The ‘Mom from the West Side’: Dozens gather to pray for wounded Baltimore police officer

Baltimore City police officer Keona Holley was called the “best officer ever” at a prayer vigil late Wednesday afternoon — someone who would sing, dance and talk with young people, someone who wasn’t afraid to speak up.

The “Mom from the West Side,” who is on life support after being shot last week, made an impression on residents and fellow police officers alike, some of whom came together at Curtis Bay Park near the scene of her ambush to pray for a “miracle” to happen.


“We pray for the miracle that she wakes up,” said Shante Wells, a Curtis Bay resident.

“We pray that we can see her smiling face again,” Wells added. “I pray that this community comes together as one, together after this. I pray that Officer Holley wakes up.”

The destroyed fencing still has police tape attached at the top of the hill behind the group of attendees who begin a prayer vigil at Curtis Bay Park for Baltimore Police officer Keona Holley, currently on life support after being ambushed several days ago at the park Wed., Dec. 22, 2021. (Karl Merton Ferron/Baltimore Sun Staff)

Holley, 39, was shot multiple times early in the morning of Dec. 16 in the 4400 block of Pennington Ave., while working an overtime shift in Curtis Bay.

Police have arrested and charged two men in connection with her shooting, along with the fatal shooting of Justin Johnson that took place shortly after in Southwest Baltimore. Officials said at a Friday press conference they still were working to determine a motive.

Holley joined the police department two years ago to make a difference in her community, friends and family have said, surprising some when she left her nursing assistant job at a state psychiatric hospital.

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She said in an interview in 2020 with news website Insider that “the community needs Baltimore city police officers that’s not just here for a paycheck. They’re here because they care.”

Lt. Col. Martin Bartness, deputy chief of the patrol division, said Wednesday that Holley stood out to him from the hundreds of police recruits who came through the academy during his time as commander of education and training — making it “particularly crushing” when he heard she was shot.

“It speaks to how special she is,” Bartness said. “The ‘Mom from the West Side’ chose, at this stage of her life, to be a citizen-servant for Curtis Bay and for all of Baltimore. ... Let’s keep our hopes alive for a miracle for Officer Holley.”

Sharon Cottrell, who helped organize Wednesday’s gathering, said Holley was about “showing love to the community” and would often come check in on Cottrell’s autistic son.

“That’s how much she loved kids,” Cottrell said. “She loved us.”


Speakers at the vigil called for the community to come together to stop violence, calling Holley’s shooting something that “shouldn’t have happened.”

“We got to stop the violence, and it has to start today, and it has to start here,” Wells said. “It has to start with us.”