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Officials: Baltimore City public works employee killed by co-worker

Baltimore police responded to a shooting at city public works facility in Penn North Thursday morning.

A 34-year-old Baltimore public works employee was shot and killed at a city maintenance facility in the Penn North neighborhood Thursday morning, according to police, who continued searching Friday were searching Thursday night for a co-worker in connection with the death.

Officers were called at 8:32 a.m. about a shooting in a locker room area of the building at 2331 Fulton Ave., where they found a Department of Public Works employee suffering from multiple gunshot wounds, Baltimore police spokesman T.J. Smith said. The gunman fled the building and remained at large hours later, police said.

The victim was taken to Maryland Shock Trauma Center, where he died, Smith said. He was identified Thursday night as Darrin Ulysses Johnson Jr. of Baltimore. Family for Johnson could not be reached Thursday.

Police said the suspect is Cipisirono Cole Cipisrono Cole, 47, with a last known address in the 700 block of Lanvale St. He is charged with first-degree murder and handgun offenses. Cole was charged with second-degree assault in 2008 but the charge was dropped, online court records show.

Both men were listed as hourly laborers for the city's water and wastewater department, according to city records. Cole was hired in 1991 and earned $46,700. Johnson was hired in 2006, and earned $37,000.

Smith said that after the two men argued, Cole retrieved a gun, shot Johnson and ran from the scene. "This wasn't a random incident. … These were persons that were known to each other," Smith said.

Smith did not elaborate on the nature of the dispute, and rejected reports that there had been an "active shooter" situation at the facility.

"There was never an active shooter. There was a shooting," Smith said.

Police spokesman Detective Donny Moses said officers searched the building and moved employees to a safe area. Moses said police were in the process of obtaining an arrest warrant for the suspected shooter and that the public is not in danger.

"Not at all. This was an isolated incident," a dispute between employees, he said.

Rudy S. Chow, director of the Public Works Department, said the facility, Park Terminal, is the headquarters for the city's water and sewer system. About 100 people report there daily.

"Workplace violence of this nature is something you hear about in other places, but you cannot prepare yourself for the emotions when it strikes home," Chow said in a statement. "Our employees at Park Terminal responded as professionally as possible, sheltering in place until the police arrived to conduct a thorough investigation."

The shooting took place on the first floor of the building, where maintenance workers use locker rooms to change into their uniforms. Upstairs, analysts, engineers and contractors work in a secure-access office space.

The facility also includes a lot where trucks and other equipment are parked, and a warehouse used to store materials. The first floor has open access for the crews to come and go and accept inquiries from the public, Chow said.

Police have done a "top-to-bottom sweep" of the terminal, where work must continue as part of the agency's 24-hour-a-day, seven-days-a-week operation, Chow said.

"The city relies on us to carry out the business today and tomorrow," Chow said.

Chow said he sent police officers assigned to his agency to the site to "provide calmness and a sense of security" to the workers. He said any workers who wished to go home after the shooting were excused, but some remained late Thursday afternoon. Counseling services were being offered to help employees deal with grief, fear or anger, he said.

"My focus is the well-being of the people who are working at the terminal, plus my more than 2,500 employees who are scattered across the city," Chow said.

Chow said he has been in close communication with Baltimore police Commissioner Kevin Davis. Chow declined to talk about what steps the police have taken to track down the suspect. Chow also declined to provide details about the circumstances that led to the dispute or to identify the suspect or victim.

"The professional investigator will get to the bottom of what happened," Chow said.

Police escorted the workers on the first floor to safety after the shooting, Chow said. Employees on the second floor sheltered in place, as they have been trained to do, during and immediately after the shooting, he said.

The suspect's access card to the facility has been turned off.

"This is a very, very tough time," Chow said. "There isn't a playbook in the world that tells us, 'Follow these 10 steps, and that is how you deal with it.' We are doing the best we can."

Chow said he been in contact with the union that represents public works employees to make sure workers' needs are being met. The agency stresses safety for its workers, including requirements that they wear helmets and vests on job sites and that office hazards are identified and corrected.

Still, he said, "We are not immune to violence. … We will be respectful of the families whose lives are forever changed. And we will continue our dedicated service to our customers."

City Councilman and mayoral candidate Nick Mosby called the shooting "definitely concerning."

"No one expects their loved one to go to work and die this way," said Mosby, whose district includes the site of the facility. "It's important to understand from an operational procedures perspective if there was any conflict resolution [between the workers] and if the shooter had a history of violence."

Councilman Carl Stokes, who also is running for mayor, said he wanted to offer his "profound and sincere condolences" to the families and employees at the facility.

"I am extremely saddened by the untimely and unfortunate shooting death of a city employee," Stokes said. "My heartfelt thoughts and prayers go out to the family of the victim and the many city employees who were impacted by this tragedy."

Mayoral candidate Sheila Dixon said she was "deeply saddened and dismayed" by the incident and offered her condolences "to this young man's family during this extremely difficult period of time, as well as to the men and women of our Public Works department."

Longtime Councilman Robert W. Curran said he can't recall a similar situation at a city facility. Curran, who worked as a foreman at Domino Sugars before he was elected in 1995, said he did not know whether any supervisors had been previously alerted to tensions between the shooter and the victim.

"Our workers need to feel safe," Curran said. "That's paramount. I wish this had been caught before this."

Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake praised workers "who called upon their training to react to the situation. Their professionalism helped ensure that no one else was hurt or injured. My deepest condolences are extended to every member of the victim's family, and to our DPW family."

Homicide detectives are investigating. Anyone with information can call 410-396-2100 or Metro Crime Stoppers at 1-866-7LOCKUP.

In earlier editions, Cipisirono Cole's name was spelled incorrectly due to incorrect information from Baltimore police. The Sun regrets the error.

Baltimore Sun reporters Yvonne Wenger and Jean Marbella contributed to this article.

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