Tragedies, education issues among other Maryland headlines in 2016

It takes time, resources, and not a little luck to claw back from a catastrophe on the level of Freddie Gray's death and the subsequent unrest that shook Baltimore and dragged Maryland into the international spotlight.

In 2016, the region struggled on its road to recovery.


One event brought bipartisan cheer: Republican Gov. Larry Hogan completed chemotherapy treatment for Stage 3 non-Hodgkin's lymphoma, which had been in remission since last year.

But shootings and other crimes continued to dominate the news. Seemingly random accidents ended some lives and fractured others.


Here's a look at some stories that made headlines.

Tragedy in Harford County

Violence stunned Harford County in February when two longtime sheriff's deputies were shot to death in broad daylight in a popular shopping center.

Senior Deputy Patrick Dailey, 52, and Deputy 1st Class Mark Logsdon, 43, were in uniform when a 68-year-old man with outstanding arrest warrants encountered them in a Panera Bread restaurant in Abingdon.

The man, David Brian Evans, shot Dailey, a 30-year veteran, in the restaurant; Logsdon, a 16-year veteran, was killed in a shootout outside moments later. Evans also died in the exchange of gunfire.

Authorities believe Evans didn't set out to target police officers but fired on Evans and Dailey because he feared arrest.

They were the latest victims in a wave of violence against police officers in the United States.

Sixty-one were shot to death during the first 11 months of 2016, according to the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund, a 61 percent jump over the same period in 2015.


Thousands of mourners — loved ones, community members, public officials and uniformed law enforcement officers — attended memorial services for the deputies, the first officers killed by gunfire while on duty in Harford County since 1899.

In July, Harford County Sheriff Jeffrey Gahler, state Sen. Wayne Norman and Hogan dedicated a section of Route 924 that runs past the shopping center as "Heroes Highway."

"They're heroes because of the incredible lives that they lived," Hogan said.

A collapse and a crash

Long-standing problems appear to have played a role in two city disasters: the death of a West Baltimore man in a building collapse and the loss of six lives when a school bus rammed an MTA bus in Irvington.

Thomas Lemmon, 69, a retired trucker, was sitting in his beloved Cadillac outside his home on North Payson Street on March 28 when an abandoned rowhouse collapsed on the car, burying him in rubble.


The building was one of 16,000 that stand vacant in Baltimore, a problem then-Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake said her administration has been trying to address.

Seven months later, Glenn Chappell, 67, was driving a school bus on Frederick Avenue when it rear-ended a Ford Mustang, veered into oncoming traffic and crashed into an MTA bus. Chappell and Ebonee Baker of Rosedale, 33, the driver of the MTA bus, were among the six killed in the Nov. 1 crash. Eleven people were injured. None were children.

It later emerged that the Motor Vehicle Administration had not informed the Baltimore school system that it had suspended Chappell's permission to drive a school bus over lack of proper documentation — and that Chappell had crashed his own car into a guardrail in 2014, at a time he was taking medication for seizures.

The National Transportation Safety Board reported that the school bus driver had a history of seizures, and had been involved in at least 12 crashes in the past five years.

The city terminated its contract with AAAfordable Transportation Inc., the company that owned the school bus, in November.

A rapper's killing


If any case epitomized a community's heartbreak over relentless bloodshed in Baltimore, it was the killing in June of 23-year-old Tyriece Watson, the popular local rapper known to fans as Lor Scoota.

An unknown gunman shot Watson to death on June 25 as he sat in a car at a busy intersection in Northeast Baltimore. Watson had just attended a peace rally at Morgan State University.

The killing stirred anguish in Baltimore and beyond. Tributes poured out on street corners and social media, culminating in two days of public remembrances and performances by fellow hip-hop artists. Hundreds attended Watson's wake.

Two weeks later, gunmen killed the musician's manager, 24-year-old Trayvon Lee, outside his home near Druid Hill Park, and police investigated possible links between the cases.

Police said Watson had been targeted for associating with someone who had carried out a previous shooting, and Lee's death might have been part of the retaliation.

A month later, police recovered the gun used in Watson's killing. In October, a man they called a person of interest in Watson's death was killed in his car.


"It's literally a tennis match of violence," said T.J. Smith, a spokesman for the Police Department.

No arrests have been made.

'Serial,' continued

Sixteen years after his conviction in the murder of his former girlfriend — and nearly two years after the debut of "Serial," the hit podcast that turned questions about the case into popular entertainment — Adnan Syed was granted a retrial.

Baltimore Circuit Judge Martin Welch made the decision to vacate the conviction — a rarity — after Syed's attorneys argued that their client had received deficient counsel and that evidence used at the original trial was unreliable.

Those and other points had been raised in "Serial," the podcast produced by former Baltimore Sun reporter Sarah Koenig that was downloaded more than 100 million times and won a Peabody Award for exposing flaws in the criminal justice system.


No physical evidence tied Syed to the 1999 killing of Hae Min Lee, but phone records showed his cellphone connecting to towers near Leakin Park, where Lee's body was found.

Syed's team had put forward a fax cover sheet from AT&T in which the phone company warned that the technology of the time to pinpoint a phone's location was unreliable.

Syed's attorneys have asked for his release pending a new trial; prosecutors are arguing against his release. He remains in prison in Western Maryland.

Virginia girl killed

The body of Nicole Lovell, a Virginia seventh-grader, was found in Surry County, N.C., and two teens from Columbia were charged in her killing.

David Eisenhauer, a freshman engineering student at Virginia Tech University who had been a track star at Wilde Lake High School, was charged with first-degree murder, abduction and hiding the victim's body.


Virginia Tech classmate Natalie Keepers, a graduate of Hammond High School, was charged as an accessory.

No motive has been suggested, but prosecutors in Montgomery County, Va., said Eisenhauer had established an online relationship with Nicole Lovell.

Eisenhauer and Keepers are to be tried in March. If convicted, they could be sentenced to life in prison.

School-start storm

In late August, with temperatures soaring and schools in their first week, Hogan infuriated some education leaders — and likely boosted his already soaring approval ratings — by decreeing that school systems in Maryland would not start classes before Labor Day in 2017.

The executive order also directed schools to wrap up for the year by June 15.


Hogan said the "long overdue" mandate would "help protect the traditional end of summer," giving families more time together and keeping students in the Baltimore area out of sweltering classrooms that lack air conditioning.

The move was condemned by school leaders and Democratic state legislators, in large part, they said, because it would deprive poor students of critically needed academic days and social support.

But a September poll by Goucher College showed that nearly 70 percent of Marylanders backed the idea.

"There's a handful of vocal people who want to ignore the law," Hogan said, but "the overwhelming majority of Marylanders, everywhere I go, say they love it."

Education crossroads

The Baltimore school board dismissed superintendent Gregory E. Thornton and replaced him with Sonja Santelises, the onetime chief academic officer under Thornton's predecessor, Andrés Alonso.


Santelises took over the state's fourth-largest education system — and one of its worst-performing — on July 1.

She did so at a tumultuous time, given recent drops on standardized test scores and a strapped budget. But Santelises, the fifth city schools CEO hired in the past decade, brings a positive attitude and a reputation as "an innovator with a commitment to see big ideas through," in the words of Freeman A. Hrabowski III, the president of University of Maryland, Baltimore County.

Santelises said she believes the city's children have suffered from low expectations. In an address to principals in August, she advocated moving from a teacher-in-front-of-the-blackboard model to one of more collaborative learning.

She also advocates better connecting schools with city and community services, and has been working with the city Health Department to seek federal grants that would pay for more mental health-related services in communities hit hard by the 2015 riots.

Thornton was ousted in May amid criticism over a perceived lack of clarity and direction in the system.

A state compliance board later ruled that the school board had violated open-meeting laws by conducting the search to replace him in secret.


Santelises said she doubted ill effects of that revelation would linger.

"I still think, with all [the] attention on Baltimore [after Gray's death], we can show that this is still a place where excellent schooling — for low-income kids, for kids of color, for all kids — can still take place," she said.

School in the balance

A year after one student stabbed another to death in a science classroom, the fate of a city high school remained undecided.

Donte Crawford, a sophomore at Renaissance Academy in West Baltimore, fatally stabbed Ananias Jolley, a 17-year-old junior, in front of peers in November 2015. Jolley died in a hospital a month later. It was the first killing in a Baltimore school since 2008.

Administrators said the stabbing and the shooting deaths of two other youths who attended the school had left students traumatized.


Crawford, now 18, was acquitted of all charges in September after arguing that Jolley and others had bullied him, and that he had not intended to kill Jolley.

But schools CEO Sonja Santelises recommended in November that Renaissance, the only public high school in Upton/Druid Heights, be closed next year as part of a broader plan of mergers and closures.

The idea met resistance from families, alumni and community partners such as the University of Maryland School of Social Work, whose Promise Heights revitalization program has secured more than $1.2 million in funding for Renaissance since 2014.

Supporters say the school provides invaluable mentorship programs and social services for children in an impoverished, often violent neighborhood.

Santelises has said she is open to reconsidering her recommendation if the district and partners can find Renaissance a new location. The school board is to vote Jan. 24 on the matter.

App of oblivion


Baltimore was not immune to the draw of Pokemon Go, the "location-based augmented reality game" that swept the globe after its launch last summer.

Smartphone users zombied through streets, parks and neighborhoods, their eyes glued to the devices as they hunted Pokemon characters.

Nor were local residents immune to the dangers of the game, which saw authorities issuing warnings and oblivious players putting themselves at risk.

The problem seemed to peak in July.

Three of four people robbed at gunpoint on the University of Maryland campus in College Park on July 12 were students playing the game. The following day, a 19-year-old Carroll County man was assaulted while playing it in Towson.

Then there was the incident near Patterson Park on July 19.


A driver was playing the game that day when he sideswiped a parked police car. The wreck was captured by an officer's body camera.

On the video, the officer's voice can be heard asking the passengers if they're OK, and the driver's reply seemed to sum up the absurdities of the craze.

"That's what I get for playing this dumb-a— — game," he said.