Twenty minutes before a teen-ager was stabbed to death in Hampden during an argument Wednesday evening, Baltimore police responded to the house for a reported assault but left without making an arrest, officials said yesterday.
Three officers were called to the 1300 block of Berry St. about 5:40 p.m. to break up a fight between a teen-ager and his younger sister. Shortly after the officers left, the feud erupted again, and police said Jaron Joel Brawner, 15, a friend of both siblings, was stabbed when he intervened.
Derek Martin Benson, 16, of the Berry Street address, has been charged as an adult with first-degree murder. He is being held without bail at the Central Booking and Intake Center and has a District Court hearing scheduled for Monday.
The victim's grandmother, Iris Brawner, 67, said yesterday that had officers taken immediate action, "my grandson might still be here."
But city police said officers acted appropriately in handling the incident. Agent Martin Bartness, a police spokesman, said the dispute involved "some minor pushing and shoving" and left "no visible signs of injury" to anyone.
Brawner, a resident of the 1500 block of W. 36th St., lived around the corner from Benson, who was described by police and family members as the victim's best friend since kindergarten.
Both youths had dropped out of school. Brawner attended Polytechnic Institute until a year ago and worked for a landscaping company.
Police said the incident began with an argument between Benson and his 13-year-old sister, who called 911 about 5:40 p.m. to report that she had been assaulted.
Officers confronted Benson, the sister and their mother, Bartness said. Police made no arrests because they saw no evidence of an assault, the spokesman said.
The mother told officers "that she would handle the problem," Bartness said. "Based on that information, the officers left."
The fight apparently escalated again. Iris Brawner said that about 6 p.m., the sister called her grandson and asked him to help.
The grandmother said he then walked over to the house. "He said, 'I'll be right back,'" she said. "He took off out of here. He seemed calm."
Police said Jaron Brawner was stabbed twice with a 7-inch steak knife while on the porch of his friend's home. Officers, including at least one who had responded to the dispute 20 minutes earlier, arrested Benson at the scene.
People who answered the phone at Benson's house yesterday declined to comment.