan's first birthday, his father moved to Baltimore; his mother to the Bahamas.
"My mother raised him until he was 9," said Nelson. "Then she immigrated to Florida and Maishan came to stay with me."
The first thing Nelson noticed about his son was the youngster's insatiable curiosity and intense focus on academics, especially math and science.
"Maishan's grandmother owned a small store in Jamaica and he worked there after school. His aunt was a teacher," Nelson said. "So even at that young age, he was very disciplined, always had his nose in a book."
Academic awards for biochemistry, Spanish, computer science and calculus test the binding of a scrap book Nelson made to hold evidence of Maishan's achievements. Plaques for the youth's accomplishments in math and science adorn a wall in the living room alongside similar awards earned by his younger brother and sister.
A full-time student at Morgan, Maishan worked part time as a computer engineer at the MBNA America Bank in Towson.
"He was fulfilling his dreams," said Maishan's aunt, Jean Brown, who traveled from Somerset, N.J., to be with him when he died Saturday. "It's just not fair. I was looking forward to seeing him go into the Air Force, get married, have his first child."
But none of that will happen now. By yesterday afternoon, the Nelson family would be talking about establishing a scholarship fund in Maishan's memory.
"We would like to set up a scholarship that would benefit Northern High students," Nelson said. Maishan was the 1996 valedictorian of the school. He won an academic scholarship to attend Morgan and had a 3.5 grade point average, according to family members and school officials.
The homicide was the third of a Morgan State student in the past 2 1/2 years. In April 1995, Corey A. Edwards, a 19-year-old from Rochester, N.Y., was shot to death near Volcano's nightclub on Greenmount Avenue. Eight months later, Terrence Augusta McKoy, also 19 and a freshman, was robbed and shot to death in broad daylight, as he stood at a bus stop across the street from the university.
University President Earl S. Richardson said the violence is highly disturbing to Morgan State, even though the shootings occurred off-campus. Two-thirds of the university's 5,500 students live at home and commute to classes.
"Any time something like this happens, it's a tragedy," Richardson said. "And it affects not only the Morgan State community, but the community at large. It's very unfortunate, very unfortunate."
Pub Date: 9/22/97