Community gathers in Park Heights to finish fence slain father started

Members of the Park Heights community gathered Sunday to finish the fence a slain father started.

After 24-year-old Kendal Fenwick was fatally shot outside his Park Heights home last week, something didn't sit right with his friends, relatives and neighbors — besides the loss of another of Baltimore's young black men.

A fence he was building around the home where he was raising three children sat unfinished.

It was supposed to keep out the drug dealers who crossed the grassy spaces around the house, on one side where a vacant rowhouse once stood. Instead, police believe it might have made him a target.

As community members mourned Fenwick, they finished Sunday what he started.

Dozens of neighbors, police officers and community leaders gathered at the home in the 3500 block of Park Heights Ave. near Druid Hill Park, digging holes, pouring cement, nailing fence posts and planting flowers.

In a neighborhood dotted by vacant houses and drug corners — and plastered with signs reading, "We must stop killing each other" — Fenwick's efforts to take care of his family without turning to drug dealing and crime stood out, said neighbor Raven Williams.

"He could have been doing the exact same thing, but he chose otherwise," Williams said of Fenwick, who worked as a truck driver. On Sunday, Williams brought her 10-year-old daughter, Kali-Liyah, to watch the community come together.

Fenwick was killed Nov. 9 outside his house, while his children hid in a closet. It was the city's 295th homicide in 2015, and came amid a months-long spike in killings. On Saturday, the city hit the 300-homicide mark for the year for the first time since 1999.

But police considered Fenwick's death particularly heinous. Police Commissioner Kevin Davis called the perpetrator a "cowardly, insecure little punk" last week, and on Sunday, he was among more than a dozen members of the Police Department laboring in Fenwick's yard. He said the investigation into the shooting is "very active."

"I wish we could do this for every person whose life is taken in Baltimore," Davis said. "We just can't accept violence and the taking of such an innocent, productive life."

Many of the officers who helped with the project work in the department's community partnership division, which strives to build rapport between police and residents in a city that's often marked by the "stop snitching" refrain.

"I told the guys, this isn't overtime — I want to see who has heart," said Lt. Col. Melvin Russell, who leads the division. In January, Russell had a staff of nine officers, but that has since grown to 60, spread across the city, he said.

They were joined by City Council members Sharon Green Middleton and Brandon Scott and mayoral candidate Elizabeth Embry.

The Bates & Garcia law firm donated lumber — attorney Ivan Bates is a friend of Fenwick's family and spearheaded the event Sunday — while volunteers chipped in cash to buy flowers, mulch and a new welcome mat.

But while the community cooperation was heartening, some noted that it wouldn't cure the ills that may have contributed to Fenwick's death.

After a couple of weeks, "no one's going to care until it happens again," said David Johnson Sr., a contractor who lives in West Baltimore and whose children were friends with Fenwick. "The larger picture is social, it's political, it's economic," he said, emphasizing the lack of jobs for young black men in the neighborhood.

Years ago, that block of Park Heights Avenue had been targeted for demolition because of the preponderance of vacant homes and drug dealing, said Will Hanna, president of the Park Heights Community Development Corp. But that project and others nearby stalled, he said.

"This is why a lot of this stuff permeates," said Hanna, who lives two blocks from Fenwick's home. "This can be prevented."

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