Crime Scenes: War on guns a daily, dangerous struggle

Firepower still proliferates on city streets

December 02, 2010|By Peter Hermann, The Baltimore Sun

It's the signature program for Baltimore police — curtail violence by getting guns off city streets.

The department's public Twitter feed is replete with gun arrests — "traffic stop leads to 1 arrest and recovery of a .40 cal handgun" — reads one note from Monday. "Call for armed person leads to recovery of a .38 caliber handgun," reads another message from Thursday.

But it seems that just as often as guns are taken out of circulation, bullets fired from guns are put into circulation.

On Tuesday evening, police officers in Northwest Baltimore stopped a Honda on Delaware Avenue in Park Heights. Police said the driver had a 9 mm Ruger P85 and 50 rounds of ammunition.

Another confrontation between officer and alleged gunman. This one ended with the arrest of Alonzo Lynch, a 45-year-old owner of an auto body shop in Park Heights. He was charged will illegal possession of a handgun.

Another confrontation between officer and gunman early Saturday did not end peacefully.

A young city police officer stopped a man he suspected was armed at Baltimore and Calvert streets about 12:30 a.m. Police said the man pulled out a gun and shot the officer in the left shoulder. Three other officers shot and wounded the man.

It adds up to continued frustration among police and city leaders, whose statements condemning gun violence and their efforts to stiffen penalties seem as repetitive as they do futile.

The story of the man charged with shooting the officer is a familiar one. He was sentenced in 2008 to five years in prison for handgun possession and again that year to 12 years in prison for armed robbery. With the sentences backdated to his arrest date in 2006, combined with suspended time and earned good-time credits, the suspect was out on the streets this past weekend.

City officials have repeatedly pushed for tougher laws in Annapolis. An effort in 2009 to curtail "good-time credits" for people serving time for illegal guns stalled in the state Senate. In the next session, Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake wants to push to send felons convicted of handgun crimes to prison for 15 years.

A City Hall spokesman told Baltimore Sun police reporter Justin Fenton that the mayor wants to end the "culture where it's acceptable to walk around the streets of Baltimore with a loaded firearm."

According to police charging documents filed in court, the man arrested Tuesday told officers that he didn't know he needed a permit to carry the 9 mm Ruger, which authorities said he had purchased legally from a gun store.

Officers approached the silver Honda Civic on Delaware Avenue in Park Heights because it was parked with its front end sticking into an intersection. In a report, police said the occupants appeared nervous and kept glancing toward the back seat.

Detectives Spencer P. Moore and Victor A. Dipaola ordered the driver and passenger out and asked Lynch whether they could search the car. "Sure, I don't mind," he answered, according to the report. "There's nothing in there, I'm sure of it."

Police said they found a black gun box inside a black Kenneth Cole book bag. They said the gun inside the box was loaded with 15 rounds of ammunition, and there was a box filled with 35 Blazer brass bullets.

Authorities said the suspect did not have a permit to carry the weapon, but he told detectives that he has the gun for protection. He was released on $25,000 bail and has a court date scheduled next month. Phone numbers listed for Lynch are disconnected, and the auto body shop is closed; it was put up for sale in October, according to real estate records.

For Baltimore police, the 9 mm Ruger is another handgun off the streets — one of 2,043 seized since January, another part of the police commissioner's campaign to go after "bad guys with guns."

Since that statistic was made available Wednesday, police have posted several more Twitter messages announcing gun arrests. One of the latest came Thursday morning. In a raid on a rowhouse on Ramone Avenue in Northeast Baltimore, police said they found a .38-caliber handgun and 26 small plastic bags of cocaine.

And 55 rounds of ammunition.

peter.hermann@baltsun.com

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