There's a swirl of violence occurring around 78-year-old Florence Carter, and she says she doesn't know why. But for the first time in nearly five decades, she's being forced to contemplate moving out of her Northeast Baltimore home.
"My daughters, they want me to get up and move," Carter said. "But I've been here so long. I've been here 46 years. At my age, I can't afford another house."
Four homicides and a nonfatal shooting occurred on Mother's Day in Baltimore, and two of the victims are connected to Carter. At 3 p.m., her 55-year-old son was shot and seriously wounded while walking in the 1600 block of Chilton St. Then, about 10 p.m., a 19-year-old man who sometimes stays at her home and helps with chores was shot through a basement window while playing video games. He died of his wounds.
Police believe the attacks are connected and on Tuesday made one arrest, but have said little about those shootings or the others that occurred that day — including to Carter, a former neighborhood watch captain and a regular at the neighborhood senior center.
"She's suffered tragedies in the last couple of days that turned her world upside down," said City Councilwoman Mary Pat Clarke, who visited Carter this week. "She's a stalwart of her community, and everyone's very upset on her behalf."
Carter recalled returning home Sunday night after visiting her son at the hospital, only to find her street in the Coldstream Homestead Montebello neighborhood blocked off as detectives inspected the crime scene in her basement.
Lacy Lamb, a 19-year-old with no adult criminal record, had been shot in the side in her basement. Her relationship to Lamb is unclear — she refers to him as a friend who knew her grandson, but said he sometimes stayed at her home and referred to her as "Momma." He went to the market for her and helped wash the walls.
"He was a good boy, as far as I know," Carter said. "He had such good manners. He was a nice fella."
Police commanders were not made available to discuss the Mother's Day killings or the violence in Northeast Baltimore. A spokesman, Anthony Guglielmi, said police "are very close to identifying a suspect" in Lamb's shooting and said it was not random. But it was unclear whether Lamb was the intended victim, because there were other men in the basement when the shots were fired.
"It is not a random incident," Guglielmi said.
The shooting is believed to be connected to the earlier shooting of Carter's son, 55-year-old Martin Carter. Police said Martin Carter was shot in the torso and leg during an argument. Florence Carter said her son's condition is "touch and go."
On Tuesday, police arrested 18-year-old Demetri Armstrong of the 1600 block of E. 31st St. and charged him with shooting Martin Carter. According to charging documents, Martin Carter told police he was shot by someone he knew as "Mooch," and witnesses helped police determine who that was. According to another witness, Armstrong claimed Martin Carter had stabbed him as he ran through the 3200 block of The Alameda.
As with Lamb's shooting, however, Florence Carter has no insight into what may have motivated the burst of violence.
She said Lamb had been at the hospital with her and was dropped off at her home before she returned. As she drove toward her home with her granddaughter, she said, she saw the police presence and had a bad feeling.
"You know how sometimes you get a hunch? I was telling my granddaughter, 'It's my house. It's my house,'" Carter said. "I just had a hunch that somebody got hurt in my house. When we came around the corner, I couldn't get in. I couldn't go nowhere."
She said she stayed with a relative for the next few days, afraid to return.
On Thursday, children played on the sidewalks of the community, and groups of young men lingered in one front yard. Longtime residents sat on their front porches, which look out over lawns, enjoying the weather. Two patrol officers were posted the next block down from Carter's home, in the 1600 block of 31st St.
Clarke said the Coldstream-Homestead-Montebello neighborhood is a "solid community." She said it grew in the 1960s as people moved from East Baltimore in search of more space and better schools. As in much of the city, drug dealing became a problem in the 1980s, and the neighborhood has struggled with vacancies.
However, Clarke said, the drug dealing has been reduced significantly and strong families remain.
"People came here for a better life, and they're not giving it up without a fight," she said.
Despite this week's events, Carter wants to stick it out.
"I'm thinking about it," she says of moving. "But you don't just jump up [and leave]."