In one of the city's recent cases of vigilantism, a 60- year-old man who shot and wounded three youths pleaded guilty in Baltimore Circuit Court yesterday to a crime prosecutors say was motivated by the man's growing rage with problems on his block.
William Banks will spend up to 10 years in prison for shooting the youths with a .38-caliber revolver he had stolen from his employer the night before the confrontation July 28.
Banks, who told detectives that he had had several run-ins with the youths and had phoned police dozens of times to report neighborhood problems, emptied his five-shot revolver about 1 p.m., hitting the victims several times.
One of them, Barry Bolling, who was 18 at the time, was shot three times and still carries two bullets in his chest. William James, who was 15, was shot in the right arm; and Dominique Byrd, who was 11, was hit in the left forearm. None have serious injuries, prosecutors said.
"Mr. Banks' actions were certainly outrageous and uncalled for," said Assistant State's Attorney William Cecil, who prosecuted the case. "Lots of people [in Banks' neighborhood] are frustrated, but they don't pull out a gun and start shooting."
Banks pleaded guilty to three counts of assault and handgun charges yesterday. As part of the plea arrangement, prosecutors dropped attempted murder charges against him. Judge John N. Prevas will sentence Banks on March 20.
Prosecutors said Banks had been frustrated for some time over problems in the neighborhood. He and his neighbors called police 320 times in the year before the incident to complain about problems on the block, according to prosecutors.
Banks told detectives after the shooting that he simply wanted the youths to move off the steps of his home, in the 100 block of N. Decker Ave.
"I am tired," Banks told officers on the day of his arrest, according to court papers. "I am tired. That's all I asked was for them to give me space or move off my steps."
But according to the statement of facts read in court, the youths were sitting on the steps of an abandoned house next to Banks' home before the gunshots were fired.
"The defendant came out of his home and said, 'Don't sit on my steps,'" Cecil said. "And they said, 'We're not.'"
Minutes later, Banks came out of his house, went to his minivan parked on the street and pulled out the revolver, Cecil said.
Bolling was shot twice in the upper chest. The others ran up the street and turned east on Fairmont Avenue. Banks ran to the corner and fired, hitting them each once, Cecil said.
Banks then came upon the wounded Bolling on the ground. Bolling lifted his left hand in the air, and Banks shot him in that hand, Cecil said.
After going inside his home, Banks called police and told them what he had done. He was arrested hours later and has remained jailed since that day.
"He explained to police he couldn't take it anymore," Cecil said.
Yesterday, friends described Banks as a "mild-mannered gentleman."
"There's nothing bad I can say about him. Maybe he was pushed to the limit," said Freddie Bee, 70, a retired schoolteacher and lifelong friend of Banks. "There's something wrong with the law when criminals are being protected more than the good citizens of Baltimore."
The youngest victims did not have juvenile criminal records, prosecutors said. Bolling was sentenced last year to 18 months of probation after being convicted in District Court of drug possession and resisting arrest.
Banks also has a criminal record. In 1974, he was charged with murder. Several months later, he pleaded guilty to manslaughter and served two years in state prison.