The packed West Baltimore funeral was unsettled before the shots rang out.
At 12:15 p.m. yesterday, the Rev. Napoleon Rush was preaching on the need to stop the violence that had brought 300 mourners to Unity United Methodist Church to view the body of Anthony Lamont Izzard Sr., 26, killed April 11 in a triple shooting.
"I noticed a lot of things that was out of order," Rush said of the overflow crowd, many of them young and, according to him, "in the drug life."
Instead of sitting quietly in the pews, many mourners were walking in and out of the church, according to Rush, and not abiding by his calls for order.
"Most times when a minister speaks a certain thing, people will respect that, but there was none of that," he said. "Even when we was saying, 'Don't come to the casket,' they was still coming to the casket."
And then at least eight shots were fired outside the church in the 500 block of N. Stricker St., according to witnesses. People who couldn't find seats in the chapel "rushed in, running and screaming and hollering," Rush said. "At that point, everybody inside started screaming and hollering too."
Two police officers on a truancy detail outside Baltimore Talent Development High School across the street ran over and found two victims, both with multiple gunshot wounds. One was in the passenger seat of a late-model white Acura. Early today, he was identified by police as Michael Ellerby, 24, of the 2500 block of Marbourne Road.
Ellerby was shot multiple times and was later pronounced dead at Maryland Shock Trauma Center, police said. The second victim, identified as Derrell Mack, 29, of the 2400 block of W. Baltimore St., lay bleeding in the street, police said. As of early today, he remained in serious condition at Shock Trauma.
"It is safe to say that the funeral brought this activity, but to what extent we don't know," said Agent Donny Moses, a police spokesman. Authorities had not identified any suspects last night. "At this point, we're not sure we have any witnesses," he said. "Everybody was inside the church, or so they say."
Police told administrators at the high school to keep students from leaving the campus for about an hour, said Principal Jeffrey M. Robinson. "We maintained a physical presence at the entry points of our building," Robinson said. "Other than that, we just went on with business as usual."
After securing the area, authorities allowed Izzard's body to be transported to Mount Zion Cemetery in Lansdowne. Only about 50 mourners attended the burial, which Rush said he hurried through because he didn't feel safe.
He has been a minister for 26 years and has presided over many funerals for victims of urban violence. "But this is the first one I ever did where a shooting actually took place at the service," Rush said.
About an hour after the shooting, more than a dozen uniformed officers and plainclothes detectives continued to interview potential witnesses. Several streets were blocked off with yellow police tape, and some mourners couldn't get their cars out.
An elderly woman in an elaborate hat sat patiently in a car but declined to be interviewed. So did a couple of young men with tattoos and a young woman who walked over after hearing that a childhood friend was the shooting victim who had died.
Tracy Brazier, who lives in the block where the shootings took place, said that Stricker was a quiet street of mostly homeowners and that it was relatively untouched by the violence that sometimes plagues nearby areas. "We don't have any problems over here," she said, while waiting for police to let her back into her home.
Leon Miller, 63, the church sexton who has lived in the community his whole life, said, "It's a pretty laid-back neighborhood. We have our problems, but nothing like this."
Izzard lived about a mile south, near the B&O Railroad Museum. He was one of three men shot April 11 in the 1700 block of W. Lexington St. in the Franklin Square community by an unknown assailant.
The youngest of 13, he had two children of his own and a fiancee, according to the funeral program. He was known as "King Losta" and "Poppie."
Izzard had been convicted of several drug dealing charges in recent years, according to court records.
Rush said he had known Izzard since he was a baby. Izzard's father died 11 months ago of cancer, the minister said, and his mother was "kind of out of it" with grief.
Rush said Izzard's violent death and criminal history led him to preach a message of peace yesterday. "My thing was that we have to learn to come together as one, as a people, and stop the violence," he said. "We need to bring some unity toward ourselves."
It is a theme he has been plying for years, at similar funerals, but after yesterday's violence, Rush said he would think twice before accepting another such assignment.
On the exterior of Unity United hangs a banner: "Put down the guns. Love or perish."Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun