Fight against killings leads to officer's death

Shootout: Anti-violence unit member's sacrifice should bring call to increase city's efforts.

March 14, 2001

THE DEATH of Officer Michael J. Cowdery in a shootout must redouble the whole Baltimore community's efforts to stamp out violence.

Anything less would besmirch the memory of the 31-year-old officer who made the ultimate sacrifice on the vicious streets of East Baltimore.

It was because of the efforts of men and women like Officer Cowdery that Baltimore's shocking homicide rate last year fell below 300 for the first time since 1990. More recently, though, the trend has again turned upward. More slayings have occurred so far this year than at the same time a year ago.

Three plainclothes officers from an Eastern District anti-violence unit were trying to prevent further bloodshed Monday night when they drew the fire of a gunslinger. Officer Cowdery was mortally struck; another officer was grazed in his leg; the suspected gunman was seriously wounded.

In taking their pledge, all public safety officers know the odds of something happening to them in the line of duty. Yet these men and women are willing to serve their community in jobs that are exhausting, generally poorly paid and underappreciated. This is selfless dedication of the highest order. Without it, our city would not survive as an orderly society.

Over the past decade, Baltimore has earned a terrible reputation as one of the nation's most lethal cities. Indeed, Officer Cowdery's father, a career Philadelphia police officer, tried to talk his son out of joining the force here.

The younger man, though, thought he could manage the risks. For four-and-a-half years he was right.

Maryland flags are flying at half-staff to honor the heroism of Officer Cowdery, the 104th city officer to die in the line of duty since 1870. But that well-deserved homage is not enough.

His death will be meaningless unless it galvanizes all Baltimoreans to an uncompromising crusade against gun violence and other forms of criminality.

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