Jerry Isaac had been a diligent convert in spreading the teachings of Islam and dedicated all his extra time to helping those around him. He was a peaceful young man with a bright outlook.
Peace was on his mind on Feb. 13 when he broke up a fight between at least two young men outside the Family Dollar store at the Waverly Towers shopping center on Greenmount Avenue, where the 22-year old often went to buy DVDs and CDs. Now the front of the store is ground zero for the unsolved case. Shortly after he broke up the fight, a man with a gun returned to the store and fatally shot Isaac.
“We were always close because he told me everything. He was was our joy,” Isaac’s mother, Angela Holland, told the AFRO. “He had it in him to help people. He didn’t discriminate even with the drug addicts in the street. He would bring them in and say ‘Ma, give this brother something.
Born prematurely at 27 weeks, one pound and 14 ounces, Holland said she was told not to expect Isaac to survive his first night in Frances Scott Key Medical Center, let alone to reach young adulthood. Loved ones said his every word and action were meant to better the world he was born into, which revolved around his Harwood community in Baltimore. Therefore, when word came that he had tried to break up a fight between a group of youngsters, and that his effort cost him his life, it was no surprise.
Peace was his motive.
“When I heard of the murder and I heard his name, I was pissed because I knew this was not something he would have caused,” said Robert Mara, who watched Isaac transform from a rowdy teen into a good man. “Maybe the teenager I met at 16 could have caused this, but the young man I knew had found peace with himself and wouldn’t have started anything.” Mara, who grew up in Brooklyn, N.Y., moved to Harwood six years ago.
Mara grew closer to Isaac over the last two years of his life as the two engaged in stoop conversations about religion. Mara was a Roman Catholic, and Isaac, a Muslim. The pair, living in houses that were just a few steps apart, often swapped ideas and literature about religion.
“He’s got a book on St. Augustine and he gave me one on how Jesus was a prophet of Allah,” said Mara, of the literature that still sits in Isaac’s room as part of a small library of religious texts.
Now, five months after that fateful day at Waverly Towers, those who loved Isaac are still waiting for someone to come forward with the crucial information needed to make an arrest.
Sgt. Anthony Smith, a public affairs officer for the Baltimore City Police Department, said little has been uncovered about the murder investigation since February.
Holland said a week before her son was shot, several young men from surrounding homes in the area were involved in an altercation. Isaac tried to break that fight up but days later, on Feb. 13, the same juveniles instigated another conflict, later spotting Isaac in the shopping plaza.
Police said a woman approached an officer patrolling the area at 5:46 p.m. and notified him of a fight occurring in the shopping plaza at the corner of Greenmount Avenue and Exeter Hall Avenue.
By the time the officer arrived at the scene, Isaac was dying, the victim of multiple gunshot wounds. He was pronounced dead a little after 7 p.m. in an emergency room at Johns Hopkins Hospital.
“Initial descriptions say a black male wearing a black cap, a black coat, and jeans fired multiple times with a black handgun,” said Smith. “The shooter fled the scene on foot.”
According to Holland, surveillance tapes inside the Family Dollar store have provided no clues as to the shooter’s identity. Only Isaac is seen trying to get into the store for help when the shooter fires again into his chest.
“My son is dead behind something senseless,” said Holland. “He made it only for someone to take his life.”
Holland said there are several witnesses to the crime but not one will come forward. The family of a boy she alleges was involved changed neighborhoods the same week of the murder.
“We’re asking for public assistance and if there is any information they need to call 410-396-2100,” said Smith.
Requests for help have, so far, been fruitless.
“It feels rather typical for Baltimore,” said Mara, who has grown tired of the fear that smothers many inner city neighborhoods and provides a cover for suspects and what police call “persons of interest” walking the streets.
Representatives from the Family Dollar store where Isaac was killed said they have beefed up security to deter crime.
“Our hearts go out to the family of Jerry Isaac,” said Bryn Winburn, public relations manager for Family Dollar Stores, Inc. “Immediately following this incident, we voluntarily implemented aggressive security measures both in and outside the store.”
Malachite Group LTD, managers of the property, says that they have worked to better the space but from a financial standpoint, it doesn’t make sense to have 24-hour security with an unarmed guard in the plaza.
“We have improved the lighting substantially in the shopping center and made other improvements since February, but if someone decided to go on a shooting rampage no one can stop them,” said a representative of Malachite’s corporate office in New York.
“We are not happy that this happened,” said the representative who refused to identify himself in a phone interview with the AFRO. “Unfortunately, this thing is what it is.”