COLUMBUS, Ohio – It was the sort of commonplace misbehavior that raises blood pressure across the nation's roads: kids, out after midnight, egging cars along a busy thoroughfare.
This time, though, the mischief turned deadly. The driver of a targeted gray Jeep barreled after the boys and someone inside pulled a gun, firing multiple shots that killed 14-year-old Danny Crawford.
Police are still seeking the gunman more than two weeks after Crawford's death. They have interviewed the Jeep's owner but aren't saying if that person is a suspect.
"I'd like to know where he is. I'd like to know why he won't come out and admit what he did," said the teen's mother, Kelly Crawford, 35, a Fredericksburg, Va., office worker.
Crawford, raised in Virginia, where he lived with his mother, had moved to Columbus over the summer to be with his father. He decided to stay for the school year, attending eighth grade at a middle school a few minutes from his house.
"We're just wondering why it happened to him and why would somebody even think to do that?" Hannah Pulse, 13, a friend, said of Crawford's slaying.
Crawford's death was reminiscent of a shooting in Indiana last year when a motorist whose truck had been egged by teenagers chased the youths and opened fire in a parking lot, killing one boy and wounding another.
Three years ago a young man in northeast Ohio was shot to death after throwing tomatoes at passing vehicles, a common prank in the Amish community.
Cars give people a sense of anonymous power that helps explain such confrontations, a type of road rage, said Northeastern University criminologist Jack Levin.
"People are reacting from their gut in the heat of the moment and if they had a little time to think about it and cool off they might not respond at all," he said.
Crawford's killing happened Dec. 2 in a struggling neighborhood of century-old homes plagued by poverty and drug abuse. It's common to see prostitutes after dark and hear late night gunfire.
The church parking lot where Crawford and his buddies were hanging out that night is about a mile from his father's house, and friends said he didn't know the layout well.
Family and schoolmates said Crawford — called D.J. by his family — was fun to be around and made a point of helping other kids, cheering them up if they had a bad day.
"Danny was a nice kid, he doesn't get in a lot of trouble," said 12-year-old Cyril Butler, a seventh-grader who played pickup football with Crawford. "He was hanging around the wrong people, honestly."
The boys shouldn't have been throwing eggs at cars, said other teens from the area. But they also said nothing the boys did justified a fatal shooting.
"That's what kids do, they have fun on the weekends," said Kwon Wright, 16, a sophomore at nearby West High School. "That's what him and his boys was up to — having fun doing what they do."
It was after midnight when the shooting happened. The teens were on a lighted church parking lot where it was common for kids to play basketball or roller-skate, and adults were nearby. Someone showed up with eggs, and the kids started tossing them at each other, said Bobby Messer, 43, father of 14-year-old Devon.
At some point, police say, the boys began lobbing the eggs at cars along a busy four-lane city stretch of U.S. 40, the old National Road that divides Columbus in two. A police detective says it was another boy who threw the egg that hit the Jeep.
Family members say the prank was out of character for Danny.
"We had hoped that he would graduate from high school, possibly go to college," said his grandmother, Gayle Shiner, 65, of Fork Union, Va.. "We hoped he would date and marry and have children, and of course all of that was ended because of somebody's stupidity."