One left the city to go to college and see the world with the Navy. The other refused to leave East Baltimore even after his mother moved south to make a better life for his siblings, instead staying to hang around on the corners.
Alonzo Gladden, 24, and James Utley, 26, both died Wednesday night in separate incidents of gun violence in Baltimore, and though their fates were the same, their lives took distinctly different paths.
In the end, two more young black men are dead in Baltimore.
Detectives fanned out Wednesday morning, going door to door with fliers to find Gladden's killer. He and his younger brother, Ataun, were unloading groceries at the intersection of Marbourne Avenue and Mallview Road near their grandmother's home about 9 p.m. when gunmen emerged from another car and opened fire. He had been in town just a few hours.
Gladden's grandmother, Sheila Thompson, told WBAL that Ataun ran into her house yelling after the shooting. She said she went out and cradled Gladden, saying over and over, "Come on, baby, don't leave. Come on." The family did not respond to interview requests from The Baltimore Sun.
Anthony Guglielmi, the Police Department's chief spokesman, said investigators do not believe Gladden or his relative was targeted.
"Homicides are tragic and senseless, and it's compounded by the fact that this is a member of the United States military who dedicated his life to serving his country and was caught in Baltimore's gun violence," Guglielmi said.
Neighbors in the community described Gladden as quiet and respectful. He attended Polytechnic Institute and studied mechanical engineering at the University of Maryland Eastern Shore. Records show he owned a home in Everett, Wash., and was living aboard the USS Abraham Lincoln, a nuclear-powered aircraft carrier based out of Norfolk, as part of a nine-month mission.
A Navy spokesman would not disclose Gladden's rank, citing a policy of not identifying members until 24 hours after relatives have been notified.
A Google+ page listed under his name said that in addition to the Seattle area and Baltimore, he had lived in Greensboro, N.C., Charleston, S.C., Chicago, Singapore and Dubai.
Guglielmi said he hoped the suspects, or those close to them who have information about the killing, would come forward when they realize Gladden was a service member. "That's a heavy burden to carry," Guglielmi said.
Col. Garnell Green, the commander of the homicide unit, was with detectives Wednesday morning as they canvassed the neighborhood for tips and handed out fliers. Lakeland, near the county line in the southern part of the city, has rarely seen gun violence, though some neighbors said crime has been rising.
"The community is well-knit, and people were interested and wanted to help us, so we're hoping that information will come to us," Green said.
Utley died in Oliver, the most murderous neighborhood in the city this year and in the same block where city officials gathered this month to mark the 10th anniversary of a firebombing that wiped out a family.
Found shot in the 1400 block of E. Preston St. in front of boarded-up houses about 11 p.m., Utley was taken to Johns Hopkins Hospital and pronounced dead.
Utley didn't get a passing mention in the Police Department's briefing to the news media. At 7 p.m. Thursday, his family and friends walked to the scene of the killings, carrying blue and white balloons and a piece of posterboard scrawled with condolences. "Gone but not forgotten," it read in the center.
"He was a young fella, raised up in the 'hood, and he didn't want to leave here," said his mother, Nanette Holt, 49, who moved to North Carolina six years ago to raise her young twins.
"It worried me so bad, always," said Holt, who drove up after getting word of the shooting. "I had to pray for him every night."
Utley, known to friends as "Eddy Kane," was arrested several times in the past two years, and in 2006 was charged in separate cases with shooting one man and slashing another with a knife. He was not convicted in either case, but he received a one-year suspended sentence this year when authorities said he rammed a police cruiser while trying to flee a traffic stop.
Holt lamented her son's choices but said that "nobody deserves die to like a dog in the street."
His uncle, Richard McKoy, 48, said older relatives had prepared themselves for the possibility that Utley might meet an untimely death.
"I'm not going to sugarcoat it. He was in the streets. Hustling," McKoy said. "He was a good guy, but he got caught up out here. People selling drugs, gang violence — it's everywhere, and it's ridiculous. It's not like the police don't know what's going on."
At Big Bill's Liquors, at the corner near where the shooting took place, employee Kyu Pak said shootings seem to get shrugged off, with residents acting as though such things "just happen," he said.
Anyone with information on either case was asked to call homicide detectives at 410-396-2100.Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun