City ties deadliest month with 45th homicide

Baltimore police report 45 homicides this month, making July the deadliest month since August 1972.

Baltimore Detective Roderick Mitter was at his desk at the police station when he got a call from his mother telling him a family member had been shot.

Within minutes, the 10-year veteran was at Johns Hopkins Hospital, where his 18-year-old nephew, Jermaine Mitter, was pronounced dead Thursday.

"I was telling somebody yesterday, 'You get numb to it. It's just work,'" the detective said Friday of the violence he regularly sees on the job. But with family, he said, "It's totally different. I wasn't just Roderick the police officer. I was someone who lost someone."

Jermaine Mitter was among 45 people killed in July, the deadliest month in the city in at least 45 years. July's total surpassed the 42 homicides in May and tied the previous record monthly homicide count in August 1972, when the city had about 275,000 more residents.

As the month drew to a close Friday, police also announced the death of Donte Dixon, 29, a popular local rapper known as "G-Rock," who was shot Thursday night in the 4500 block of Edmondson Ave.

Police have not announced arrests in either case.

City violence has surged since the April 19 death of Freddie Gray. The 25-year-old died after suffering a severe spinal cord injury while in police custody. Six officers involved with his arrest and transport have been charged and are scheduled for trial in October. All have pleaded not guilty.

Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake fired Police Commissioner Anthony W. Batts in early July, and immediately replaced him with interim Commissioner Kevin Davis. She has praised Davis' leadership, calling the department's recent response to the violence "more nimble" after it announced several arrests this week.

The mayor has begun holding regular public safety forums, and is planning an anti-crime walk Monday at the AME Zion Church on Pennsylvania Avenue.

Detective Mitter said when he arrived at the hospital Thursday, he believed his younger brother, Jermaine Mitter Sr., had been shot.

"I was kind of in pieces at that point," Mitter said. "I told my partner I had to call my mother," and he broke the news to her.

But he then learned the victim was his 18-year-old nephew, and he had to call his nephew's mother.

"I let her know he's gone. No mother wants to hear that," Mitter said.

It's not the first time Mitter lost a family member to violence. Last year, his brother, Charles Mitter, was killed in what Baltimore County police described as an "extremely violent" attack. Charles Mitter and another man, Tyray Wise, were stabbed more than 70 times, county homicide detectives said. Charles Mitter also was shot several times.

Mitter, who investigates nonfatal shootings and stabbings, said he last saw his nephew at his brother's funeral last August. He said he and his nephew weren't particularly close, but his mother would occasionally tell him about the young man's troubles.

"It was really hard on her," he said.

Less than 12 hours after Mitter's nephew was shot in the 3400 block of Elmora Ave. on the city's east side, officers were called to the other side of town, where Dixon had been shot multiple times.

News of Dixon's death spread quickly on social media, and the hashtag #RIPGrock was a top trending topic on Twitter in Baltimore.

"He was about to get a record deal, then this happened," James Jones, Dixon's friend, said Friday.

Jones said Dixon's lyrics often depicted the troubles of growing up in a violent city.

Jones said he's seen several friends killed this year.

"I hate it here. It's crazy," said Jones, 24. "I've had enough. I've seen too many people killed."

Jones said he and Dixon chatted through FaceTime just hours before his death, and they talked about music. Jones said he had just shown Dixon edits he made to a music video for Dixon's song, "Slow Down." Jones said the two often worked together at a studio on Patapsco Avenue.

"He was an outgoing person, fun. A lot of people loved him. He was a good guy. He didn't start no trouble. He tried to stay away from stuff like that," Jones said.

Jones said Dixon has a 13-year-old daughter and 5-year-old son. He said he spoke to Dixon's girlfriend at the hospital. "She is really hurting," he said.

"We grew up in the city. Seeing everybody die, it's been crazy. Just witnessing what's going on," Jones said. "We were trying to get out of there. That was our goal."

Police on Friday identified several other victims of recent homicides:

•Marcus Downer, 23, of the 5500 block of Rubin Ave. He was found about 7:45 p.m. Sunday in the same block.

•Michael Polston, 18, of the 200 block of Mason Court. He was found just before 11 a.m. Monday in the 1600 block of North Ave.

•Franklin Grayson, 24, of the 2900 block of Erdman Ave. He was found in the 2300 block of Druid Hill Ave. about 7:30 p.m. Tuesday.

•Lorod C. Warner, 23, of the first block of Camano Court in Randallstown. He was found around 11 p.m. Tuesday in the 1400 block of Bloomingdale Road.

•Marquis Tisdale, 24, of the 2200 block of W. North Ave. He was found in the unit block of N. Abington Ave. just after 2 a.m. Wednesday.

•Teon E. Simms, 40, of the 3700 block of Songbird Circle. He was found just before 7 p.m. Wednesday in the 2200 block of Annapolis Road.

jkanderson@baltsun.com

twitter.com/janders5

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