Four Baltimore school police officers have been assigned desk duty following their presence at a quadruple shooting that left one person dead on Harford Road over the weekend.
Officials have not specified why the officers were removed from their regular duties after witnessing the homicide, which unfolded around 1:45 a.m. Sunday in the 5500 block of Harford Road in the Hamilton Hills neighborhood of Northeast Baltimore.
A man — later identified as Stephen Walker Jr., 40 — was found with a gunshot wound to his torso and pronounced dead on the scene. His family declined to speak with a reporter when reached Thursday afternoon.
Three other gunshot victims were hospitalized with injuries, including a woman who remained in critical condition after being shot in the head.
Baltimore Police said Northeast District officers heard gunshots while patrolling the area, a busy commercial strip lined with businesses, including a few bars. John Fowler, a member of the Hamilton Hills Neighborhood Association, said police told neighbors that a group had gathered outside between two bars when an altercation and gunfire broke out. Bullets flew down the block around closing time.
The Baltimore City school system confirmed Thursday that four school police officers were present at the scene as private citizens and not working in an official capacity for the system at the time of the shooting.
Sgt. Clyde Boatwright, president of the union representing school police, said the officers were “attending an event that had nothing to do with policing” and were witnesses to the homicide. Boatwright would not name the event, but he said the officers were not in uniform and did not discharge a weapon at the scene.
At least one of the officers was injured during the incident and sought treatment at an area hospital, Boatwright said. Neither he nor Baltimore Police would say whether the injured officer was one of the people who was shot.
The four school system police officers have been temporarily assigned to desk duty and are cooperating with the Baltimore Police Department, which is investigating the shooting, he said.
When asked on Thursday what the officers’ involvement was in the incident, Baltimore Police Commissioner Michael Harrison told reporters: “That’s under investigation right now. That’s not something we can comment on. It’s an ongoing investigation.”
School police have their own department, union and contract within the city school system through a memorandum of understanding with the Baltimore Police Department. School officers may seek secondary employment outside of the department with approval from the chief of school police, such as working overtime for city police or contracting with private security companies.
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Hamilton residents said the recent violence has left them on edge.
Annie Kirtz, who grew up in the area and has lived there for several decades, said this section of Harford Road used to have a pharmacy, a bookstore, a men’s clothing store and a movie theater. “Back in the good old days” of her childhood, she reminisced about playing pinball and riding bikes with her friends.
Now, she said, she avoids coming out after dark, even to take out the trash.
But during daylight hours, she patronizes some of the nearby businesses. Late Thursday afternoon, she was unwinding at a Harford Road bar after getting off work. She said at least one of the nearby bars hire private security guards.
The shooting early Sunday came amid an especially violent weekend across Baltimore. Four people were shot to death in three separate incidents on Friday alone, followed by a fatal shooting on Lombard Street in Southwest Baltimore late Saturday.
“Unfortunately, we experienced another challenging and unnecessarily violent weekend in Baltimore,” Harrison said in a statement Monday. He said the department is working hard to get illegal guns off the streets and “change the culture of violence that pervades our communities.”
Baltimore Sun reporter Jessica Anderson contributed to this story.