After six people were killed and two others wounded in a spate of shootings in Baltimore Monday night into Tuesday morning, Police Commissioner Kevin Davis announced a week-long initiative to deploy more officers on the streets.
Effective immediately, all patrol officers and detectives will be required to work 12-hour shifts, rather than their standard 10-hour shifts, and every sworn officer in the department capable of being deployed will be on the street, Davis said Tuesday afternoon.
"There will be a visible, overt presence," he said.
Less than an hour after his announcement, officers were called to the scene of a quadruple shooting in the 3300 block of Ayrdale Avenue in Northwest Baltimore, where four men — ages 19, 20, 23 and 55 — were wounded, police said.
There were so many shell casings on the scene that detectives appeared to run out of evidence markers to flag them all, using bits of trash instead.
Hayward Lewis, 57, said he was standing outside the Pro Kutz barbershop when he heard the gunfire and "hit the deck."
He still had blood on his white T-shirt from a friend who was shot in the leg and who he said begged him not to leave as they waited for an ambulance.
"It's sad," Lewis said of the violence as he ate an egg custard snowball. "Just sad."
Davis called the latest violence — in a record-setting year for it — "unconscionable," and said he joined community members in being "pissed off" about it.
"We're just as angry and frustrated and ticked off about it as anyone else watching, and I expect people to be upset," Davis said. "I expect people to want a better Baltimore, to want a sense of peace and tranquility that when they leave their home, or go to their car, or go to the store, or go to work or walk in the neighborhood, that they don't have to put up with this crap.
"We get that and we understand that and we're going to keep fighting our way through this...," he said. "We are responsible for public safety in the city of Baltimore, and we're going to keep working our hearts out until we get to a safer and better place. You can trust me on that."
Davis said the causes of the violence are both systemic, with roots in socioeconomic disparities, and petty, related to street disputes.
Most recently, he said, a seizure of 45 kilograms of heroin and fentanyl by the Drug Enforcement Administration had "unanticipated consequences" by "drying up a drug market" and sparking turf battles in West Baltimore.
Some of the shootings were retaliatory, he said. He said police believe younger Black Guerrilla Family and Bloods gang members are "vicious killers who don't give a damn about adhering to any pre-existing code of conduct that existed in their criminal enterprises" in previous generations.
Many see the city in crisis with some saying the problems with drugs and the associated violence in Baltimore are not new, and criticizing Davis for not having a cohesive crime plan. Some also have questioned whether outside scrutiny of the department, including under the consent decree with the U.S. Department of Justice, has contributed to a soft-on-crime approach in the city.
Davis said he does have a plan, which is being implemented, and that police reforms and crime reductions can be achieved if other partners in the criminal justice system — from prosecutors to judges to lawmakers in Annapolis — join police to do more to combat the gun violence.
Currently, he said, gun offenders in Baltimore "do not fear an arrest, they do not fear a successful prosecution, and, quite frankly, they don't even fear a damn guilty verdict" because they often get off lightly.
Davis said police have tracked all gun convictions since the beginning of 2016, and 60 percent of those offenders received suspended sentences. Because people don't fear consequences, they carry guns everywhere and wind up using them to settle "petty B.S. disputes," he said.
Davis previously lobbied, unsuccessfully, for misdemeanor illegal possession of a firearm to be made a felony, and he said he will return to Annapolis to talk to lawmakers again to "hopefully wake them up" to the need for the change.
Baltimore State's Attorney Marilyn J. Mosby declined to comment through a spokeswoman. A spokeswoman for the Maryland judiciary, representing judges in Baltimore, did not respond to a request for comment.
Del. Curt Anderson, a Baltimore Democrat and chair of the city's House delegation, said he and other city legislators acknowledge the need for harsher penalties for illegal gun possession and have supported Davis' efforts to change the law, but "the problem with the bill in the past is that creating a felony for the possession of a gun doesn't resonate with folks in the rural counties of Maryland as well as some of the suburban counties of Maryland."
State Sen. Robert A. Zirkin, a Baltimore County Democrat who chairs the Judicial Proceedings Committee, could not be reached for comment. He's previously said Davis' proposed legislation is "not the answer."
Davis said he is in "constant contact" with Mayor Catherine Pugh about the violence. He said the enhanced deployments, similar to those seen during past spikes in city violence, would be effective through this weekend, at which point he and his top commanders would review the strategy.
Police could not provide a cost for the deployments immediately. The department already struggles with excess spending on overtime — in the tens of millions of dollars every year — and has said it does not have enough officers to fill patrol shifts.
Meanwhile, the city is experiencing a record level of violence. Including the six killings between Monday night and Tuesday morning, there have been 159 homicides in 2017.
The first victim was found in a car around 8:20 p.m. Monday in the 1100 block of Mount Holly Street in the Edmondson Village neighborhood. The man was taken to University of Maryland Shock Trauma Center, where he died. Police said they did not know his identity and had no motive in his killing.
About 8:35 p.m., officers located 28-year-old Rodney Wheatley with gunshot wounds to the back and arm in the 200 block of S. Bentalou Street in the Millhill neighborhood of Southwest Baltimore, where he lived. He was transported to Maryland Shock Trauma Center, where he died.
Police said Wheatley had been arguing with a suspect before being shot, and that a "person of interest" in the shooting has been identified. Davis said detectives believe the dispute was drug related.
About 10:35 p.m. Monday, officers found 37-year-old Charmane Wilson with gunshot wounds in the 1700 block of Gertrude Street in West Baltimore. Wilson was pronounced dead at a local hospital.
Officers had responded to the same block about an hour before for a report of a common assault, police said. The shooting occurred after they left, police said. Wilson lived on the block.
Davis said her shooting was related to a "neighborhood dispute involving bullying."
About 2:45 a.m. Tuesday, officers responded to the 2500 block of Boston Street in Canton for a report of an injured person and found a male victim shot and bleeding from the forehead, police said. The victim was transported to an area hospital, where he was pronounced dead, police said.
About 3:30 a.m., officers located four shooting victims in the 1200 block of Bonaparte Avenue, in the East Baltimore Midway neighborhood, police said.
All of the victims were transported to a local hospital, where a 26-year-old man and a 21-year-old woman were both pronounced dead, police said. A 24-year-old man is listed in critical condition, police said, while another male victim was treated and released.
Davis said police had determined a "drug and gang nexus" in the shooting.
After Tuesday's quadruple shooting on Ayrdale Avenue in Forest Park, Lewis Bush, 51, rode up on a bright green bicycle to survey the scene.
"Unbelievable," he said, after asking who'd been shot.
Bush said kids these days have "no morals," and don't know how to fight without using guns like people did in the past. But then he lifted his shirt to show off scars on his stomach and back, from shootings he'd survived several decades ago.
"By the grace of god," he said, "I'm still here."
Anyone with information is asked to call homicide detectives at 410-396-2100, text a tip to police at 443-902-4824 or call Metro Crime Stoppers at 1-866-7-LOCK-UP.