Police shake up Southwest leadership after spate of shootings

Acting Police Commissioner Anthony E. Barksdale ordered a shake-up of the command in the department's Southwest District after a spate of shootings that left five dead and several wounded in the past week.

Maj. Eric Russell and Deputy Maj. Justin Reynolds were reassigned, and the deputy major of the Western District, James Handley, will take over as commander of the Southwest. His deputy will be Lt. Sean Miller, who had been assigned to the agency's violent crimes impact section, officials said.

The move comes as the Police Department steps up efforts to control the violence, carrying out raids in the Poplar Grove Street corridor and sending homicide detectives out to canvass for information in the recent killings. Operations units from other districts were deployed to the Southwest District to augment patrols and walk foot posts, police said.

"The acting commissioner says we needed to put the right people in the right places," said Anthony Guglielmi, the department's chief spokesman. "This is not a shot against the leadership of the Southwest District, but maybe it was time to put people into new responsibilities and new challenges."

But he also said Barksdale was dissatisfied with the district leadership's response to the recent shootings, saying he asked for a deployment plan at Thursday's management meeting, referred to as Comstat.

"You've got to look harder," Barksdale said of possible links between shootings, according to Guglielmi.

The latest shooting occurred Friday morning in the Rosemont community, killing a 30-year-old man and injuring a woman.

Officers were called to the 3000 block of Normount Ave. at 1:20 a.m. Friday, but the male victim was found lying on a sidewalk on nearby Rosedale Court. He was pronounced dead at 1:38 a.m., police said.

A woman who had been shot in the left hand was found on the steps of the Rosemont PAL Center, which is to close next month. She was taken to an area hospital for surgery. Police believe the two shootings are related.

A 22-year-old was shot in a separate incident at 11:22 p.m. Thursday in the 1600 block of Ashburton St., a half-mile from the Rosedale Court shooting, in the Western District. Police said he was taken to an area hospital where he was treated and released.

Earlier, two men were killed two blocks apart on Poplar Grove Street — Jermaine Blue, 30, who was shot in the 1400 block last Saturday, and Javon Blackwell, 20, who was killed Wednesday in the 1200 block. Police have not said whether they believe the shootings are connected.

Fatal shootings also occurred near the Westside Shopping Center, where three people were shot and one killed Tuesday night; and in Yale Heights, which is in the southern part of the district near the Baltimore County line, early Thursday.

Promoted to take Handley's spot in the Western District was Lt. Robert Smith, the commander of a squad of officers focused on Pennsylvania Avenue. Smith was in the headlines in 2008 after being charged with rape; it was later determined that he was on vacation and far away from the station house when the alleged rape occurred. The city issued a public apology to Smith 21/2 years later and paid him a six-figure settlement.

Guglielmi said Russell will take over the agency's education and training section, praising his work with the department's Police Explorers youth program. The position has been vacant since John King, a former top Montgomery County official, resigned this year. Reynolds, who has experience in the training section, was assigned to the recently reinstituted inspections section.

Baltimore Sun reporter Jessica Anderson contributed to this article.


Copyright © 2018, The Baltimore Sun, a Baltimore Sun Media Group publication | Place an Ad