Bryan Antoine Adams Jr. was walking along a busy street, in the middle of the day, in the heart of Columbia's oldest village. He took a phone call, a friend would later say, and said he'd be over soon to hang out.
"I called his phone back," said the friend, Tanya Smith, "and didn't get an answer."
Adams, a 20-year-old Columbia resident, was gunned down shortly before 11:30 a.m. yesterday on a sidewalk near the Wilde Lake village center. The Columbia man was rushed to Howard County General Hospital and he later died.
Howard police said a witness saw a male in his late teens running from the scene. Police were searching for the suspect last night.
The killing, the first in Howard County this year, stunned merchants, shoppers and residents of the Wilde Lake village.
"It happened right there," Paul Park, co-owner of Bagel Bin and Deli in the village center, said while pointing out the back door of the restaurant. "It could have been one of our customers -- who knows?"
Public schools in West Columbia were on modified lockdown from 11:45 a.m. until 1:30 p.m. yesterday, said Patti Caplan, spokeswoman for the county's school system. Students were kept inside their classrooms, and identification was required to enter the buildings. Howard County Community College also was locked down.
Police said they knew of no motive for the shooting and had no information on whether there was any relationship between the victim and the gunman. Sherry Llewellyn, a police spokeswoman, said it was not known how many shots were fired or where Adams was injured.
When the shooting occurred, a county police officer was at a nearby Crown gas station and heard gunfire, Llewellyn said. The officer, who said he saw a witness running toward him for help, rushed to give aid to Adams and called for medical assistance.
Erik Lawson, who lives in an apartment complex across the street from the village center, said he heard four or five gunshots and then saw helicopters minutes later.
"It definitely got my attention," said Lawson, who has lived on Green Mountain Circle for about four years. He said he could see the scene from the rear window of his apartment but did not look out the window when he heard the shots.
Adams died while arrangements were being made to transport him by helicopter to the Maryland Shock Trauma Center in Baltimore, police said.
A 2005 graduate of Wilde Lake High, Adams was preparing to enroll in college, said his brother, Charles Grant, who referred to Adams as a "nice young man."
"He's a good kid," Grant said at the scene shortly after the shooting.
News of the shooting shocked friends and neighbors at the apartment complex off Cedar Lane where Adams lived. Adams was recently unemployed and trying to find his way, friends said yesterday afternoon. A 2-year-old son of his died in 2004, and he was having a difficult time coping, they said.
"He was trying to be someone," said Keisha Knowles, 16, a resident of Harper House, an apartment building.
Sean Thompson, 21, said she knew Adams for years in school, and he wasn't the type to look for trouble.
"He was nice, relaxed, laid back," she said. "He was just to himself. This is crazy."
Adams had faced criminal charges in recent years but had not been convicted of any crimes, according to court records. A 2006 marijuana possession charge had been placed on the inactive docket, as was a second-degree assault charge from that year, according to records.
A drug possession charge from last year and a robbery charge from 2006 were dismissed, records show.
Rich Madzel, a Wilde Lake resident who serves on the community association board, said incidents such as the shooting cause "unease" in the community.
"It's an unfortunate situation," Madzel said. "Right there there's someone running around with a gun, and that's scary."
Five homicides were committed in Howard County last year, while four were recorded in 2006.
The shooting occurred in the 10400 block of Twin Rivers Road, on the sidewalk just outside the Melting Pot Restaurant. Police closed part of the road and cordoned off a wide area as they investigated the shooting. Neighbors gathered across the street from the village center, which includes a bank, athletic shoe store, and a natural foods market.
Emily Park, the other co-owner of the Bagel Bin, said the shop may lose customers who become fearful of the area.
"It's going to be a problem for all the merchants," Paul Park said. "We'll stay in business, but we really didn't expect this in this shopping center."
Sun reporters John-John Williams IV and June Arney contributed to this article.