As communities across Baltimore gathered Saturday for events designed to address the violence troubling the city, mayhem occurred once more. In a chaotic chain of events, the city's police commissioner came across a shooting in a Northeast neighborhood, prompting a police response that led to an accident and left several people injured.
About 50 people turned out in midafternoon for a three-mile walk of the Sinclair Lane neighborhood to celebrate the beginning of the school year and to provide positive role models in the hope that children will steer away from violence. Less than two miles away, more than 1,500 people and an additional 300 volunteers gathered at Collington Square Park in East Baltimore for the annual Day of Hope, a wide-ranging event that police Lt. Col. Melvin T. Russell said "helps the healing process."
Still, the day was anything but peaceful.
Commissioner Anthony W. Batts and his detail were driving to a community event around 2:30 p.m. on Belair Road, when they saw a man running down the street in the middle of traffic, chased by another with a gun.
Batts and his detail stopped their car and emerged with weapons drawn, ordering the man to drop his gun, according to police. He complied, and Batts and his detail took the suspect, identified as 23-year-old Michael Thomas, into custody while the other man ran to the corner of Belair Road and Cliftmont Avenue. He collapsed, shot once in the back before the officers arrived on the scene, closing the road between Erdman and Cliftmont avenues. Police said Saturday night he was in the hospital in stable condition.
Batts, who helped administer CPR to the victim, called the violence "unfortunate" and said it showed the need for events to promote unity within neighborhoods, such as a rally where he had been headed. He said he was thankful that the suspect surrendered to police without a confrontation.
"It's unacceptable that this occurs in midday," he said. "We will root this out and we will address it firmly."
Three minutes after Batts' team called in the shooting to dispatchers, a police vehicle headed to the scene, traveling east on Erdman Avenue. The officers' car, which had lights and sirens on, collided with a van that was making left turn in front of it.
The force of the accident pushed both vehicles onto lawns in the 2800 block of Erdman Avenue, leaving tire streaks across the yards.
Saturday night, police said the officer who had been driving was hospitalized in "good and stable condition" after treatment for non-life-threatening injuries; the officer riding in the car was treated at a hospital and released. The woman driving the van was in fair and stable condition at a hospital, according to police.
"I was shook. To see the lady bent over in the car — I never saw anything like it," said Lakisha Bailey, 36, who was in her grandmother's Erdman Avenue house when they heard the crash and saw smoke rising from the cars. Bailey said she caught one of the officers as he emerged shakily from the car.
Maj. Rich Worley, the commanding officer of the Northeastern District, said overall crime in that part of his district is down 20 percent, as police have boosted resources and deployments in the area, which includes the busy Belair Road corridor.
Batts said the support would continue.
"The reason why we're having a peace rally here is that the area has been challenged," he said. "We've put a lot of police resources in this area, and we will continue to do that."
Though some residents said the area has improved, they were not surprised by the violence at their doorsteps.
"Realistically, this is Baltimore and I'm 40," said Terry Missouri, who lives at the corner of Belair and Cliftmont and ran upstairs in time to see paramedics cut the shooting victim's clothes from his body. "This is not my first day at the rodeo."
Saturday's violence came a day after a 14-year-old boy was shot in the back near Pimlico Race Track — the third teenage shooting victim since Tuesday. The 17-year-olds shot Tuesday and Thursday died.
The boy was found with a gunshot wound shortly before 11 p.m. in the 5700 block of Winner Ave. in the Glen neighborhood, police said. The boy told police he had been walking when he heard gunfire and realized he had been shot.
"Violence, especially when it impacts our youth, is something that I refuse to accept in Baltimore City, not only as mayor, but as a mother to a young daughter. I commend the community for coming together collectively to speak out against violence and urge others to come forward with any information they may have about violent incidents," Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake said in an email.
"In order to realize a safer Baltimore, it is imperative that we unite," she added. "I can't do it alone, Commissioner Batts can't do it alone, the pastor can't do it alone, the senior who has lived on her block for decades can't do it alone, but together, we can change our beloved city for the better."
News about the 14-year-old was too much for Munir Bahar to handle.
Bahar, a 33-year-old organizer of the 300 Men March, was preparing for Saturday's march through the Sinclair Lane neighborhood.
"We just finished marching at 11 last night," he said with a sigh. "We went to the place where the 17-year old was killed and did a moment of silence. For me to go home and then learn that there was a shooting on Preston Street …and now this? ... A 14-year-old?"
Baltimore Sun reporter John-John Williams IV contributed to this article.