" Bloody Sunday "                                   by Vernon Wilmer

The first home I bought in Baltimore, in 1989, turned out to be a nightmare. Baltimore was getting another much needed make over; Inner Harbor and the Aquarium brought in tourist and new money. New homes were being built, old ones torn down and the subway was finally reaching places it dared not think about before. With all this going on, I thought it was a safe bet to buy low, renovate property and sell low, but still make a profit. The house I bought didn’t need much work, it was 2 minutes from the subway and had shopping within walking distance. A large beautiful park was at the end of the drag, so I could let my dog run free every day and enjoy walking myself.


A week after I moved in, at exactly 1 am, my plans fell apart. I was jarred awake by gun shots. The sound was so loud, I dove under my bed cause it seemed to be inside my house, downstairs. A few minutes later, a thunder of police sirens and blaring ambulances descended on my street; all of them competing to be heard over the high pitch sounds of screaming and crying.


When I finally got the nerve to look out the window, I saw a body lying on the side walk, in front of my house. The house sat up on a hill, so the view straight down was too clear. Kneeling over the body was the mother, wailing and asking, “God why my child? Why God!”  The coroner’s truck was also there so I knew her child was dead.  


I got dressed and went downstairs to find out what happened. In a hushed tone, one neighbor said it was drugs. The dead boy was only 16 years old and a drug dealer….or previous drug dealer. He and his family lived across the street. Word was, he beat addicts out of their money by selling them small rocks of salt, instead of Crack. Not a smart thing to do since they knew where he lived. He dealt right out of and in front of his mother’s house, with her full knowledge and participation. So, the mother was just fronting when she asked God why her child. She already knew why.


One week later, around the same time, more gun shots rang out. This time it  was rapid, repeating shots, instead of the 3 single shots that killed the first child the Sunday before. When the hail of gun fire stopped, everything was deadly quiet.


I looked out the window and there was another body lying on the sidewalk across the street from my house. Suddenly, the body let out a heart wrenching plea;


“Help me, help me.”


After his cry for help, the street was deadly quiet again. No screaming or crying like before and there was only 2 men on the street. One of the men ran  across the street to help the boy, or so I thought. He bent over the boy, then yelled to his friend;


“They shot the shit outta him!”  


I couldn’t believe he did that! The boy was dying and the last thing he saw and heard was that man’s ugly words. That was one of the worse moments I had ever witnessed! In another split second, the street changed. Those men disappeared, replaced by several police cars coming to a screeching halt, with the ambulance right on their heels. Once more, the arrival of the Coroner’s truck signaled the end of another young life.


I didn’t go outside that night; in fact I can’t remember what I did afterwards. The next day I learned that the boy was 18 years old, a drug dealer. His body had been riddled by bullets from an Ozzie, the drug dealers ‘little friend’. Same ole story; he had pissed off his suppliers by using, instead of selling and not paying them their money.


Those 2 killings had a bad affect on me but it didn’t seem to bother the family living in the row house to the left of me. The mother had been renting that house for 20 years, had raised her kids there. Her 15 year old son was about to close ranks, join the army of ‘un-dead’ to become a drug dealer. His rise and fall took less than one year.


A couple weeks after the murders, the 15 year old was wearing lots of gold chains. Three months later, he came home with a brand new Jeep. He didn’t have an education or a license, but he had a Jeep. Their family didn’t have a car, so when he rolled up driving a Jeep, his mother and sisters were hysterical with happiness.  They started jumping up and down in the alley and rapping;


“You got yourself a Jeep, Go Brother, Go Brother, you got yourself a Jeep, Go Brother, like it’s your birthday, Go Brother, like it’s your birthday.”


(Yes, black people were saying that long before .50 cents put out his rap. In fact that’s where he got it from; it’s been passed down the line)


Of course they knew he was a drug dealer, but as long as they got money from him, they didn’t care where it came from. The mother could get her hair and nails done every 2 weeks and the sisters could buy the latest clothes.


A couple months later, the Jeep disappeared. Very soon, the boy, who use to be a handsome, started looking like a haggard drunk 3 times his age. The transformation was startling! His undeveloped shoulders were slumped over like an old man and his face was screwed up like he wanted to kill everything in sight.


Not long after that, he and his family were evicted from the house they had lived in all their life. They left so fast that they left all their belonging behind. Their row house was extremely run down and they had accumulated a lot of stuff.   


It took 10 workers to clean out their house. They put all that trash, ragged dirty furniture, a complete set of Mac Truck tires (don’t ask) on the street. I had never seen that much trash before, except in a dump! And to think those people actually lived in that filth all those years. It was piled up almost 5 feet high and covered the side walk in front of 6 row houses, including mine. The only space was a clearing to get up the steps.


It was then up to the city to haul all that mess away. Everyone kept calling until the city sent out their crews. The debris was so massive that it took 2 weeks and several of the city’s largest trucks to collect all that waste. Once the row house was completely empty, I swear you could see it sag in from the outside!  I was afraid it would collapse, so I called Inspectors, who in turn located the owners to demand action. The owners were slum landlords and didn’t want to invest a dime in the properties, but I insisted they shore up that house or face law suits.


Once I finished renovating my house, I decided to rent it out as a rooming house, completely furnished, with washer and dryer. The continuing violence made it impossible to sell anything in that neighborhood. I couldn’t live there any longer, so the only option was to rent it out as a rooming house for men.


The first set of tenants stole my dryer and was trying to unhook my washer but I got over there in time. I had to paint and repair the damage they had done. By then, several women and their kids had moved into the drug dealers house. When I went out back to clean up the yard, several of their kids were in the alley playing ball. They ranged in age from 2 to 12.  


What happened next was really sickening. The teenage drug dealer came through the alley. He was dirty and walked with his head down until he heard the laughter of innocent children. When he raised his head, I barely recognized him. By then he was only 17 but he looked _____; he didn’t look any age at all. He just didn’t look right. It’s hard to explain.


He was shagging as he walked, but when he looked at those kids he instantly perked up! His face lit up; his eyes got big and wild with ‘need’. Saliva started dripping from the side of his mouth. He looked like a wild beast about to devour his prey and enjoy every moment of it. I had never seen anyone look like that before and although I was older and much stronger, he scared me.


As he walked closer to the kids, a sick kind of uncontrollable glee was all over his face, making his jaws quiver. He knew exactly what he was about to do. He was going to recruit those kids to sell drugs for him; to steal and kill for him. He was going to use them up, just like the dealers had used him. He saw those innocent kids as his chance to have money and power, while destroying their lives for good.


“Get the hell away from them kids!”  I yelled instantly.


He was concentrating so hard on those kids that he didn’t even see me at all. When I yelled at him, he damn near jumped out of his skin. He looked at me and his expression went from fear to anger, to blank. I stood my ground. He knew I meant business, so he put his head down and went on out of the alley.


Before leaving, I knocked on the neighbor’s door to let those women know what had just happened. I warned them to look after their kids; to tell their kids not to talk to strangers or let anyone tempt them to sell drugs or steal.


One lady asked me if I was renting my house out again. I told them it was for working men only and no drugs were allowed. I gave them my card, asking them to call me if they saw any wrong activity. They started smiling, looking from one to the other. As I was leaving, the same woman said,


“So you only rent to gentlemens who got jobs?”