Donna Reed knew her 12-year-old son Emmanuel "Nick" Gerondis occasionally drank beer. She also knew he liked to stay out later than a child his age should.
But Reed was far more worried about the drug-dealing boys Nick hung out with in the Hampden neighborhood, near where they had lived for three weeks.
Her solution: Leave her mother's Woodberry apartment and move back to Glen Burnie, so Nick could put the temptations of the city behind and continue in the Anne Arundel County school system, where he had begun eighth grade in August.
But early Sept. 20, Nick was shot in the head during a robbery on Ash Street, a few blocks from where he and his mother were staying temporarily. He was in critical condition yesterday at Johns Hopkins Hospital.
Police have not made an arrest.
Reed isn't concentrating on who shot Nick. She just wants him to pull through. But doctors aren't giving her much hope, she said.
She decided to talk to The Sun because of rumors circulating in the area that her son was shot because he was involved in illegal drug activity.
Nick should have been at home at 1 a.m. when the shooting occurred, Reed said.
In the hours before the shooting, she had combed the neighborhood looking for him.
"I was searching desperately for my child," Reed said in a telephone interview from the waiting room of Hopkins' Pediatric Intensive Care Unit. She hasn't left the hospital since Nick was admitted, spending most of her time holding his hand and talking to him.
Reed said she last saw her son about 9 p.m. Sept. 19. The two hugged, she told him not to go to Ash Street, and he promised he wouldn't.
He kissed her and told her, "I love you," and she left to walk the family dog.
She returned just before 11 p.m. and, realizing he wasn't home, started looking for him. By 1 a.m., when two women came running up to her building screaming that he was dead, Reed was on the phone with police.
Reed described her son as a good boy who loves playing video games, football and working on a computer. He wanted to fit in but chose the wrong crowd to hang with, she said. "Sometimes, he could be rebellious," she said. "He wasn't like a drug dealer, and he wasn't doing bad things all of the time, but sometimes his friends would talk him into something he'd be unsure of."
Police say Nick was shot during a robbery.
Chris Mangan, 16, was robbed of $20 at gunpoint only seconds before the shooting. He said that after the shooters robbed him, they asked Nick for money and shot him because he didn't have any money.
Reed said she and the boy's father, Nicolaos Emmanuel Gerondis, have been separated for years. Gerondis lives in Greece, but was to arrive yesterday to see his son.
Nick was born at St. Joseph Medical Center in Towson. His 13th birthday is Oct. 6.
"He can't wake up," Reed said last night. "It's hard to see him this way. He's normally very active and very hard to keep after."
Reed, who has been trying to find work and another home, said she has people on two continents praying for her son. "I need as many prayers as I can get for him."