Naval Petty Officer Alonzo M. Gladden Jr. had been back home for only four hours last October when an unknown person opened fire on him — killing him shortly after he dropped off his grandmother in South Baltimore.
Months later, his killing remains unsolved, and city police have turned to Baltimore's Guardian Angels for help with the case.
On Sunday, standing amid broken liquor bottles at the corner of Hollins Ferry Road and Patapsco Avenue, the volunteers and Gladden's relatives passed out fliers and held up signs asking passing motorists for leads in the case.
"This guy is from the Navy, and he's gone," said Marcus "Strider" Dent, the Guardian Angels' local commander. "He was home four hours and somebody shot him in the head, and killed him.
"Are we that desensitized? Now we're shooting veterans?" he said. "It's sad. Nobody's talking."
Family members held up signs that said, "Honk for Alonzo," and the intersection quickly filled with the sound of honking horns.
"Anyone who has any relevant information, regardless of how small they think it is, I would like them to speak out," said Donna Matthews-Scott, Gladden's mother. "I was very, very proud of him. He was a remarkable young man.
"I'm seeking justice as well as answers," she said. "I don't know why someone felt that they needed to end my son's life. What provoked it? None of us have answers as to why this happened."
According to police, Gladden, 24, was killed around 8:40 p.m. on Oct. 24, after he and his younger brother, Ataun, were unloading groceries in the 2700 block of Marbourne Ave. in the Lakeland neighborhood near their grandmother's home. Unknown gunmen emerged from another car and opened fire on Gladden, police said.
"He was targeted," Matthews-Scott said. "For what reason, I don't know."
Gladden attended Baltimore Polytechnic Institute, graduating with honors in 2006, and studied mechanical engineering at the University of Maryland Eastern Shore. A member of the U.S. Navy for five years, he owned a home in Everett, Wash., his mother said. Gladden served aboard the USS Abraham Lincoln, whose home port is Norfolk, Va.
Matthews-Scott described her son as a "highly intelligent" and confident nuclear-trained Machinist's Mate. Sometimes, though, she said, his success inflated his ego.
"He was arrogant, but he called it self-assurance," she said, laughing.
Gladden spoke fluent Japanese and achieved a lifelong dream when he got to visit that country as part of his duty with the Navy.
"He had friends and associates everywhere: Dubai, Singapore, Washington, South Carolina," she said. "Everyone he came in contract with loved him. I still talk to him every day, as though he's still here. It's been extremely agonizing. My heart aches."
The U.S. Navy and Marine Corps honored Gladden posthumously with those forces' commendation medals.
Dent said homicide detectives contacted him about the case, and that similar awareness campaigns have worked in other cases in the past.
He pointed out that homicides have spiked this year in Baltimore, and called on the community to help solve them, so the killers can't take another life.
Anthony Guglielmi, the city police spokesman, said the department has frequently enlisted the Guardian Angels' services since they helped raise awareness during the Phylicia Barnes homicide in 2010. He said detectives reach out to the volunteers whenever they feel a case needs additional attention.
"They're kind of an extension of the homicide unit within the community," Guglielmi said. "They've been huge partners."
As she spoke of her son Sunday, Matthews-Scott talked of the widespread violence that has frequently claimed the lives of young men in Baltimore, and she broke into tears.
"This most stop," she said. "Mothers stop burying your sons. Sisters stop burying your bothers. If you're the shooter, what possessed you take my son's life? And if you don't know it, you've ruined your own. I will never stop fighting for justice for my son. Ever."