A city police officer investigating a fight early yesterday on a Southeast Baltimore street corner shot and killed a developmentally disabled 21-year-old man who police said refused to drop a handgun.
The man who was killed, Bryant Worrell, had been the victim of an assault in his home earlier in the evening and police were going to give him a ride to safe place to spend the evening when they decided to search him, according to a witness.
Police found the gun while searching him and then struggled with him when he refused to drop the weapon, said Agent Donny Moses a police spokesman.
Worrell was shot at least once in the upper body, said department spokesman Sterling Clifford.
Family members gathered at the dead man's house and mourned. "He had the mind of a fourth-grader," said his mother, Nancy Worrell. "Why did they have to shoot him?"
The man's family disputed some details of the police account, insisting that Bryant Worrell did not have a gun and saying he was shot in the back, not in the front, as police said.
Clifford said police recovered a .38-caliber handgun at the scene. Detectives will examine that weapon for fingerprints, he said.
"Someone they loved was killed, I can understand why they are upset," Clifford said. "At the end of the day, he had a firearm, a gun that he refused repeated police instructions to give up. The first responsibility of police will always be security."
Nancy Worrell said the deadly chain of events began early yesterday when a group of four or five neighborhood boys broke into her house and went upstairs to a room where Bryant Worrell was sleeping and beat him.
She called police and then everyone, including her son, ran from the house in the first block of S. Robinson St. near Patterson Park, she said.
Moses said officers responded about 2:40 a.m. to a report of an aggravated assault. The spokesman said officers found two men fighting outside on Robinson Street, broke up the altercation and arrested one person. Then police talked with Bryant Worrell and his girlfriend, Sharda Fenwick.
"They asked him what happened in the house," Fenwick said. "They were telling Bryant that he had to leave the house. They were going to drive him down to Baltimore Street."
Fenwick said that as police questioned Bryant, he began shaking. "That is why the police started grabbing him," she said. "All I heard was a boom."
Moses said an officer patting down Worrell's clothing detected a hidden weapon. The police spokesman said the man went for the gun and that he and the officer struggled. Moses said the officer ordered the man to drop the gun. "The suspect refused to comply," Moses said, and the officer shot him several times.
A trail of blood splatters, still visible yesterday, began in the entrance to an alley, several feet from the man's house.
The trail went down the alley, turned right on another alley, then went right again - indicating that the wounded Worrell ran around the back of his house before he collapsed and died next to a couple of plastic garbage cans in the 3100 block of E. Lombard St.
Moses said Worrell was pronounced dead on the scene.
Yesterday, Worrell's family remembered him as a person who spoke slowly and struggled intellectually. The family tried to encourage him, tacking school achievement awards he received on the wall. One lauded "Appreciation for respectful behavior in chemistry."
He and his mother moved into the Robinson Street house three months ago, and Nancy Worrell still had important documents stuffed in plastic bags.
She dug out a copy of his Individual Education Plan prepared by the school last year. An evaluator wrote: "Bryant is limited by his very concrete reasoning and his lack of social and problem solving skills, and his limited insight and poor impulse control."
The evaluation said that he read on a first-grade level. His ambitions for the future, according to the report, were "to live with friends and family and work part/full time as an auto mechanic."
That same report noted that he was regularly late to class and missed school, but last month he was one of five students to graduate from the Central Career Center at Briscoe, a special-education facility in West Baltimore.
Worrell's criminal record shows that he was on probation; his convictions include a series of traffic violations, including driving a vehicle on a sidewalk in August 2007, as well as drug possession in 2006, burglary in 2006 and theft in 2005.
He was also charged but not convicted of giving false statements to police. An armed robbery charge lodged in September 2004 was dropped the next year.