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Man killed in fight among Forest Park students

Durrell Gaskins was on his way to work when he stepped into a group of about 30 people in a fight involving students at nearby Forest Park High School, his father said Thursday.

Durant Gaskins said he watched as his son was stabbed to death.

Gaskins said he and his 25-year-old son, who worked as a mixer at Elite Spice in Jessup, saw the commotion Wednesday afternoon on Belle Avenue near Garrison Boulevard. Durrell Gaskin ran over, then collapsed moments later as his father rushed to his side.

"I saw him laying on the ground, and I went to shield him," said Durant Gaskins, 59. "I'm holding him. He looked up at me and said, 'Daddy, I don't think I'm going to make it,' and fell back."

Initial reports indicated that Durrell was breaking up the fight. But Baltimore police spokesman Lt. Eric Kowalczyk said detectives are now sorting through all accounts and "are looking at what the relationships might have been and what might have transpired."

He said Northwestern District commanders are keeping a close watch on the area with additional resources to make sure the areas surrounding Forest Park High School are safe in case more violence threatens.

"We take any incident that happens at a school very seriously," he said. "And any incident involving kids."

Kowalczyk said police "have identified all the parties that are involved and are working on some investigative leads to close it."

Investigators are still looking for witnesses to come forward, Kowalczyk said.

Another man hurt in the fight was treated and released from the hospital.

Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake stopped by the Gaskins residence Thursday to offer her condolences to the family, according to a spokeswoman.

Neighbors said fights are common among Forest Park students, who regularly walk in groups down Belle Avenue after school.

"I've broken up fights about five or six times in the past," said Michael Cosby, who lives across the street from the Gaskinses.

In a statement, interim Baltimore schools CEO Tisha Edwards said the school system is working with local churches, law enforcement and school principals. School police and community leaders will also increase their presence in the area.

"Our students must be safe while traveling to and from school and must maintain a positive, respectful relationship with the communities where our schools are located," Edwards said. "We … are committed to that work for as long as it takes."

Forest Park students said they were told by school staff to not speak to reporters.

Durant Gaskins said he and Durrell were chatting and laughing together in their home just minutes before Durrell's unexpected death.

"My only son — I'm devastated that this could have happened," he said.

Durrell had been planning to get married, his father said. He leaves two sons, one 6 years old and the other 3.

"Durrell was the best son a father could ask for," Durant Gaskins said. "We did everything together."

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