Two brothers were shot outside Thurgood Marshall High School yesterday afternoon just as the school day ended, creating a panic on an East Baltimore campus already beset by weeks of fires and fistfights.
Their wounds were not life-threatening, according to police.
The shooting amid dozens of students heading for buses home marked the most serious violence at a city school this fall, leaving frightened parents questioning whether to keep their children in class.
"I'm concerned about my daughter's safety and the safety of the other kids who want to learn," said Reginald Jones, whose daughter is a sophomore at the school. "I don't know if I'm going to let her come back."
At 3:50 p.m., students were a streaming out after the final bell. They snaked around the school above Moravia Road toward waiting buses near the adjoining middle school.
A small fight broke out in the center courtyard between wings of the red-brick high school, then ended quickly.
But the trip home was suddenly interrupted at 4 p.m. by six loud shots.
Pop! Pop! Pop! Pop! Pop! Pop!
As the firecracker-like sounds pierced the chilly afternoon air, the students scattered, leaving a trail of books, binders and backpacks flung with abandon on the hilltop sidewalk and sloping lawn to the street.
"Somebody's been shot!" one girl cried.
The brothers were apparently struck near the school's center courtyard, police said. They fled their assailants, falling on the narrow, concrete median on Moravia.
"That's Lamar!" another girl screamed.
The victims were Lamar Taylor, 16, and his 19-year-old brother. They were not identified by police, but witnesses and a school official confirmed Lamar's name.
Students and teachers said Lamar Taylor was in the 10th grade at the school; his brother was not a student there.
The shooting was apparently sparked by a fight earlier this week over a girl, police said.
"Somebody can't fight. They lose, so they go get a gun," said Commissioner Kevin P. Clark, speaking to reporters at the scene.
Immediately after, a young girl in glasses and pigtails propped up Lamar, cradling his head in her arms. She placed Lamar's dark blue coat over him to keep him warm and squeezed his left hand, linking her fingers with his. Others pleaded with him to remain conscious.
Neighbors, teachers, school administrators ran toward the teenagers, down the slope from the school and out of rowhouses across the street. They pulled out rags and pieces of cloth to try to stanch the wounds.
A women began to pull down Lamar's black Calvin Klein underwear to find the wound. She found a pea-size, reddish hole where the bullet entered his right hip.
She pleaded with Lamar: "Talk to me."
No more than 10 minutes after the shooting, sirens signaled the arrival of city police, two ambulances and a Fire Department ladder truck.
Paramedics descended upon the injured, cutting their clothes open to find the wounds. Lamar's brother sustained a gunshot wound to the left leg.
"If you're not a doctor, you can't help him!" one medic cried out as he shooed away bystanders. "I need you to move!"
After the ambulances left, detectives collected witnesses. One female student struggled with a police officer who tried to get her to calm down. He sat her down hard on the concrete median.
"This is a crime scene. Don't you understand that?" he barked.
Investigators counted bullet casings that littered the sidewalk near the school courtyard like shells on a beach.
"Is it 9 mm?" one detective asked.
He pulled out a ball-point pen to lift up the casing without touching it and look at the other side.
"It's a .380," he concluded.
At the time of the shooting, only one of the two school police officers assigned to the campus was on duty, police said. Yesterday was the first day that five security officials from Admiral Security were working at the school, said Russell Williams, the acting principal.
Last night, police had two people in custody for questioning.
Clark asked students for help. "Call up and give up this guy."
Police pledged to attack the spate of school violence head-on. "We're going to resolve these issues," Clark said. "These things spike up every once in a while."
The last time students were injured in a shooting at a Baltimore-area school was in May at Baltimore County's Randallstown High School, when four were wounded in a parking lot.
Yesterday's shooting was the first at a city school since Sept. 29, when a shot was fired outside Walbrook High Uniform Services Academy. No one was injured.
It was the same day that a separate melee broke out at Thurgood Marshall. A fight between two girls sparked the brawl that turned chaotic when someone pulled a fire alarm -- forcing police to use pepper spray when students were outside. The school's principal was placed on administrative leave the next day.
Both the middle school and high school at Thurgood Marshall have fire engines stationed outside their entrances to respond to the fires set inside. In the past two weeks, the Fire Department responded to two fire alarms at both the middle and high schools.
The school has 294 students in grades nine through 11 in its high school and 795 students in grades six through eight in its middle school. Thurgood Marshall Middle was one of 16 city schools placed on probation by the state earlier this year for consistently high rates of violence over the past two school years.
Outside the crime scene yesterday, parents reacted with anguish and fury.
"I ran down to see if it was my son," said Evette Webb, whose daughter and son attend Thurgood Marshall. "They will not be back here tomorrow."
School PTA President Phillip A. Brown called on parents to keep their children home today.
State Sen. Nathaniel J. McFadden, who also works for the school system, responded to the scene as night fell and the crowds thinned. Only a sweat shirt and a pair of black sneakers lay where the brothers had fallen.
"We really felt we had things turned around here," McFadden said.
Sun staff writers Ryan Davis and Laura Loh contributed to this article.