Gunshot at scene of protests underscores tension in Baltimore

A Baltimore City police spokesman said a report of a man being shot in the Penn North neighborhood on Monday is false. (Amy Davis/Baltimore Sun)

A gunshot Monday near a city intersection that saw the worst of the rioting a week ago and became the scene of frequent protests over the death of Freddie Gray underscored continuing tensions in Baltimore.

A fleeing suspect pulled out a revolver, which went off, and no officers fired their weapons, police said, denying conflicting reports from people at the scene. No one was injured, but the incident brought out a crowd of people and dozens of additional officers in riot gear. At least one person was pepper-sprayed as police tried to disperse the crowd.


The suspect was arrested for a gun violation and taken to a hospital "out of an abundance of caution," police said.

The Freddie Gray case not only continued to fray nerves but also sparked a national dialogue on race and economic disparities as President Barack Obama invoked Baltimore on Monday in calling for more opportunities for young men and Gray's family said in a televised interview that perhaps the 25-year-old would "live forever" as a "martyr."


Gray died April 19, one week after his arrest. Prosecutors have charged six police officers involved in his arrest and transport and allege he suffered a spinal injury while not wearing a seat belt in the back of a police van. Police union officials have denied that any of the officers are responsible.

After more than a week of peaceful protests, a confrontation between students and police April 27 outside Mondawmin Mall erupted into violence; crowds threw rocks at police, looted businesses and set fires. Police said Monday they made 486 arrests linked to the unrest.

City, state and federal officials also continued to discuss recovery, and the CVS Health said Monday it was working on plans to rebuild in Baltimore, where two of its damaged drugstores remain closed.

Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake and Health Commissioner Dr. Leana Wen delivered prescription medication to those who couldn't get it from shuttered pharmacies. The city launched an online registry Monday to help the more than 235 businesses affected.


The Rev. Donte L. Hickman of the Southern Baptist Church and a developer pledged to rebuild the Mary Harvin Transformation Center, a Broadway East community center that was burned to the ground in a three-alarm fire on the night of the riots before it was completed.

The National Guard troops who were deployed to Baltimore have left the streets, and the last of them are expected to complete their mission Tuesday, a spokesman said.

About 1,400 remained on duty Monday morning but in various stages of demobilization, no longer "out manning the streets," Col. Charles S. Kohler said.

Kohler said the remaining troops are completing duties such as packing away equipment and performing maintenance on vehicles.

Gov. Larry Hogan activated the guard last Monday, the day of Freddie Gray's funeral, after crowds in the city became violent. By Saturday, 3,000 Guardsmen were supporting police.

On Friday, Baltimore's top prosecutor announced charges against all six police officers involved with Gray's arrest.

The move eased tensions and led to celebratory rallies in the city, but arrests continued as people broke a citywide curfew. The curfew, which was lifted Sunday, required all city residents to stay indoors between 10 p.m. and 5 a.m.

The city remained under a state of emergency on Monday. A spokeswoman for Hogan said Monday morning that the emergency would be lifted soon.

Police did not respond to a request to comment on how the National Guard's removal will affect their deployments in the city.

Meanwhile, a police investigation continues as Baltimore State's Attorney Marilyn J. Mosby builds her case. The separate investigations by police and prosecutors have some conflicting findings.

While Mosby said Friday that the officers had made an illegal arrest because a knife Gray was carrying was not a "switchblade," a violation of state law, the police task force studied the knife and determined it was "spring-assisted," which does violate a Baltimore code.

The officers remain free on bail.

When the gunshot Monday caused panic in the street, Daisy Bush, 61, said she rushed to pack up a table of handbags and candies she had been selling outside her shop, D&D Variety Store, on Pennsylvania Avenue.

"It's rough for business; it's rough for everybody," she said.

Bush, who has owned the shop for about 15 years, said the neighborhood had been "in an uproar" for the past week. She said it has been scary not knowing whether she would be safe outside her store.

"I don't think it's ever going to go back to normal," she added. "Our normal is crazy."

State Sen. Catherine Pugh said police allowed the 23-year-old shooting suspect to meet with his mother before he was booked.

"He's doing fine. He was physically checked and had no bullet wounds," Pugh said. "He was very emotional, but he got to see his family. ... It was great to be there."

Pugh, who has gone to the Penn North intersection every night to calm tensions between protesters and police, commended the department for its handling of Monday's incident.

One Baltimore United, a coalition of labor and community groups, called Monday for a civil and economic recovery program "to heal Baltimore," blaming failures in policy for the city's struggles.

They were among many, including lobbyists in Annapolis, who said the urban poverty highlighted in the protests demonstrated the need for further investment in Baltimore's schools, mental health services and transportation.

Obama traveled to the Bronx, N.Y., on Monday to announce a nonprofit organization intended to provide opportunities for young men of color.

"Some communities have consistently had the odds stacked against them," Obama said. "And folks living in those communities, and especially young people living in those communities, could use some help to change those odds."

Community members and families of students at Furman Templeton Elementary School collected enough food for 350 families in a food drive to help residents affected in the riots.

Baltimore Sun reporters Justin Fenton, Ian Duncan, Jessica Anderson, Justin George, John Fritze, Erin Cox and Pamela Wood contributed to this article.

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