Since being stabbed in the neck last month, Baltimore rapper and anti-violence activist Tyree Colion says he has been focused on healing. His mission of promoting “No-Shoot Zones” in a city ravaged by more than 200 homicides this year was put on hold as he recuperated.
But on Monday, a 13-year-old girl was fatally shot in Middle River, and Colion said dozens of people flooded his Facebook inbox asking him to come to Baltimore County and mark the scene with his signature graffiti calling for an end to gun violence.
On Wednesday, he pulled up to the 7-Eleven next to where Iyanna Watkins died. He went inside, bought a Pepsi and a snack, and told the cashier he had come to put a stop to the violence.
As he live-streamed on Facebook, Colion took out cans of black and white spray paint and wrote “No-Shoot Zone” on a brick wall behind the store’s parking lot. It would be his 31st spray-painting, the first in Baltimore County and the first since he was stabbed in July.
Minutes later, police cars pulled into the parking lot. Colion — whose given name is Tyree Moorehead — was charged with destruction of property, according to online court records.
Baltimore County officers shown in the video said he was painting on private property.
“It’s not that we don’t agree with the message,” one female officer said in the video. “It’s just that it’s still private property.”
Police spokesman Shawn Vinson said officers received an anonymous call reporting vandalism around 4 p.m. Wednesday. He said he had no comment on what Colion was doing at the time of his arrest.
Colion is scheduled to appear in court Oct. 4, court records show.
Colion said in an interview that the arrest won’t deter him from continuing to put up “No-Shoot Zone” spray-paintings.
“It’s going to take more than stabbing me in the throat and arresting me to stop me from saving my people,” he said.
Colion also live-streamed the aftermath of his July 16 stabbing on Facebook, garnering more than 40,000 views in the first 24 hours after it was posted. Police said the attack was not related to his activism. Days later, they charged a 24-year-old man with attempted first- and second-degree murder and related charges.
Colion was in prison for more than a decade on a second-degree murder conviction related to a 1992 shooting when he was 15 years old. He later returned to prison after a violation of probation. He began his anti-violence work after his 2012 release.
Though Colion said he was taking it easy after the stabbing, once he heard about Iyanna’s death, he “had to put everything else down.”
The 13-year-old girl was with a group of people sitting behind the 7-Eleven in the 600 block of Compass Road shortly before midnight Monday. At least one person fired at the group from an alley before running away from the scene, police said.
Iyanna was about to start high school, her mother said at a candlelight vigil this week.
Colion’s latest “No-Shoot Zone” has since been erased, he said. But he’s working with friends to create “No-Shoot Zone” banners that can go up there and elsewhere, which he hopes won’t be seen as vandalism.
Chantell Boone, a friend of Colion’s, said she donated $100 toward printing three banners for the cause, one of which will go up in the Middle River community where Iyanna died.
“Once you start seeing children being killed,” she said, “enough is enough.”