Baltimore reaches 100 homicides for year with overnight shootings

Baltimore has reached 100 homicides — last year, the 100th murder occurred in July.

One hundred people have been killed in Baltimore this year, a grim milestone that has come faster than in previous years.

The city could be headed for its most violent year this decade.

The pace of killing is faster than last year, when 71 people were killed by this time. The number of homicides last reached 100 by late May in 2007; the city reached that number on July 4 last year.

Mayor Stephanie Rawlings­Blake on Thursday called the violence "disheartening."

"It's extremely frustrating," the mayor said in a news conference. "It is disheartening, but I am still resolved to continue to reduce violent crime in our city."

Homicide No. 100 came early Thursday when officers found two men shot in Northeast Baltimore. One of the men did not survive a gunshot wound to his back. His death came hours after another man was killed in an East Baltimore shootout that also injured four.

Over the past 30 days, 39 people have been killed in Baltimore, part of a wave of shootings that began after the death of Freddie Gray, which touched off protests and rioting in the city.

Rawlings-Blake said she is confident police will stop the trend, as they have during previous shooting spikes, but police appear to be facing different challenges this time.

Police Commissioner Anthony W. Batts said officers in the Western District are struggling to do basic police work without backup, as they are routinely surrounded by 30 to 50 residents, some of whom hold cellphones or video cameras "an inch" from officers' faces.

Batts said he has reassigned commanders who have neighborhood contacts and experience in West Baltimore to "turn the temperature down."

OpenBaltimore arrest data shows that despite the surge in shootings and homicides, the number of arrests has dipped drastically since the end of last month.

In the first week of May, police made 319 arrests followed by 358 arrests last week. By comparison, the average number of weekly arrests from March 14 to April 25 was 626. Last year, between May 10 and May 31, police arrested an average of 856 people a week.

The death of Gray, who prosecutors say suffered fatal injuries after being shackled in the back of a police transport van, was ruled one of the city's official homicides by the Maryland Office of the Chief Medical Examiner.

Six officers involved in his arrest and detainment were indicted Thursday on charges ranging from second-degree murder to misconduct in office.

Police union members, who contest both the validity and degree of the charges, have said officers are hesitant to investigate crimes and make arrests because they fear having to use deadly force and then facing unfair prosecution.

Batts said he does not believe any officers are "holding back" but said his officers are feeling "uncertainty" after the recent upheaval, including a federal investigation of the department's use of force.

Baltimore Sun reporters Justin Fenton, Yvonne Wenger and Sean Welsh contributed to this article.

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