LEONARDTOWN — Peyton Alexander Ham was an honors student at Leonardtown High School who loved history, the Baltimore Orioles and cooking with his mother. He had been accepted into the school’s Global International Studies program and relished the chance to serve as a prosecutor on the mock trial team.
The 16-year-old dreamed of attending a four-year university after graduation, then studying law and running for public office to represent Maryland as a state senator or delegate, his family said Wednesday in a statement through their attorney.
Peyton was killed Tuesday in a shooting by a Maryland State Police trooper, according to the agency, which said he pointed an airsoft replica gun and wielded a knife at a trooper who responded to a pair of 911 calls about a possibly armed person acting suspiciously.
“Our family is absolutely heart broken and shattered over this sudden, unexpected loss of life of a talented young man, filled with promise,” the family statement said. “Words cannot express the gratitude our family is feeling with the overwhelming love and support being extended by our friends and family in our amazing community.”
The killing happened about 1:30 p.m. Tuesday in the driveway of the family’s property next to the St. Mary’s County Board of Elections, in the 23000 block of Hollywood Road, less than a block from the State Police Leonardtown Barrack.
No additional details of what happened were provided Wednesday by State Police, who released photos of the knife and the type of airsoft gun troopers said they found. They said they “continued to interview individuals, locate additional witness and search for evidence.”
But the consecutive rounds of gunfire reverberated well beyond the driveway, leaving both physical and psychological damage in the neighborhood and raising questions from neighbors about what happened and why so many shots were fired.
At least four bullets wound up in Jean Kenney Combs’ garage across the street.
Crime scene technicians labeled three of them — A, B and C — wedged in her red-and-white garage. They found a fourth on a stepladder inside, Combs said, pointing toward an elderly neighbor’s boarded-up window, which she said also had been hit.
“I don’t understand why bullets ended up across the street,” she said.
Combs, who is working remotely as an executive assistant for the University System of Maryland at Southern Maryland, had been walking through her backyard from the garage toward her back door when the gunfire began.
She said she froze, wondering for a split second whether she’d heard a car accident. Then more gunshots rang out.
“You knew it wasn’t a car accident,” she said. “I now realize I could’ve been hit.”
Combs’ 16-year-old daughter Ella, a Leonardtown High sophomore, attended Capt. Walter Francis Duke Elementary and Leonardtown Middle schools with Peyton.
“They rode the bus together,” Combs said. “She said he was always very kind to her and they always talked on the bus.”
“I feel sorry for those parents,” Combs said.
Tom Bakewell, 83, who lives across Hollywood Road and a few houses up from the family, said a trooper stopped by to ask him, too, whether any bullets had struck his home. None that he knew of, he said.
The retired Navy Petty Officer First Class, whose wife, Carolyn Marie “Judy” Goddard Bakewell, died of cancer last May, had been sitting in his recliner watching TV when the first gunshots went off. They sounded to him like someone was beating on a wooden board with a hammer.
“It brought me out of the chair to see what was going on,” he said. “I was astounded.”
Lihu and Kathleen Wright, who have lived in their house nearby for 35 years, heard the first four shots from inside, the husband said.
“What was that?” Kathleen asked Lihu.
Lihu Wright, a 72-year-old retired federal computer specialist, walked outside, to the edge of the back deck, and peered through the trees toward Hollywood Road. He said he couldn’t see much, aside from the flashing police lights.
Then he heard a second round of four shots.
“You come back in!” Kathleen called to him.
“So I did,” he said.
David “Jay” Jones, an election program specialist at the Board of Elections next door to the shooting, had been the only one in the building, filling out paperwork for an audit. From the other side of the large former St. Mary’s County Public Library, he said, he didn’t hear the gunshots.
But Jones, 35, peeked out of the front door to find out the source of all the sirens. A trooper told him to stay inside. He watched from a storage room window as medics wheeled the 16-year-old out on a stretcher.
“It looked like he was in restraints,” Jones said. “He had a towel over his upper body, but I didn’t see any blood. I didn’t know he’d been shot. ... I guessed somebody got shot because of the amount of cops. It was a crazy amount of police.”
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Reached at the house Wednesday, Peyton’s stepfather, Mike Boyle, referred a reporter to the statement released by attorney Christopher Longmore on behalf of the family.
In addition to his academic accomplishments and love of cooking, the statement compared him to Michael J. Fox’s Alex P. Keaton from NBC’s “Family Ties” and said his love of conservative politics prompted lively debates at the dinner table.
He liked adding his own twists to cooking recipes. He and his grandfather enjoyed watching Orioles games on the phone, doing their own play-by-play announcing.
“Peyton loved his family, siblings [and] cousins very much,” the statement said.