Six people were shot, one of them fatally, after a gunman opened fire Thursday afternoon on a group of people sitting on a porch in Southwest Baltimore.

Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake called the shooting a "cowardly act with grave and tragic consequences for the community," and she said police were doing "everything in their power" to track down the shooter.

"This disregard for human life will not be tolerated," Rawlings-Blake said at news conference at police headquarters.

"Someone knows who did this. Someone knows why. Someone can help police find the perpetrators."

Police said the victims ranged in age from 28 to 72. Two of the surviving victims were last reported in critical condition, while three suffered wounds that were not deemed life-threatening. The man who died had not been identified.

The shooting broke out about 1:30 p.m. in the 500 block of Denison St., just off Edmondson Avenue in the Allendale community near Hilton Parkway.

Police Commissioner Frederick H. Bealefeld III, who has kept a low public profile in recent months, said at least one gunman and possibly two approached the home from the rear and through a side alley and opened fire on the group, some of whom were drinking. Bealefeld said it did not appear to be a robbery attempt and the victims had no known gang ties, but the shooting was also not believed to be random.

"No one should be solving disputes in the city this way," Bealefeld said.

Bealefeld said the house was well-known to law enforcement and had been the source of numerous complaints about drugs and drinking in recent years.

"We are very much aware of the house," Bealefeld said. "Officers have taken action numerous times at and around this crime scene."

The fatal shooting continues a trend of recent daytime shootings in the city — two men, ages 40 and 26, were killed in separate shootings at 1:30 p.m. and 4:45 p.m. Tuesday along Greenmount Avenue, and a 23-year-old man was fatally shot about 2 p.m. Sunday in West Baltimore. For the year, 94 people have been slain in the city, compared with 89 at this time in 2010.

Thursday's shooting occurred as mayors from across the country are descending on Baltimore for a three-day conference during which officials will be promoting the city.

On Denison Street, dozens of people looked on from behind police tape, and traffic backed up as police shut down westbound lanes and vehicles traveling eastbound slowed to take in the spectacle.

Though none of the residents interviewed said they heard or had witnessed the shooting, Bealefeld said some residents were calling in tips to police that he hoped would provide leads. Signs at the end of the block promoted surveillance cameras, but Bealefeld said the best intelligence would come from neighbors and relatives of the victims or suspects.

Flanked by his new chief of patrol, Col. Dean Palmere, and new chief of detectives, Col. Jesse Oden, who were both promoted Wednesday, Bealefeld said police would "hunt and track down the persons responsible."

Not present was Maj. David Engel, the commander of the homicide unit, who is standing in for Maj. Terrence McLarney, the veteran commander who was removed without explanation Wednesday.

justin.fenton@baltsun.com

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