Legendary on and off the court
Baltimore to honor former St. Frances basketball coach William Wells at Madison Square Recreation Center, where his decades of mentoring began
Throughout his lengthy professional career, William Wells comfortably stood before generations of Baltimore City youth, knowing he could relate.
The legendary St. Frances Academy boys basketball coach had once been in their young shoes. As a boy in Waverly, he found a path to success that sent him to the Madison Square Recreation Center in East Baltimore.
“I always believed that most of the guys that came through grew up like myself,” Wells said. “I was from a broken home. There was 10 of us. So, I knew what they were going through and had a shared experience. And when I would see a kid struggling or something was going wrong, I would reach out and try to pull them in and get them on the right track.”
Starting with an entry-level position at Madison in 1969, climbing the ladder to senior director in 1974 and serving until 2002 — 32 years in all — Wells most notably coached basketball and organized leagues with some of
Baltimore’s greatest players on the courts at 1401 E. Biddle St. In addition, he directed other sports, art and music festivals, modern dance recitals and plenty more for the boys and girls who called the rec center a second home.
Mostly though, Wells served as a do-it-all mentor — a calm, commonsense voice to all.
Now, Baltimore City and a grateful community are giving back. On July 30, Democratic City Councilman Robert Stokes and a committee led by former player and colleague Fred Wright will honor Wells at a street-naming ceremony. The corner of Biddle and Eden streets will be marked with a sign for William Wells Lane.
“I really don’t know what I want to say. I know I’m going to thank a lot of people, because I didn’t do it by myself. I had a great staff and people who believed in what I was doing,” said Wells, 77, who lives in Pikesville.
the report said.
The gunman fired approximately 142 rounds inside the building — and it is “almost certain” that at least 100 shots came before any officer entered, according to the report, which laid out numerous failures.
Among the findings are the following.
The commander of a Border Patrol tactical team waited for a bullet-proof shield and working master key for the classroom, which may have not even been needed, before entering the classroom.
No one assumed command despite scores of officers being on the scene.
A Uvalde Police Department officer said he heard about 911 calls that had come inside from the classroom, and that his understanding was the officers on one side of the building knew there were victims trapped inside. Still, no one tried to breach the classroom.
The report — the most complete account yet of the hesitant and haphazard response to the May 24 massacre — was written by an investigative committee from the Texas House of Representatives. Swiftly, the findings set in motion at least one fallout: Lt. Mariano Pargas, a Uvalde Police Department officer who was the city’s acting police chief during the shooting, was placed on administrative leave.
Uvalde Mayor Don McLaughlin said an investigation would be launched to determine whether Pargas should have taken command of the scene. McLaughlin said the city would release all body camera footage from Uvalde police that was taken during the shooting.
Family members of the victims in Uvalde received copies of the report Sunday before it was released to the public.
“It’s a joke. They’re a joke. They’ve got no business wearing a badge. None of them do,” Vincent Salazar, grandfather of 11-year-old Layla Salazar, said Sunday.
According to the report, 376 law enforcement officers amassed at the school. The majority of those who responded were federal and state law enforcement. That included nearly 150 U.S. Border Patrol agents and 91 state police officials.
“Other than the attacker, the Committee did not find any ‘villains’ in the course of its investigation,” the report said. “There is no one to whom we can attribute malice or ill motives. Instead, we found systemic failures and egregiously poor decision making.”
The report noted that many of the hundreds of law enforcement responders who rushed to the school were better trained and equipped than the school district police — which the head of the Texas Department of Public Safety, the state police force, previously faulted for not going into the room sooner.
Investigators said it was not their job to determine whether officers should be held accountable, saying that decision rests with each law enforcement agency. Prior to Sunday, only one of the hundreds of officers on the scene — Pete Arredondo, the Uvalde school district police chief — was known to have been on leave.
Officials with the Texas Department of Public Safety and U.S. Border Patrol did not immediately return requests for comment.
The report followed weeks of closed-door interviews with more than 40 people, including witnesses and law enforcement who were on the scene of the shooting.
No single officer has received as much scrutiny since the shooting as Arredondo. He told the committee he treated the shooter as “barricaded subject,” according to the report, and defended never treating the scene as an active-shooter situation because he did not have visual contact with the gunman. Arredondo also tried to find a key for the classrooms, but no one ever bothered to see if the doors were locked, according to the report.
“Arredondo’s search for a key consumed his attention and wasted precious time, delaying the breach of the classrooms,” the report read.
The report criticized as “lackadaisical” the approach of the hundreds of officers who surrounded the school and said that they should have recognized that Arredondo remaining in the school without reliable communication was “inconsistent” with him being the scene commander.
The report concluded that some officers waited because they relied on bad information while others “had enough information to know better.”