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Police looking to "punch" back after violent weekend


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After a weekend that saw nearly 20 people injured or killed, including a city police officer, Baltimore Police Commissioner Frederick H. Bealefeld III said the department is looking to increase visibility and "punch in the mouth" those responsible for the violence.

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Bealefeld, who has been with Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake in Annapolis pushing tougher penalties for gun offenders, highlighted the arrest record of a man accused of opening fire on a city police officer Friday night in East Baltimore. Gerry Gough, 23, had a gun conviction from 2009 but received just six months in jail.

"To say it minimally, it's [exasperating] that more people don't understand the enormous ramifications of these guys running around the city with these handguns," Bealefeld said at a morning news conference. "The 660,000 people living in this city expect when people do bad things, they're going to be held accountable."

A weekend that began with record temperatures gave way to the year's largest explosion of violence so far, kicking off Friday afternoon when two men were shot in West Baltimore along Mosher street. Bealefeld said shots were fired from a gold Acura, and he said detectives believe a triple shooting in East Baltimore later that night might have been retaliatory. He said officers had a "hot lead" on the suspects.

Shootings came in bunches – in addition to the shootings connected to the Acura, two men were shot near Druid Hill Park, three were shot in Bolton Hill, and three in Northwest Baltimore on Sunday night. In all, three men were killed, including a man beaten to death in Pigtown and a 24-year-old man who police say was ambushed at a gas station in Edmondson Village.

In that case, police say David McClaughlin Jr. is believed to have been followed home from a club in Woodlawn and attacked at a gas station. Det. Sgt. Kevin Hagan said police believe he was stabbed during the altercation.

McClaughlin for the past eight months has been working for the city as a street sweeper. Though he had a drug record, Hagan said "he was really trying to make something of his life" and was an innocent target.

McClaughlin and his friends had been hanging out at a club called Peju's Restaurant and Lounge on Woodlawn Drive. Anyone with information was asked to call the homicide unit at 410-396-2100.

Bealefeld said police are planning two major initiatives to hit back at the violence. Police already deployed 16 foot patrol officers to known hot spots near the boundaries of the Western and Central districts over the weekend, and the department is trying to increase visibility "in areas where we're seeing open drug sales, some of the areas where some of these gang guys and others congregate."

He said police would be cracking down on loitering, and over the weekend a spokesman said motorists could expect to be pulled over for even the most minor traffic violations. Bealefeld denied that such efforts were a throwback to so-called mass arrest policies that he has sought to distance the department from.

"We did not send a message out that we should be opening the floodgates to arrests," Bealefeld said. "We believe that some of these incidents are very narrowly focused … I expect that my operations people can come back and say, 'This guy's responsible, and this is what we're going to do to knock him out of business.' You can't arrest enough of those guys, but patrolling the city indiscriminately is not the answer to this problem."

Police said the officer who was shot on Friday night, Michael Rice, was recovering and could be expected from a hospital today. Anthony Guglielmi, the department's chief spokesman, said Rice was a combat veteran who was shot overseas.

Rice was patrolling the area when his vehicle pulled up behind Gough, who was riding a bicycle. Gough opened fire and struck Rice in the neck, and the bullet lodged near one of his lungs. Officers returned fire and wounded Gough, who according to one law enforcement source is paralyzed from the waist down from his injuries.

"These men and women are out there risking their lives … willing to suffer any hazard to make this city safer," Bealefeld said.

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