Waverly murder reminds us of violence’s toll

April 09, 2010

The murder Thursday night of Charles Bowman, a 72-year old security guard and long-time fixture in the Waverly neighborhood, during a $13-robbery of a neighborhood carryout restaurant ought to remind all Baltimoreans of the enormous toll the city's plague of gun violence continues to take not only on our sense of public safety but on our public health and our efforts to revitalize the troubled business districts of city neighborhoods ("Killing at carryout another blow for Waverly area," April 9). I live just 8 city blocks north of where it happened. Although it is encouraging that the city's murder rate has finally diminished in recent years, incidents such as Mr. Bowman's murder remain much too commonplace — indeed his killing was the third at this one carryout restaurant in the last 13 months.

None of us is spared the effects of such violence, as shootings kill and maim hundreds of our fellow Baltimoreans each year, traumatize thousands of family members and make life in our neighborhoods so much meaner and more insecure.

This kind of violence hit home for me in a very personal way 20 years ago when, during my first year in Baltimore, my father was shot in a Chinese carryout restaurant in his West Philadelphia neighborhood. My parents were regular patrons of this restaurant, just as Mr. Bowman was a regular at the carryout in Waverly where he was killed.

I remember driving the two hours north to Philadelphia not knowing, in an era before cell phones, whether I would find my father dead or alive. Fortunately, the bullet had lodged in his jawbone, sparing my father's life. But I will never forget the trauma the incident caused my family. And his health and the sense of security that he provided our family was never quite the same thereafter. I remember this period as the first true test of my rejection of the death penalty. My opposition to capital punishment survived that trauma, but I also emerged with an even stronger commitment to fighting for policies that will make our communities safer.

It is well and good for the city's fine police commissioner, Frederick H. Bealefeld III, to suggest that we must get the bad guys off the street. But as Mr. Bealefeld knows very well, we are not going to arrest our way out of the problem. I call upon our mayor and City Council president to work even harder with the leaders of our city's neighborhood associations and nonproftis groups to stop the killing and to create a task force empowered to take decisive action to end the city's scourge of gun violence. For Waverly and the surrounding community, the three murders at Yau Bros Carry Out are a contamination that must be cleaned up.

If there were three cases of food poisoning, wouldn't the health commissioner shut it down, and least for a time to determine the source and address it? Shouldn't three deaths be cause to take similar action?

If we approach the problem as the kind of public health crisis it is for the city, we can and must dedicate ourselves to ending this scourge in our lifetimes. Unfortunately for Mr. Bowman and his family, this remedy will come too late, but it can't come too soon for our parents and children.

Mary L. Washington, Baltimore

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