The 911 calls that came at 9:25 Monday morning sounded familiar: Park Heights residents had heard gunshots. Yet another shooting with one more dead victim was the familiar outcome after another violent weekend in the city.
The man found with a bullet in his head behind a string of rowhouses on Shirley Avenue was the seventh person fatally shot or stabbed since Friday afternoon, when a 78-year-old man was killed in his house on Edison Highway.
Police have not arrested anyone in this latest spate of violence but say they have good leads in several cases. Detectives are investigating two incidents as related — Saturday night's shooting of a man in Belair-Edison and the discovery of a shooting victim less than 20 minutes later in an alley off North Calvert Street in Oakenshawe.
But most of the violence, police believe, was sporadic and unrelated, the result, a police spokesman said, of "robberies, drug disputes and fights."
The deadly spurt prompted Police Commissioner Frederick H. Bealefeld III to convene his command staff Monday to reinforce the urgency of clearing guns from city streets.
His spokesman, Anthony Guglielmi, told reporters that efforts to put pressure on known violent criminals and gather better intelligence has been paying off since the tactic was announced in August after a bloody weekend in which 13 people were shot, three of them fatally.
Guglielmi noted that despite several weekends this year with high death tolls, violence overall on weekends has dropped 16 percent since last year. Before Friday, the city had six consecutive weekends without substantial violence. There were no shootings the previous weekend and no slayings the weekend before that.
Still, the latest killings leading into Columbus Day have edged the city's homicide count closer to last year's tally, with 171 homicides through Monday evening, compared with 176 at this time in 2009. "This was a bad weekend, no doubt," Guglielmi said, while emphasizing that long term, "We're doing pretty well."
Guglielmi also said Bealefeld plans to announce Wednesday that the department is getting additional funding to help officers target gun offenders.
"The big push by the police commissioner to the rank and file is [going after] bad guys with guns," Guglielmi said. The spokesman said he could not offer more details about Wednesday's announcement.
But Guglielmi did once again make a plea for help from residents. "We can put a police car in every driveway, but if people don't help the police, we aren't going to get anywhere," he said.
Police said they particularly need help in figuring out what happened to Sterling Palmer, the 78-year-old stabbed to death in his East Baltimore home. His wife had stepped out to run an errand and returned 20 minutes later to find him dead at the bottom of a stairwell. Police at first thought he had fallen, but they later determined that he had been stabbed.
Four people were killed Saturday, including the man shot on Shamrock and the man whose body was found in Oakenshawe. One more person was killed Sunday and another man Monday.
Police would not say how they believe Saturday night's killing of Daryll Hood, 22, a block from his home on Shamrock Avenue, is related to the death of Travis Lane, 19, whose body was found with bullet wounds in his side and chest in Oakenshawe.
Hood was shot in the head about 8:15 p.m. and Lane was found in the alley about 8:50 p.m. Police initially said they were investigating whether Lane had been shot elsewhere and dumped off North Calvert Street, but Guglielmi wouldn't comment further when pressed for details Monday afternoon.
Police also would not divulge a possible motive behind the shootings. Hood had no adult criminal record and only a single arrest in 2007 on a charge of having an open container of alcohol in public. Prosecutors did not pursue the charge.
Lane was on probation at the time of his death, stemming from an April conviction for assault for which he was sentenced to a five-year prison term, with all but four days suspended. He was convicted in July of selling drugs, court records show, and was sentenced to five years in prison. But court records show the judge suspended all but six months of the term and did not impose any sanctions for the probation violation.
Hood's mother, Trina Hector, called him a loving father of a 3-year-old boy and said he was about to enroll in a private college to study air-conditioning and heating repairs. Hector said her son had graduated early from Thurgood Marshall High School and had briefly attended Baltimore City Community College. Police declined to say how he might be connected to Lane.
Hector said she has no idea why her son was killed.
"Somebody's heathen child took it upon himself to take a life that was not his to take. Justice will prevail," she said. She described Hood as a "very soft and kind young man. He had compassion to help people."