The 10 biggest news stories of 2018 in the Baltimore area

Participants in a candlelight vigil for the victims of the shooting at the Capital Gazette march down Main Street in Annapolis.

The 10 biggest news stories of 2018 in the Baltimore area

Participants in a candlelight vigil for the victims of the shooting at the Capital Gazette march down Main Street in Annapolis. (Jerry Jackson, Baltimore Sun)

It was a year for records in Baltimore — record-breaking rain, election results and an all-time terrible baseball team.

Tragedy and scandal rocked the region in 2018. These were the stories that dominated headlines during the last year.

Capital Gazette shooting

A gunman broke into the Capital Gazette newsroom in June, killing five employees of The Sun’s sister papers: Rob Hiaasen, John McNamara, Wendi Winters, Gerald Fischman and Rebecca Smith. Despite the attack, the staff published a paper the next day.

“I can tell you this: We are putting out a damn paper,” reporter Chase Cook wrote on Twitter the afternoon of the shooting.

A 38-year-old Laurel man has been charged in the killings. He has pleaded not guilty, and his trial was postponed to June 2019.

Timeline: How Ellicott City flooded

Rain, rain and more rain

With over 68 inches of precipitation and counting, 2018 became the wettest year on record in Baltimore. Super-saturated ground led to widespread flooding throughout the year, the effects of which were never more evident than in May, when Ellicott City was devastated by the second major flood in two years. The deluge killed a man, Sgt. Eddison “Eddie” A. Hermond, and shut down Main Street in the historic milltown — causing county officials to reconsider their approach to flood control in the area and prompting business owners to question whether they would return and rebuild.

Two people also drowned in floodwaters in Abingdon in August. 34-year-old Melissa Lehew and 67-year-old Daniel Samis died after Lehew tried to rescue Samis, who was trapped in his car.

Baltimore County police officer Amy Caprio's casket is carried into the church as part of her funeral service. Caprio was killed in May when she was fatally struck by a stolen jeep. Lloyd Fox / Baltimore Sun

Officer Amy Caprio’s death

Officer Amy Caprio, 29, became the first female Baltimore County police officer killed in the line of duty in May, when she was fatally struck by a stolen Jeep while responding to a call in Perry Hall. “She was the kind of officer that was going to go up in this organization,” Baltimore County Chief of Police Terrence Sheridan said of the four-year veteran. Four Baltimore teenagers — Dawnta Harris, Darrell Ward, Derrick Matthews and Eugene Genius IV — were charged as adults with first-degree murder and other counts in Caprio’s killing. They are being held until their trials in 2019.

Kevin Kamenetz
Baltimore County Executive Kevin Kamenetz shakes hands after announcing his candidacy for governor in 2017. He died suddenly of heart failure before the primary. Lloyd Fox / Baltimore Sun

Gubernatorial election and the death of Kevin Kamenetz

Larry Hogan won a second term as Maryland’s governor, becoming the second Republican to do so in state history. Perhaps Hogan’s strongest Democratic challenger, former Baltimore County Executive Kevin Kamenetz, died in May — before the primary election. After Kamenetz’s death, Ben Jealous won the Democratic nomination for governor. Hogan defeated Jealous in the general election with more than 56 percent of the vote.

The Orioles’ all-time low

It was a year for records in Baltimore — not all positive. The Orioles smashed records with their worst season, becoming the team with the most losses in club history at 115. They had only 47 wins.

Orioles fan
Orioles fan Caleb Ellison, 16, of Glen Burnie, sits in the out field stand with a paper bag over his head. Kenneth K. Lam, Baltimore Sun

After trading some of their biggest stars — including, notably, Manny Machado — the team parted ways with manager Buck Showalter and executive vice president Dan Duquette. Mike Elias, formerly of the Houston Astros, took over the general manager role and former Cubs bench coach Brandon Hyde was hired as manager. Here’s hoping they can put up a better season in2019.

Town Hall on crime
Baltimore Mayor Catherine Pugh and then-police Commissioner Darryl De Sousa during a town hall on crime. De Sousa resigned after admitting to failing to file federal tax returns. Amy Davis, Baltimore Sun

Police commissioner turnover

The search for Baltimore’s next police commissioner has dominated headlines as Baltimore prepares to onboard its fourth since the start of 2018. In January, Mayor Catherine Pugh fired then-commissioner Kevin Davis, replacing him with Darryl De Sousa. De Sousa was ousted in May after he was charged with failing to file federal tax returns; he pleaded guilty in December.

Gary Tuggle took over for De Sousa as interim commissioner amid Pugh’s search for a permanent police chief. He was initially in the running for the position, but withdrew his name in October. Fort Worth Police Chief Joel Fitzgerald emerged as Pugh’s nominee. He was formally nominated in early December and must be confirmed by the Baltimore City Council.

Great Mills
A group of more than 100 Great Mills High School students, alumni, parents and teachers made their way from St. Mary's County to Washington, about 60 miles away, for the March For Our Lives against gun violence. Karl Ferron / Baltimore Sun

Shootings in St. Mary’s and Harford counties

Maryland was the site of fatal shootings at both a warehouse and a school in 2018. In March, a 17-year-old gunman killed one fellow student and injured another at Great Mills High School in St. Mary’s County — less than a week after participating in a national walkout to call for an end to gun violence. And in September, a temporary worker at a Rite Aid warehouse in Harford County shot seven people, killing three before killing herself.

Jordan McNair’s death and upheaval at the University of Maryland

The University of Maryland became embroiled in scandal after football player Jordan McNair, a 19-year-old redshirt freshman, collapsed from heatstroke at a May 29 practice and died two weeks later. His death led to investigations that revealed a problematic culture within the university’s football program and led to the ouster of several university leaders.

Future of two Maryland athletic trainers remains uncertain after Durkin departure
Jordan McNair died of heatstroke after collapsing at a May football practice. Barbara Haddock Taylor / Baltimore Sun

Football coach D.J. Durkin and three members of his staff were placed on administrative leave, and Durkin was later fired by University President Wallace Loh. Loh announced he would resign in June 2019, and James Brady, chair of the University System of Maryland Board of Regents, also resigned.

The Middle States Commission on Higher Education is reviewing the university’s accreditation.

Gun Trace Task Force trials

The Baltimore Police Department’s disgraced Gun Trace Task Force carried out a campaign of extortion and robbery, targeting suspected drug dealers and pocketing hundreds of thousands of dollars in cash over at least three years. Two officers were found guilty at trial in the case, and seven more, including an ex-Philadelphia cop, pleaded guilty. A state commission was formed to look into the racketeering scandal.


The rise of hate crimes

Amid a national spike in hate crimes, Maryland too saw a rise in hate-based crimes. Reports of hate or bias increased 35 percent from 2016 to 2017, with 398 reports last year, according to a Baltimore Sun investigation. Hate crimes reported to police in the 10 largest U.S. cities rose 13 percent last year. Hate crimes that gained national attention continued through 2018, including a shooting at a Pittsburgh synagogue.

More notable news

Of course, there were many other big stories in 2018 beyond these 10. Here are some other notable ones:

» Dallas Dance pleads guilty, serves jail time: Former Baltimore County schools superintendent Dallas Dance pleaded guilty to four counts of perjury for failing to disclose nearly $147,000 in income from consulting jobs — including from a company he helped win a no-bid contract with the school system. He was sentenced to six months in jail, and was released two months early.

» Crime continues amid police scandals: While Baltimore’s homicide rate is down from last year’s per-capita record, the city is still plagued by violence — reaching 300 homicides for the fourth year in a row. It comes at a turbulent time for the department,

» Former state Sen. Nathaniel Oaks pleads guilty to corruption: The longtime state legislator from Baltimore pleaded guilty in March to federal corruption charges and resigned his seat in the Maryland General Assembly. He admitted to taking over $15,000 in payments in exchange for helping an FBI informant posing as an out-of-town developer.

Sarah Meehan

Sarah Meehan

Sarah Meehan is formerly a breaking news and health reporter for The Baltimore Sun, where she got her start in 2015 covering food and dining. She previously covered hospitality, tourism, sportswear and culture for the Baltimore Business Journal. Sarah hails from Harford County and is a University of Maryland graduate.