Baltimore County grieves after yet another loss

Maria Greenwood is packing 200 kits filled with candy, American flags and thank-you cards for the police officers at Baltimore County’s Parkville precinct. It’s one way she’s found to channel her grief after a police officer was killed in the line of duty this week.

The death of Officer Amy S. Caprio — a 29-year-old who died Monday after being hit by a vehicle while investigating suspicious activity — is the latest event to leave county residents reeling. Her killing comes less than two weeks after County Executive Kevin Kamenetz died of cardiac arrest. It also follows the incarceration of the county’s former school superintendent, Dallas Dance, who was widely admired before he fell from grace.

To Greenwood, who lives in Parkville, the care packages are a small act of kindness that can play a part in building positive relationships between the community and law enforcement. She hopes to deliver them by Sunday.

“You just never know what could happen to any one of them,” said Greenwood, who has delivered nearly 3,000 care packages since 2016, when two Harford County deputies were killed on the job. “That's what draws me to do this. I want every officer in the county and the city to know that they are loved and they are thought of and that they are prayed for on a daily basis by people like me. And it’s just really important.”

Gov. Larry Hogan has ordered the U.S. and Maryland flags lowered to half-staff until after Caprio’s burial. The county’s first female officer killed on duty, she would have celebrated her fourth year on the force in July. Four Baltimore teenagers have been charged as adults in the killing.

Baltimore County Council Chairman Julian Jones called the back-to-back-to-back ordeals “a very trying time” for county residents. He said he was stopped three times Tuesday on a short walk from a parking garage to his office by people expressing shock and condolences about the string of events.

“It has certainly been a period of time like no other here in Baltimore County,” said Jones, a Democrat from Woodstock.

Since the May 10 death of Kamenetz, a leading Democratic candidate for governor, the county’s day-to-day business has been handled by longtime county administrator Fred Homan. He has been named acting executive until the council selects a new leader.

The county is also looking to stabilize the school system after Maryland’s top public education official blocked the county school board’s appointment of Verletta White as permanent superintendent, citing concerns about White’s ethics violations and the school system's failure to audit its practices for issuing contracts. White was appointed to replace Dance, who pleaded guilty to four counts of perjury for lying on financial disclosure forms. He is currently serving a sixth-month sentence in a Virginia jail.

“These are somber times,” said Councilman Todd K. Crandell, a Dundalk Republican. “I believe that we are an extraordinary place to live. We’re going through some tough times right now.”

County Councilwoman Vicki Almond, a Reisterstown Democrat, said the county has “suffered in the last couple of weeks greatly.”

“It’s an extraordinary time for Baltimore County, and a humbling time that forces us to stop and think our about values and what truly matters,” Almond said.

Peggy Winchester said the presence of a police cruiser in the parking lot of her church, Perry Hall United Methodist, when she arrived for Bible study Tuesday was a reminder of the county’s troubles — and the country’s, with frequent school shootings and other devastating incidents.

Talk of the officer’s death took over the conversation once she got inside.

“Why does this happen time after time?” Winchester, 83, said. “It seems like it’s one thing after another. We have to feel sad, not only for ourselves, but for our young people coming up.

“To me, it felt good to have your faith.”

As at Winchester’s church, an officer waited in a police car outside Perry Hall Elementary School Tuesday, as children arrived in the rain. Teachers and school administrators stood outside to welcome them.

Blanca Serrano, 49, dropped off her grandson Daniel Chavez, a kindergartner. The boy was one of nearly 2,000 students in Perry Hall area schools who were stuck until after dinnertime Monday while police searched for suspects in the officer’s killing.

Serrano called the ordeal terrible, and said she tried to insulate her grandson from information about the officer's death to protect him from getting scared. As he spent hours inside his school Monday, Daniel was eating and singing in his classroom, shielded from any trouble outside, she said.

"I felt worried,” the Perry Hall woman said. “The school, I know they protect all those kids. … I go home and cry because I'm Grandma.”

Baltimore Sun reporter Catherine Rentz contributed to this article.

ywenger@baltsun.com

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