The two men, wearing slacks and ties, are standing on an East Baltimore street corner in front of a vacant lot. Raymond Staubs, 29, squats down and flips on a guitar amp. In one hand is a Bible, in the other a microphone.
"It's time to repent — commit to God!" Staubs shouts. "Keep the Ten Commandments — thou shall not kill! Holler it from the rooftops! Put away the guns, put away the dope. Hallelujah!"
It's the middle of the afternoon, and Staubs' words are mere background noise as city police investigate another fatal shooting. Down the street, in the 2300 block of E. Chase St., a yet-unidentified man has just been shot in the head near a busy car wash and an elementary school. The shooting happened about 4 p.m. Friday, and police have released little information about the crime.
Staubs, wearing a black dress shirt and a black-and-red tie, says he once regularly traveled from West Virginia to Baltimore to score drugs. Six years ago, he says, he was saved by God and got clean. He now makes the same trek to spread the Gospel.
His weekly visits began in 2008, after he saw a newspaper headline about a teen killer whose mother was addicted to drugs.
"We've seen many things, from west side to east side, drug dealers crying on the streets, prostitutes crying. Young boys come up and pray with us," says Staubs, who is joined by 32-year-old Mike Mobley. "We just want to continue to do what God would have us do."
As he speaks at the corner of Biddle Street and Montford Avenue, most ignore his words or listen curiously for a few moments. Fifty-eight-year-old Thomas Whye is listening intently, his eyes welling up and tears trickling down his worn face. He said he witnessed the shooting.
The victim "was crying and begging," Whye says. "The guy walked up and shot him four times, then shot him another six times."
Whye says he doesn't know the shooter or the victim. But the violence has moved him to tears, he says.
"Why do black people keep killing each other?" says Whye, who is black. "For what? Over some money? That's what it's always about. It made me cry."
Since the beginning of February, detectives have solved about a quarter of the 20 murders across Baltimore.
But Staubs said there's reason for hope. He said he had no idea there had been a shooting in the area when he decided to come here to preach.
"God knows, God cares," he says. "God truly cares."Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun