Health Department official who oversees anti-violence initiatives assaulted

An assistant city health commissioner who oversees anti-violence initiatives was assaulted Friday in downtown Baltimore on his way back to work after having a sandwich for lunch.

Greg Sileo, who is recovering from multiple facial fractures, swelling and bruising, said he does not remember the attack, but according to police, he was assaulted at 1 p.m. by a group of juveniles at Baltimore and Commerce streets. The teens took his two cellphones and his wallet, Sileo said.

"I think we need to look into what is causing people to engage in this kind of behavior," Sileo, 33, said Saturday after being discharged from the Maryland Shock Trauma Center. "A couple of young guys stealing my cellphones and ending up in jail doesn't seem to be worth it."

Sileo, who ran for a South Baltimore City Council seat last year, oversees various anti-violence programs at the Health Department, including the Office of Youth Violence Prevention and Safe Streets. He also is president of the Locust Point Civic Association.

He said the last thing he remembers before waking up in the emergency room was walking back to the Health Department office on Redwood Street after meeting some co-workers for lunch at Leinenkugel's Beer Garden at Power Plant Live.

The attack will give him new insight into how to help the agency carry out its violence prevention work, Sileo said. As part of the job he has held for less than a year, he participates in violence mediation meetings, school-based anti-violence programs and trauma-related interventions.

Sileo said he has never before been a victim of a violent crime.

"Anytime you become a victim of violence, it changes your outlook," Sileo said. "You don't always recognize the impact it has. Having this perspective — while it wasn't one I was looking for — puts it into perspective for me."

Police said their investigation is continuing. Anyone with information is asked to call 410-366-6341.

Friday's attack marks at least the second time a city official has been assaulted by juveniles in the last year.

In December, then-City Councilwoman Rochelle "Rikki" Spector was approached in a South Baltimore parking garage by two teens who threw her to the ground, beat her up and tried to steal her Buick. Police arrested a 13- and 15-year-old on charges of attempted robbery and first- and second-degree assault.

Spector, who was 80 at the time, was finishing out her final days on the council before retiring after a nearly 40-year tenure.

Police have been grappling with a rash of teen crimes in recent months.

Four juveniles were arrested about a month ago after police said they were part of a group that carjacked a woman carrying her 7-week-old daughter in the North Baltimore neighborhood of Homeland.

After that incident, police spokesman T.J. Smith said, "Once again, very disturbing that we are talking about children. It's sad, it's frustrating, it's upsetting. We can't underscore it enough that we are dealing with a lot of the same young people who are in and out of the [criminal justice] system."

In other recent incidents, police reports have described an 11-year-old boy who was walking near Patterson Park in Southeast Baltimore late last year when five teenagers approached him on bikes and one pulled out a knife, stealing the boy's cellphone and $6. A few hours later that same day, a group of teens approached a 64-year-old man who was reading a book on a park bench near the Johns Hopkins University's Homewood campus, put a gun to his head, sprayed him with pepper spray, stabbed him and stole his belongings.

Sileo, a city resident for 11 years, said his attack was "completely random." He said Police Commissioner Kevin Davis visited him afterward, and Sileo said he has confidence the police will be able to find and charge the people responsible.

He said he expects to make a full recovery.

Baltimore Sun reporter Justin Fenton contributed to this article.

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