9 shot in city in 4 1/2 hours

Two die in late Friday-early Saturday 'spasm of violence'

June 15, 2008|By James Drew | James Drew,Sun reporter

Nine people were shot, including two fatally, late Friday and early yesterday in Baltimore in what one city official called a "spasm of violence."

The gunfire erupted hours after Mayor Sheila Dixon led a City Hall rally to promote anti-violence events scheduled for this Father's Day weekend in some of the city's most crime-ridden neighborhoods.

The string of shootings began about 11 p.m. Friday when a man was shot in the arm in the 1600 block of E. 33rd St.

A half-hour later, two men were shot in the 2100 block of E. Eager St., one in the abdomen and the other in the thigh.

Then, about 2 a.m. yesterday, the Police Department's Eastern District responded to a call that two men were shot, each in the leg. Police did not release an address.

A half-hour after that, in the 4200 block of Shamrock Ave., three men were shot. Two died, and the third was treated at a local hospital.

And, about 3:30 a.m., a man was shot in the arm in the 2800 block of Reisterstown Road.

In addition to these nine, police found a man's body with a gunshot wound about 6 a.m. behind a building in the 2900 block of Hamilton Ave. The incident is considered a "suspicious death" pending an autopsy, said Officer Nicole Monroe, a police spokeswoman.

Police did not identify any of the shooting victims. No arrests had been made as of late yesterday, Monroe said.

"They all seem to be random acts of violence. There does not seem to be a common denominator between them," she said.

"It was a rough night," said Sterling Clifford, a spokesman for the mayor and the Police Department. "Nine in one night; I can't think of when the last time that happened."

The deaths brought to 91 the number of homicides in the city this year.

In late May, three people were shot, including one by police, in the northeastern and downtown areas of Baltimore.

On May 25 and 26, two men were killed in incidents that occurred about a half-mile from each other in the Darley Park and Oliver neighborhoods.

Three homicides were reported in the city over the weekend of May 3-4.

Last month, city officials pointed to crime statistics showing that homicides and nonfatal shootings had declined more than 30 percent this year compared with 2007.

Police commanders have credited the decline in part to aggressive policing of people suspected of carrying illegal guns, combined with a renewed emphasis on tracking known violent offenders who are on parole or probation.

Yesterday, Dixon said the nine shootings that included two homicides emphasizes that "we've got to get these illegal guns off the street."

She urged residents to contact authorities.

"Folks who have access to guns, people in their homes know they have them," she said. "Folks are going to have to step up."

But Dixon also suggested that some factors might be beyond anyone's control.

"You have those moments," she said. "You hate to associate the moon, but sometimes when it is a full moon, it seems to get crazier."

On Friday, Dixon was flanked by volunteers wearing white "Safe Streets" T-shirts when she kicked off six events as part of the city's first "Safe Streets Weekend."

The program is a public health initiative in East Baltimore's McElderry Park and Ellwood Park neighborhoods and in Union Square.

None of the nine people was shot in those neighborhoods, Clifford said.

Marvin "Doc" Cheatham Sr., president of the city's branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, said Baltimore has made a "significant turnaround" in its homicide rate this year, but added, "We have to do much better."

"Right now it looks like we are aiming at 200 homicides, but how can you accept 200 deaths? You can't. You shouldn't accept one," he said. "The community must do more and better."

Dixon and Cheatham spoke after an event celebrating the 100th anniversary of the Baltimore Fire Department's Engine Company No. 33.

In response to the nine shootings, district commanders and other high-ranking police officials will determine "if anything can or needs to be done differently," Clifford said.

"Police strategies can take away opportunities to commit homicides, and the police, through a focus on illegal guns, can take away the tools that people use to commit homicides," he said.

"Until there are long-term strategies like 'Safe Streets,' and other things really have an opportunity to work to address this culture of violence that occurs in various communities, we'll be vulnerable to a spasm of violence," Clifford said.

james.drew@baltsun.com

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