The family and friends of the 14-year-old Anne Arundel County boy who was killed in a conflict with at least two other neighborhood boys implored a crowd of nearly 1,000 people gathered Monday night at a candlelight vigil not to retaliate.
"I want to encourage you tonight to make a choice to give up the violence ... not retaliate, to forgive," Pastor Dennis Gray, of the Riva Trace Baptist Church, told the crowd, many of them teens, gathered at the spot where Christopher D. Jones was fatally injured Saturday in his Crofton neighborhood.
Gray, flanked by Christopher's mother, Jenny Adkins, his father, David Jones, and other family members, led the vigil at Nantucket Drive and Wellfleet Lane, not far from the homes of Christopher and the two teens accused in his death: 16-year-old Javel M. George, who is charged as an adult with manslaughter, second-degree assault and reckless endangerment, and a 14-year-old boy charged as a juvenile with the same offenses.
Beneath a nearby tree, letters, flowers and teddy bears were piled in remembrance.
County Executive John R. Leopold, who was at the vigil, said he had received phone calls from residents who thought gangs were involved. "This is violent crime that deserves immediate attention, and if in fact there is gang activity, we want to investigate that thoroughly," he said in an interview.
Arundel police described a horrifying scene about 4:15 p.m. Saturday in the neighborhood filled with nicely kept townhouses.
In charging documents and an interview, they said Christopher was on his bike a few blocks from his townhouse on Old Mystic Court when five to seven youths confronted him. Two beat Christopher's head with their fists, and charging documents say Christopher started to pedal away, but fell on the pavement, hitting his head, according to a witness.
Police received several 911 calls. A woman ran to cradle Christopher, and others followed the fleeing youths.
Questioned by detectives, George and the 14-year-old admitted hitting Christopher before he fell, charging documents say. On Monday, a judge ordered George, a high school freshman, held without bail.
Police said they think that only the two struck Christopher and that the others watched, but they stressed that the investigation is continuing. The nature of the dispute was not known.
"He knew the two suspects. They are affiliated through Arundel High School. They also live very close," said Capt. David Waltemeyer Jr., chief of criminal investigations. "They've had some ongoing beef or some dispute - the victim and his friends and the suspects and their friends - for two weeks to about one month."
In April, Christopher had transferred to South River High from Arundel High, where students said the slight freshman was bullied and not part of one of the small groups some consider to be gangs. The groups were identified as TNT, or The New Threat, with members being mostly from Crofton, and ESD, the East Side Diamonds, with roots in Odenton.
Asked whether this was a gang-type dispute, Waltemeyer said it was not gang warfare and did not involve large, organized national gangs that run drugs and weapons.
Full autopsy results, which might indicate whether Christopher's death was directly attributable to the beating or to his fall from his bike, won't be available for a month or two. But the medical examiner has ruled the death a homicide.
Relatives clustered outside the townhouse where Christopher lived part of the time with his mother and stepfather. He also lived with his father, a Prince George's County sheriff's deputy.
Christopher's family described him as a fun-loving and quick-witted teenager who had mentored a handicapped child at school, and played hockey, football and baseball, mostly on recreational teams.
"He was a sweet little kid with a sense of humor and a big heart," said his grandmother, Judy Manning of Westminster. He wanted to enter the military after high school and eventually become a police officer, relatives said.
Viewings will be from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. today and 10 a.m. to 11 a.m. Wednesday at the Riva Trace Baptist Church, in Davidsonville. The funeral will follow the Wednesday viewing, according to Prince George's County Deputy Nick Trice, a friend of the family.
A private burial will be at Our Lady of Sorrows Catholic Cemetery in West River.