When 14-year-old Michael Carter and two friends hopped a freight train, they left their middle-class suburbs behind and ended up in a very different, violent world just 30 miles down the tracks.
It was 1 a.m. Thursday when the train stopped in a crumbling section of Flint dotted with trash, junkyards and bars. After asking strangers for help finding a pay phone, they were taken instead to a nearby park, where all three were shot, and the one girl in the group was sexually assaulted.
Michael died from a gunshot to the head. His 15-year-old friend, Dustin Kaiser, was hospitalized Monday in fair condition with a gunshot wound to the head. And the 14-year-old girl, who was not being identified, was treated for injuries that included a gunshot wound to the face.
Two men and four juveniles, ages 16 to 23, were arrested Sunday and Monday. They were ordered held Monday on charges of murder, kidnapping, armed robbery and sexual assault.
Police believe robbery was the motive. Sgt. Tom Korabik said the suspects got $10, all from the girl, and later told officers they were out to “jack somebody.”
In the predominantly black neighborhood - all the suspects are black - some say the white teens may have stood out as strangers.
“You have some people who have the will to do bad. And yes, you can say they would be easy marks,” said Flora Williams, 56, who has lived across from Ophelia Bonner Park all her life.
The teens are from the suburbs of Highland Township and Davisburg, where the tree-lined streets and rustic, single-family homes are much different from where they ended up.
In Flint, tall weeds grow around the border of the park. Bottles and other trash litter the parking lot. The brick walls of the nearby Foss Avenue Christian School are covered with graffiti.
Derrick Aldridge, an administrator of the school, said his knowledge of the area leads him to believe race wasn’t a factor. He said the attackers would have seized upon anyone who happened along.
“They just ran into each other at the wrong place and the wrong time,” he said.
The suspects were identified as Tyrone Reyes, 16; his 18-year-old brother, Terrance Reyes; Anthony Hollis, 23; his 20-year-old brother, Adrian Hollis; Shannon Gould, 16; and Christopher Darling, 18.
Korabik said Tyrone Reyes shot the victims, while Adrian Hollis tried to use a shotgun but the safety jammed.
Near the neatly kept Highland Township trailer park where Michael lived, Pam Hubbard said neighbors are devastated. And she said it has taught other children to think twice before hopping trains.
“Don’t think it’s never going to happen to you,” she said.