Playground Killing of Man With Disabilities Was Unprovoked, Police Say

The man with disabilities who died after being stabbed on an elementary school playground in Maryland on Monday was the victim of an unprovoked attack, officials say.

Douglas Reyes, 24, died Monday afternoon as he sat on a bench near a basketball court at Gaywood Elementary School, on the 6700 block of 97th Avenue, Prince George's County police said. Left with disabilities after a childhood car crash, family and friends said he was nevertheless a happy, talkative man.

Charging documents say Reyes was sitting near the playground when a man verbally confronted him and then pulled out a knife. With several people nearby, the attacker stabbed Reyes in the upper body and then fled.

Police were called to the scene about 3:45 p.m. An EMS crew tried to revive Reyes, but he was pronounced dead about 4:10 p.m.

Alex James Jones, 31, was arrested at 4:15 p.m. Monday at a bank less than a mile away, the documents say. Witnesses to the stabbing identified him as the attacker, according to the documents. He was charged with murder and first-degree assault, and admitted to the attack, prosecutors said in charging documents.

It was unclear if Jones was being represented by an attorney.

Reyes liked to walk his dog, Sparky, around the neighborhood and sit on a bench in the playground, his brother Michael Reyes said. Douglas Reyes was hurt in a car crash when he was 5 years old, affecting how he walked and moved his arms, Michael Reyes said.

He called his brother's attacker "heartless."

"He can't defend himself at all," Michael Reyes said. "[The attacker] has no sympathy."

The stabbing suspect's mother said her son, too, has disabilities.

"My son never had any trouble with the law. He's never been arrested," said Jones' mother, Fannie Jones. "My son is diagnosed with multiple mental disabilities, and even if someone has provoked him, he has never defended himself."

Fannie Jones refused to answer whether her son ever had used drugs. 

"He's not a criminal," she said.

More than 100 people attended a vigil Tuesday night in the playground where Reyes died. Mourners crossed a muddy field and placed candles on the bench where Reyes had been sitting when police say the attacker approached.

"It was not fair for his life to be taken like that," Reyes' brother Rene Castro said. "He was only a kid. He couldn't defend himself. And for this man to do that, he was really sick."

Michael Reyes said through tears that he blamed himself.

"I know that if I wasn't at work, he would've still been alive and it would be me here and not him," he said.

A man also named Douglas Reyes visited the scene of the crime Monday night and said he was worried after his adult son, who has disabilities, went missing Monday afternoon.

The stabbing victim, who lived on 100th Avenue in Seabrook, was friendly, his brother and neighbors said. 

"He was a wonderful guy," one neighbor said. "He was always speaking to everybody."

"Even though he was in his condition, he was more happier than any other normal person in the world," Douglas Reyes' brother said.

Gaywood Elementary students were on winter break at the time of the crime.

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