Number of people killed in Baltimore now higher than 2011

16-year-old victim's parents search for answers as commissioner says gang war largely to blame

November 22, 2012|By Justin Fenton, The Baltimore Sun

The number of people killed in Baltimore this year has exceeded the count from all of 2011 after a violent Wednesday that saw at least one stabbed and three shot — including two near the same corner where a 16-year-old was killed a day earlier.

Less than 24 hours had passed since the fatal shooting of teenager Daniel Pearson on Greenmount Avenue when two more men were hit by gunfire in almost the same spot. Another man was killed in Northwest Baltimore, and a boy was taken to the hospital after being stabbed on his way to a school.

"Public safety is the top priority of this administration," Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake said early in the day. "This year's homicide numbers are tragic, simply tragic. I remain committed to reducing homicides and cracking down on violent offenders. We cannot allow senseless gun violence in our neighborhoods."

Tyrone Brown, Pearson's stepfather, and his despondent fiancee sat in the dark Wednesday, shades drawn. Again, gunfire rang out just blocks from the home.

"It's happening again," he said. "There's been another shooting."

Last year was the first time since the 1970s that Baltimore recorded fewer than 200 homicides, a symbolic feat that punctuated consecutive years of steep declines. That will not happen in 2011. This year's total is now 198.

Shootings have been coming in bunches lately, with two triple-shootings and four double-shootings since last week, an unusual occurrence in Baltimore's recent history.

Pearson, the eighth juvenile killed this year in the city, was known around the neighborhood as "Funny," his mother said, because of his good nature, though he had also had his share of brushes with law enforcement. He was expecting to become a father at the end of December.

The mayor urged residents to look at overall crime statistics, not just murders, and said that gun crime, violent crime and property crime are all down when compared with last year. Murders involving guns are up 20 percent compared with the same time last year, but overall gun violence — including aggravated assaults and robberies with guns — is down 9 percent, the most recent statistics show.

Police Commissioner Anthony W. Batts, who visited Tuesday night's crime scene on Greenmount, was back again Wednesday afternoon, at the intersection of Boone and East 27th streets. He said police believe the recent shootings are in part fueled by a gang turf war.

He has previously said that investigators believe that the Black Guerrilla Family, a prison-based gang that has been branching out on the streets, is trying to expand its turf, sparking clashes. He said the area around Boone Street was known Bloods gang territory.

"The Black Guerrilla Family is trying to take over gang, drug-related territories," Batts said, standing under a sign warning that the area is under surveillance "24 hours a day."

"In order to operate, you have to pay them, and the BGF and Bloods now have a feud that's taking place."

He said a shooting Tuesday afternoon on Orleans Street was also believed to be connected, though he did not have information on Pearson's killing. A 33-year-old man and a 20-year-old man were also wounded in that incident.

Police officials in recent years rarely provide motives for crimes, even when detectives are confidently pursuing leads. But Batts said it was "important to provide the tapestry, that most of these are not random."

After moving additional resources into patrol last week, police now say they are emptying out their administrative bureau — those working desk jobs — to increase strength on the street and increase foot patrols.

As police surveyed the crime scene at Boone Street, another shooting was reported in Northwest Baltimore, with a man shot multiple times in the head and chest.

Baltimore police spokesman Vernon Davis said Thursday that officers had received a call reporting a shooting in the 2800 block of Boarman Ave. shortly after 2:30 p.m Wednesday. He said police found Adonay Garcia-Wilson, 22, and transported him to Sinai Hospital. He was pronounced dead at 3:26 p.m.

Davis said police had no suspects but were continuing to investigate.

And in West Baltimore, an Edmondson High School senior was stabbed in his left side on his way to school, according to system officials.

In a statement, the school system said the boy arrived at the building, where school administrators called police and medics about 8:30 a.m. He was taken to Maryland Shock Trauma Center, accompanied by his mother. City police are investigating, officials said, because the incident may have spilled over from a neighborhood spat.

Back near Greenmount Avenue, Pearson's parents struggled to come to grips with his death from the night before. It wasn't lost on them that there would be one less setting at the Thanksgiving table.

"The holidays will never be the same," Brown said. "Ain't nothing to be thankful for."

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