The red flags went up for Michelle Hines when she noticed her son wasn’t home.
Hines had just gotten home from a work training Monday and saw the clock said 3:10 p.m.
“I said wait a minute, where is Izaiah? And I started yelling to my other two, ‘Did he walk through the door? Is he in the basement?’” she asked them. No one saw Izaiah Carter.
Hines had received an automated phone call from Baltimore City Public Schools saying that there was an off-campus shooting at Patterson High School but no children were hurt.
But about 20 minutes after she got home from work, there was a call from Carter’s school saying the 16-year-old had been shot.
“Like, I just got that automated call. And I literally just, you know, exhaled? I’m like I don’t have to worry,” Hines said in an interview organized by WJZ-TV. “And now you’re telling me my son has been shot.”
Police found Carter in Joseph E. Lee Park unresponsive and suffering from a gunshot wound to the head. He was transported to the nearby Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center, where he was pronounced dead.
“My child has been killed. That’s what I had to keep telling myself to actually believe it,” Hines said.
Carter is the sixth person younger than 18 who has been shot and killed in Baltimore this year.
“This is unreal. ... And this is something that I’ve been afraid of because I have a Black son in Baltimore,” Hines said. “I understand from talking to other people about how they’ve dealt with the experience in their own lives, and it’s like, I’ve known that I’ve always had to be that extra barrier of safety to prevent something like this.”
Hines is an involved parent. She asked teachers to notify her when Carter ever missed class, which she said happened infrequently.
Nicole Chang, the social and emotional learning coach at Vanguard Collegiate Middle School, met with Carter all through junior high. She said she could tell his parents were involved not only in his education but his life outside the classroom.
“Izaiah, literally, was one of those kids that wasn’t worried about the latest things — he was age appropriate — you could tell that this little boy was allowed to be a little boy,” Chang said. “The biggest issues we would have with Izaiah would be him basically bringing his action figure toys to school.”
With so many boys being shot in the city, Chang acknowledged that some have preconceived notions about the victims. But that was not Carter.
“Unfortunately, we all know some kids that we can say, I could see this happening. Izaiah, not at all,” Chang said.
Carter was in his first year as a JROTC cadet at Patterson High School. William Fork, the group’s instructor, said Carter was an “intelligent kid who came into the program to keep out of the noise.”
While many first-year cadets come to find out they don’t like JROTC because of the uniform and grooming standards, Carter didn’t have any issues, Fork said.
“He was consistent in wearing his uniform. And periodically, he thought about maybe going into service after high school,” he said. “He was an intelligent young man and would’ve went far in the program.”
Hines said she feared retaliation against Izaiah after what she described as a mediation meeting held at Patterson in January following an alleged brawl in the school cafeteria involving 23 students.
When administrators were talking to parents about their plan to keep students safe, Hines’ questioned the sincerity of the school system’s efforts.
Now, she is focusing her anger and grief on pushing for changes in the school system.
“I don’t want to hear about how there was another child killed when they’ve should’ve been in school,” she said.