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January 15, 2016

“Call 9-1-1” Full Circle

Joe Charlebois

February 4, 2015, was a day hundreds of Frederick’s students, parents, basketball officials and school personnel were struck with the realization that two young men were shot just outside of the Frederick High gym and dragged onto the basketball court as the boy’s JV game was just about to end.


Not yet a year ago from the events that altered many people’s lives, that night of fear was revisited Wednesday by the members of the Governor Thomas Johnson High School family.


As a GTJHS parent, it was my first time back to the scene of last year’s shooting. Not to diminish the trauma that the Frederick High School students, parents and fans have had to deal with, but they have been in and around the building hundreds of times since last February. It was the first time back for most of the GTJHS faithful that were also there last year.


My youngest daughter – who was once again on the cheer squad for her high school – and I drove to the game together. With the two schools being separated by only three miles, there was no bus transportation for the basketball teams or cheer squads from one school to the other. We arrived early.


After parking, I walked with my daughter up to the doors of the gymnasium; I subconsciously scanned the concrete sidewalk for signs of blood stains. Of course there weren’t any, but nevertheless it crossed my mind that I was stepping on the same concrete pad were a gang-related fight turned into so much more.


As we came upon the heavy metal and glass doors, I reached for the handle. I noticed one sign that read “enter here” while the other was an 8”x11” sheet of paper that said “Welcome Thomas Johnson Patriots!” I smiled.


We then entered the lobby where I thought of the dozen or so young men who were dodging bullets there last February. I next turned my sights through the glass panes of the doors to the gym itself looking for the ticket table. I wondered if the same brave ladies who manned the table last year would be there again.


I don’t think they were there. A lady and gentleman took my money and made change. I was walking away with my mind flashing back to last year. The couple had to raise their voice to get my attention. "Your ticket, your ticket!" they said. I had not noticed that I hadn’t taken my ticket. I turned around and grabbed my ticket, thanked them and immediately looked for the comfort of people who were at last year's games.


For last year’s game I sat with the GTJHS varsity head coach during the JV boy’s game right up the time of the shootings. On Wednesday, I didn’t see coach until later in the game, so I ended up sitting with some friends of mine. They are the parents of a member of the GTJHS girl’s JV team. We didn’t speak much about last year, but we did recall how terrified we were for our children and the stress involved with trying to provide information to the parents of players, fans and cheerleaders, who weren’t at the game.


The two young men who were shot thankfully recovered rather quickly from their physical wounds after treatment in Baltimore. I don’t know the young men who were involved on either side of this near deadly confrontation, and I realize that they were involved in gang-related activities, but I am glad they are still here today.


The two young men responsible for the shots being fired from a .38 caliber hand gun were finally arrested seven weeks after the shootings. In December, Brandon Earl Tyler, 22, was sentenced to 12 years in prison for being the trigger man. Chandler Tristan Davenport, 20, was sentenced to one year for his involvement in the assault of one of the rival Sanger gang members.


As was proved through the investigation, my assumption that this had absolutely nothing to do with the two schools involved was confirmed. The games were unfortunately just the scene of the shootings.


Wednesday night there was no sign of trouble. Both Frederick City Police and the Frederick County Sheriff’s Office had a presence at the game unlike last year’s game which had security guards.


The crowd although relatively small, was lively and unlike other games harbored no animosity. As I stated in last year’s column “DIAL 9-1-1,” the two schools may be rivals, but it is definitely a friendly rivalry. Many of these young men and women have known each other for years – playing with and against each other. Likewise, many of the parents involved have known the other parents for years, even decades or went to the opposing school.


It is a shame that the last year’s shootings took place in such an innocent environment as a girls/boys JV doubleheader, but it did happen. People were affected. People sought help. People withdrew. The bright side is that those same people recovered.


As my daughter and I walked out of the gym after the game on Wednesday, I asked her how she was doing. She said that at first she felt the memories come back, but they quickly went away after her team got together to prepare for cheering.


No fears, just cheers.


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