Baltimore police announced the arrests of two men in the death of a 16-year-old girl and the indictments of 11 members of a suspected drug crew they say might be responsible for some of the violence that has roiled the city in recent weeks.
The arrests and indictments come as police face criticism amid a surge of shootings and killings since the arrest of Freddie Gray. The 25-year-old Baltimore man died in April after suffering a severe spinal cord injury in police custody.
"We are in the battle," police Commissioner Anthony W. Batts said Thursday. "You can see we are in the battle, and we're showing you we are in the battle and we're taking this very seriously."
The city recorded 42 homicides in May — the deadliest month in 25 years — and has started June with 14 more.
Adonay Dixon and John Childs were charged with first-degree murder in the death of Arnesha Bowers, an 11th-grader at City College.
Police said Bowers was sexually assaulted in her home in the Westfield neighborhood of Northeast Baltimore and then strangled with an electrical cord.
They said Dixon, 23, and Childs, 20, stole $40, an iPad and a laptop, and then set the home on fire.
Police Maj. Stanley Bradford, the head of Baltimore's homicide unit, said "the motive was evil."
"Can you imagine leaving your child at home and two people come into her house hell-bent on death and destruction?" he asked. "I can only imagine what the last moments of Arnesha's life was like. It must have been pure hell."
Neither Dixon nor Childs had attorneys listed in court records.
Police commanders said Bowers' family and neighbors helped break the case.
People came forward with tips "from the moment we were on the scene," Deputy Commissioner Kevin Davis said. The cooperation showed "how this is supposed to work."
City Councilman Brandon M. Scott declared Thursday "a good day for Baltimore.
"That can only happen with everyone working together," he said. "This is how it should be every day."
According to police, Childs told detectives that he and Dixon planned to rob Bowers' home.
They said Bowers had been spending time with Childs and Dixon at Childs' apartment building.
After Bowers' grandmother picked her up on Saturday, police said, Dixon followed the car home on a bike. Once he knew where Bowers lived, police said, he returned with Childs.
"They believed the house would contain items of value because Arnesha's grandmother has a job and owned two vehicles, and planned to break into the property and steal any valuables," police wrote in a report.
Police said the men knew Bowers' grandmother was working and Bowers was home alone. If the teen awoke, police said, Dixon planned to put her in a chokehold.
The pair entered through a basement window, police said. Bowers awoke, police said, and Dixon dragged her into the basement while Childs ransacked the home, taking money from purses and a safe.
According to police, Childs told detectives that Dixon and Bowers were in the basement for 30 minutes.
Then Dixon came upstairs and said they needed to leave "because the house was on fire," police said. Dixon told Childs the girl was dead, police said.
Her body had been set on fire, as had her bed, dresser and a basement utility room, police said. They said a check of her phone showed calls between her phone and a phone belonging to Dixon hours before she was killed.
Police said Childs confessed to the killing and burglary on Wednesday and implicated Dixon. Police arrested Dixon hours later.
"Killers," Batts said. "Sixteen-year-old, innocent teenager. … Nothing is more important than tracking down and jailing cowards who take the life of an innocent child. Nothing."
Court records show Childs was released from a Baltimore County jail on a burglary charge five days before Bowers was killed. Childs was charged with attempted murder in 2011, but prosecutors dropped the charge.
Dixon has a prior drug possession conviction, court records show.
Dixon and Childs are believed to be members of the Bloods gang, Bradford said.
Batts also said Thursday that prosecutors had obtained indictments of 11 suspects charged with conspiracy to distribute drugs. Police said several will also face gun charges after weapons seized by officers are tested to determine if they match shootings and homicides that have occurred in the last few months.
The suspects are accused of dealing cocaine and heroin, police said.
Eight men have been arrested. They include Damonte Smith, 19; Lamar Jones, 21; Keon Powell, 23; Derrick Powell, 19; Kennard Jackson, 18; Samuel Alston, 19; and Harold Johnson, 25. Court records do not list attorneys for the men.
Kevin Pyatt, 24, was arrested last week and charged in a double shooting on Memorial Day that injured a 9-year-old boy.
Three suspects in the indictment remain at large.
Police said Pyatt "began shooting wildly" in the 2900 block of Arunah Ave. One bullet hit a man above his left eyebrow. Another struck the boy, who police said was playing basketball.
Pyatt was charged with attempted second-degree murder, assault, gun charges and reckless endangerment. Neither he nor his public defender could be reached Thursday.
Police Lt. Col. Sean Miller, commander of the Special Enforcement Section, said the investigation into the alleged drug crew took two months. The Drug Enforcement Administration was a partner in the bust, and investigators observed the crew dealing drugs in the daytime hours, police said. Ten search warrants were served Wednesday.
Miller said shootings tipped police off to the semi-organized outfit.
"They tipped their hand with the violence they conducted," Miller said.