A woman sleeping next to her child in her Southwest Baltimore home awoke to the sound of three or four gunshots. Her husband told her to get down. After a few moments, they looked out the window to an empty street.
No one was running. Nothing looked out of sorts. They figured the gunshots weren't near.
On Thursday morning, police discovered the truth: Two people had been shot dead inside a green car parked outside a vacant home. A man sitting in the front passenger seat was still holding a cigarette, a witness said. The woman behind him was also slumped over.
"There was nobody screaming, nothing," said the woman who heard the shooting, who declined to provide her name out of fear because no one has been arrested.
Police say they are working to determine exactly when the shooting took place, but several people in the Mount Clare neighborhood near Traci Atkins Park said they heard gunfire in the night.
The number of killings in Baltimore has jumped at the start of the year, which comes after two straight years of increases. The man and woman found in the car on Thursday were the city's 23rd and 24th homicide victims.
A 25th homicide — the third of the day — was reported just before 7 p.m., when officers found a 56-year-old man in the 4200 block of Walrad St. suffering from multiple gunshot wounds. Doctors could not save him.
The number of homicides in Baltimore this month has eclipsed the count last year at this time by 11. It's the most homicides in a January since 2007, when 28 people were killed.
Baltimore Police Commissioner Anthony W. Batts said in a radio interview Thursday that he did not like the way the news media have portrayed the violence.
"I'm a little concerned at times that we get people incensed, outraged, nervous, when you need to get a full picture of it," Batts told Anthony McCarthy on WEAA. He noted that last year's homicide count was still the third-lowest in the past 20 years.
He called homicide the "most egregious" crime but said that "some people are putting themselves in a position to have these incidents taking place." He gave the example of a marijuana buyer who is robbed and shot.
Thursday's double homicide marked the 10th shooting and seventh killing linked to a car. Victims include Ricky Mellerson, 28, who was found shot to death in an overturned car near the Washington Monument on Jan. 11, and Spencer Falcon, 28, who died in a carjacking Jan. 10.
Victims have been shot while driving and while getting out of cars. One was pulled out of a car and shot.
During a virtual "town hall" session on Twitter, Batts acknowledged Thursday that the number of car-related shootings suggested a trend. "We are starting to see a pattern of weed deliveries where drug victims are meeting dealers in cars," he said on Twitter.
Daniel W. Webster, director of the Johns Hopkins Center for Gun Policy and Research, said he hasn't seen research on shootings directed at people in vehicles. But he said there are several reasons criminals might target intended victims in cars.
People spend a lot of time in cars, he said. They often can be identified and targeted by their vehicles. If ambushed, they have a limited ability to escape.
Baltimore police spokesman Detective Jeremy Silbert said officers were dispatched to the 1500 block of Cole St. at 9:40 a.m. Thursday on a report of a shooting. But he said homicide detectives will be speaking to neighbors and reviewing 911 calls in the area the night before.
Both victims were dead when police arrived, he said.
Neighbors said they believe the shooting took place the night before because they heard no shots Thursday morning and the surrounding blocks are half-vacant.
The bodies were found yards from tall concrete pillars and railroad tracks used in scenes of HBO's "The Wire" television series.
Police on Thursday also identified two recent victims. Derrill Crawley, 25, of the 300 block of Grantley Ave. was killed in a double-shooting in the 5200 block of Denmore Ave. Eric Jerome Brown, 19, of the 400 block of N. Curley St., was killed in the 600 block of E. 38th St.
Police announced that they had charged Avery Little, 20, in the Denmore Avenue shooting. Court records show Little was initially charged Wednesday with firearm possession after the shooting and ordered held without bond. No attorney was listed in court records.
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