Once a place to wind down during retirement, Johnston Square Apartments, a gray, fairly new multistory apartment complex for seniors along Greenmount Avenue in East Baltimore, has become a safe house.
"The majority of people in here stay in here," said Theo Taylor, who rents one of the more than 200 apartments limited to people age 60 and up. "Don't even go out. At dark, everyone files in here. Don't even come out. They just listen to the gunshots."
It wasn't always like this, said residents who live between the 1000 and 2000 blocks of Greenmount Ave., a half-alive commercial corridor interspersed with boarded-up rowhouses, Chinese restaurants and bail bonds services. Since late October, police said, eight people have been shot along Greenmount, including a man wounded in the leg Monday night.
Though many of the earlier incidents took place farther north, Taylor said, he and his neighbors in the senior-living complex don't go much past the veranda these days. "I don't want to get hit with a stray bullet," he said.
Police say robbery was the motive in Monday night's shooting. Two people with ski masks entered an address and demanded money from the victim, whom police declined to identify. One of the two shot the victim while the second took an unknown amount of money before both fled.
Police found the victim at about 10:15 p.m. suffering from a gunshot wound to his leg. He was taken to a hospital, and police said he was in good condition Tuesday.
Several other incidents have taken place on or near Greenmount, including the fatal shooting Nov. 25 of a 16-year-old boy in the 2200 block of Barclay St., which is about a block off Greenmount. Police identified the victim Tuesday as Daqwon Artis from the 3400 block of Mayfield Ave.
The night before Artis was killed, a 33-year-old man was shot on the corner of Greenmount and East North avenues.
On Nov. 21, two men were shot at 27th and Boone streets, near Greenmount. On Nov. 20, 16-year-old Daniel Pearson was shot and killed and two men were shot and wounded in a triple shooting in the same vicinity.
The shooting scene Monday night was about a block away from where 41-year-old Michael Allen was fatally shot on Oct. 31, in the 1100 block of Homewood Ave.
Police Commissioner Anthony W. Batts has said a drug turf battle between rival gangs, the Black Guerrilla Family and the Bloods, is to blame for the recurring violence. Johnston Square neighborhood residents don't know if it's gangs waging war, but most agree drugs are behind the violence.
"I don't get high or anything like that," said Charles White, 60, who has lived in the neighborhood for 40 years and believes drugs are the source of many problems there. "The only thing I do is drink now and then. But drugging — no."
Batts, who started as police commissioner in September, has driven out to Greenmount Avenue area crime scenes at least twice this fall.
Last year, a man was fatally shot on Halloween night at Yau Brothers carryout at 29th Street and Greenmount, where three others had been killed since March 2009. That spate of shootings prompted police to send extra patrols to the area while the mayor and then-Police Commissioner Frederick H. Bealefeld III led a solidarity march down Greenmount in 2010.
Several blocks away along the same commercial strip on Tuesday, Marcellus "Peaches" Walker, 48, sat on a bus bench contemplating the unusual spate of violence on the avenue this fall. She said police need to send more patrol cars into the area as visible deterrents to tone down the violence. Walker grew up nearby and lived in the neighborhood for 33 years before moving to Baltimore County. But she comes back often to visit relatives.
"I'm hoping when I come down here I don't have anyone I know killed here," she said. "I try not to be on the corners."
Baltimore Sun reporters Justin Fenton and Kevin Rector contributed to this report.
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