An alarming rise in summer violence continued Thursday, as the past week's death toll rose to 12 in Baltimore and politicians began sniping over blame.
City police announced arrests — including men charged in previous violence — even as detectives found themselves with new killings to investigate. Two men were fatally shot and one wounded early Thursday in West Baltimore, and three women were taken to hospitals after a shooting in Northeast Baltimore Thursday night. In all, 35 people have been shot since last Friday.
A city councilman blamed police corruption for worsening the violence, then quickly apologized to the union that represents police officers. A challenger in the nascent race for state's attorney criticized incumbent Gregg. L. Bernstein for not being more visible amid the chaos. Bernstein's office said he is doing all he can.
The comments came a day after Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake and Police Commissioner Anthony W. Batts sought to reassure the City Council and the public that they are using all available resources to stop the gunfire.
Councilman Carl Stokes took to the radio Thursday to offer his thoughts on what's ailing the city, telling WBAL that he places part of the blame on "too many corrupt police officers who are running drugs with drug runners."
The statements were quickly condemned by police union president Robert F. Cherry Jr., who called them "outrageous, inflammatory and untrue." Stokes soon backed away from some of his statements and personally apologized to Cherry.
Stokes said he shouldn't have used the words "too many" and called most officers "heroes." He said he based his comments on constituent complaints. Stokes stood by other remarks in which he criticized police for initially referring to the wave of shootings as a "a little bit of a spike" that's to be expected.
Sgt. Eric Kowalczyk, a Baltimore police spokesman, declined to address Stokes' comments, noting the councilman's apology.
Kowalczyk said Thursday that police had arrested four suspects in recent shootings and that more arrests are expected. "Our focus is going to continue to be on the people that are taking lives of our young people," he said.
Police charged Lamonte Sherman, 17, of Parkville, and Devin Baker, 23, of the 2700 block of Ashland Drive, with attempted first-degree murder and other counts. They are accused of shooting into a car Wednesday and wounding a man in the rear alley of the 2000 block of Northbourne Road in Northeast Baltimore. No attorney was listed in court records for either man.
Cush Ajely Wright-El, 24, of the 5200 block of Elmer Ave., was charged with three counts of attempted first-degree murder and 15 other counts in the nonfatal shooting of three men early Sunday in the 5100 block of Arbutus Ave. in Northwest Baltimore.
In 2010, Maryland court records show that Wright-El was acquitted on charges of first- and second-degree attempted murder, assault and handgun violations in a February 2010 shooting.
Wright-El also faces a prior charge of possession or receiving a weapon while confined or detained. He was scheduled to be tried on that charge July 15. A call to the public defender representing him in that case was not returned Thursday.
Tavon Terrel Hammond, 28, of the 100 block of Denison St., was charged this week with first- and second-degree murder in the shooting of Blake Harris, 24, in the 4500 block of Marble Hall Road in Northeast Baltimore. Police found Harris slumped in the driver's seat of a 2002 gray Dodge Caravan about 7:30 p.m. Tuesday.
Witnesses identified Hammond, according to a statement of charges. No attorney was listed for him in court records.
Previously, Hammond was charged with first- and second-degree attempted murder in the shooting of Kaiya Parker, 24, in the 4200 block of Loch Raven Blvd. in August 2010. A year later, police found witnesses who identified Hammond as the shooter, according to a statement of charges.
But Louis Curran, the assistant public defender who represented him, said the prosecution's case was torpedoed by discrepancies between witness accounts and state evidence. He called it "one of those cases where there were too many holes to plug."
Prosecutors had also charged Hammond with trying to kill the mother of his son in November 2010. According to court documents, he threw the woman through the window of a carryout restaurant after an argument, causing a cut to her neck that required 34 stitches.
That case was not prosecuted either because the victim recanted her statement, according to the Baltimore state's attorney's office.
Marilyn J. Mosby, who announced this week that she plans to challenge Bernstein for the state's attorney post, said too many violent offenders with lengthy criminal records are rearrested when they should be locked up.