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Violent spate of city shootings raises concern of crime spike

As the sun waned Tuesday afternoon in Northeast Baltimore, 51-year-old Stephanie Yancey held back tears as she placed flowers, balloons and a teddy bear in front of Sully's Seafood & Subs on Belair Road, across the street from her home.

A day earlier, police had found Michael J. Sullivan, a Harford County resident and the shop's longtime owner, shot dead in the store.

"He was a good man," Yancey said. "He knew everybody in the community, but it's the community that hurts you. It's a shame."

Residents and leaders across Baltimore shared similar feelings about the spate of shootings in the city Monday and early Tuesday that left a total of four people dead and six others wounded.

Police said there wasn't a specific undercurrent to the violence but believed many of the incidents were the result of ongoing disputes.

"It's about intelligence," said Anthony Guglielmi, the Police Department's chief spokesman. "It's about figuring out who's doing what and why, and trying to get on top of it. We have to get intelligence from the community."

City Council President Bernard C. "Jack" Young said he was troubled by the recent crime, which he characterized it as reprisal-based "territorial fights going on between the drug guys." Residents said they were concerned but also reconciled to the violence.

"We're used to shootings around here," said Sara Tussing, 20, who said her two friends were among three shot, one fatally, near her family's home in the 3400 block of E. Lombard St. on Monday night. "You can send your kid to the store and they never come back. That's life."

Murders in Baltimore are up nearly 9 percent this year compared with the same period last year, most occurring in neighborhoods troubled by violence. But amid a rash of reports of downtown violence and a transition at the top of the Police Department with Commissioner Frederick H. Bealefeld III retiring, some are worried about an upswing.

"The city's renaissance is sputtering, and City Hall appears to be outmatched," said Anirban Basu, an economist and former school board member. "People talk about crime constantly, as you know, and I was delighted to speak about the declines in crime in recent years. But with mobs downtown and the recent spike in homicides, any joy has been put to rest. Many people are feeling this way."

Twenty-seven people were listed as homicide victims in May, tied with April 2011 for the most in a single month since 2008, according to The Baltimore Sun's records. So far in June, seven people have been killed in five days.

In all, 95 people have been killed in 2012, compared with 87 at this time last year.

While the crime is concerning, Young said, the city is working to address it.

"We get these little rashes of shootings, but I can certainly tell you that we're doing all the right things as far as the Police Department trying to get a handle on this crime," he said.

Baltimore police began investigating the spate of shootings Monday with an already-full plate after a weekend in which three people were killed — an 18-year-old shot at a gas station, a 42-year-old stabbed in an East Baltimore boarding house and a 68-year-old killed in a robbery in Northwest Baltimore.

The shootings happened all across the city, from Park Heights to Highlandtown, and included at least one woman and a juvenile male shot.

Police responded to Sullivan's shop, which was also functioning as a check-cashing business and had lottery terminals, at 10:50 a.m., after he was found by a customer. Police said they were investigating a possible motive of robbery, but valuable items had been left behind.

About 9:25 p.m. Monday, police said, three people were shot in the 3400 block of E. Lombard St., in Baltimore Highlands east of Patterson Park. Police said two gunmen on bicycles rode up to the victims, got off and opened fire.

A 23-year-old man, later identified as Charles Goodman, was pronounced dead at Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center, and two others, a 20-year-old man and a 15-year-old male, were wounded and treated and released from an area hospital.

Shortly before 12:30 a.m. Tuesday, Thomas Mattox, 26, and an unidentified 22-year-old male friend were shot and killed in front of Mattox's home in the 4400 block of Pall Mall Road, in Northwest Baltimore, two blocks off Park Heights Avenue, police said.

On Tuesday afternoon, more than a dozen men, women and children sat on their front steps and chatted with one another along the 3400 block of E. Lombard St. They said the men and the teen shot the night before were neighborhood guys, and that when the gunfire broke out, lots of kids were out on the street.

Tyra Scott, who has four children, said the shootings were a sign it was "time to move" somewhere safer.

"The city is just terrible," Scott said. "All you can do is keep your kids in the house."

Tussing doesn't expect things will change.

"The police are always on our street already," she said. "It's just crazy."

Baltimore Sun reporter Justin Fenton contributed to this article.

krector@baltsun.com

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Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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