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2 men, 1 woman, and another promising life wasted

The Baltimore Sun

It's a simple and sad story. Girl dates boy. Girl leaves boy for another boy. First boy confronts second boy and ends up dead.

Darion Sawyer and Jeffrey L. Brown.

Sawyer, a 29-year-old budding comic book artist, was fatally shot, and Brown, a 34-year-old grocery worker who had never before been arrested or even gotten a traffic ticket, is charged with killing him.

The police and prosecutors say it is first-degree murder. Brown's lawyers, Margaret A. Mead and Catherine Flynn, call it self-defense.

I started to write a story about Sawyer and his drawings, which were so good that the owner of a Parkville comic bookstore thought they could be published and plans to display the work as a tribute to his fallen friend. One of the 909 postings on the victim's MySpace page from family, friends and artists: "The world just became a little less creative."

Then I learned more about the shooting on the afternoon of Sept. 9 on the front porch of a home on Wadsworth Way in Northeast Baltimore. It was a dispute over an ex-girlfriend, and the suspect's lawyer said the victim had been the aggressor.

Police called it a domestic-related incident. The motivation is as old as time: love. Mead calls it something else: "An obsession."

Sawyer showed up at Brown's workplace, stalked him and the woman, and assaulted her once, Mead said.

On the day of the killing, police said, Sawyer came to Brown's house. What happened next is unclear, but it ended with Sawyer sprawled on the front porch, a bullet wound in his chest, and Brown calling police.

When officers arrived, charging documents state, Brown told them, "I did it," and pointed to the disassembled 9 mm Glock handgun lying on the couch.

Mead has represented a wide variety of suspected criminals over the years. She cringes when she sees the words "first-degree murder" next to Brown's name. It makes it seem like any other killing in Baltimore. "It's not," she said, "and that's what's not fair."

Prosecutors are reviewing the case and would not comment further. It has not gotten to the grand jury stage, where prosecutors could decide to seek different charges. Brown is free on bail pending trial.

The mourners on MySpace and Randy Myers, the owner of the Harford Road comic bookstore, Collector's Corner, called Sawyer's death a loss.

His taste and talent were diverse, they said, from reading the Bible, Othello and To Kill a Mockingbird to reveling in the escapes of youth, such as G.I. Joe. He listened to hip-hop, but also jazz and was learning to play piano.

"A lot of people walk in bringing drawings that they think are good," said Myers, "but he was really talented. He could draw."

Mead described her client as calm, with no history of violence. She would say only that he has worked for 15 years in the meat department of a food business, and had attended college for one year.

What attracted me to this story was the loss of an artist. Another promising life wasted in Baltimore. That still holds true, though the facts as we know them now make this case more complicated.

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