Yesterday, Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke hailed a new retirement community for the deaf as a monument to all that is good about Baltimore. Monday night, he stood at a crowded West Baltimore corner and saw all that is bad.
On a ride-along with police, the city's chief executive sped to three shootings and at one point stood over a wounded young man lying face down on a street with four bullets in his back.
"A friend of his comes along and looks down," Schmoke recalled yesterday. "And he doesn't say to the police or to me, 'How's he doing?' He says, 'What are you all going to do with that boy's cigarettes?' That is showing no regard for human life."
Schmoke, at a groundbreaking for the new deaf community off Frederick Avenue, noted a recent crime drop and new initiatives from Inner Harbor hotels to a revamped Howard Street business corridor. He praised the recent Whitbread Round the World Race that pit-stopped in Baltimore and put the city in the global spotlight.
"The image of a city that greeted the Whitbread was an image that greeted the world," the mayor said. "That was a positive image. But then you see what happened [Monday] night. That's another image. It really is a tale of two cities."
Schmoke said Monday was the fourth time in his 11-year tenure as mayor that he has gone on patrol with his police force. He has been criticized during campaigns by some who say he does not support officers and rarely speaks forcefully about the violence that consumes some city neighborhoods.
Crime was a central issue in the 1995 election, and the police union endorsed Schmoke's challenger, Mary Pat Clarke. The union criticized the Schmoke administration for being unable to halt gunfire in a city where more than 300 people have been killed each year for the past decade.
But in recent weeks, Schmoke has strongly supported his force of 3,200 officers. He defended their actions in ending a melee outside the city-owned Brokerage building two weeks ago, and yesterday he promised to make more money available to pay overtime to increase patrols in high-crime areas.
"The fact that the mayor is out there on the front lines supporting us is tremendous," said Officer Gary McLhinney, the president of the Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 3, and a frequent critic of Schmoke and Police Commissioner Thomas C. Frazier.
The city's west side has been violent this year, with neighborhoods in Southwest Baltimore particularly hard hit.
Police say drug dealers pushed out by police initiatives to lower the homicide rate are moving into Carrollton Ridge and Shipley Hill, sparking gunfights that have claimed six lives and left many more wounded.
Yesterday afternoon, Robert Crosby, 31, was felled by gunfire at South Monroe and West Lombard streets. Police said Crosby, of the 1700 block of North Fulton Ave., died yesterday afternoon at Bon Secours Hospital. Police said he was struck by several bullets at the corner in front of a vacant rowhouse.
Homicide detectives collected five shell casings and a bloody T-shirt that read "Lightnin Bail Bonds. Ride a bolt to freedom."
A woman stood outside her front door and slowly shook her head.
"Drugs," she said. "The last 10 years, that's all there's been around here. Somebody takes over their corner and gets blown away because of it."
Schmoke said he decided to ride with police "to get a better sense of what was going on in the community." He called Frazier's office at 10 a.m. and by 8 p.m., he was wearing a bulletproof vest and sitting in the front seat of a marked patrol car.
He accompanied Western District Officers Sean Miller and Roy Patrick Gibbs. Another officer, a member of Schmoke's full-time security detail, sat in the back. Sgt. Jesse Oden followed in PTC another patrol car.
"He really wanted to do it," Oden said of Schmoke. "He got it first-hand. It was an eye-opener for him when he got to Edmondson and Pulaski."
Schmoke's night started out slowly, with officers called by a man fighting with a neighbor about giving a cigarette to his wife. But then he went to Fremont Avenue, off Pennsylvania Avenue, where drug dealers were giving away "testers" -- free drugs to hype their product.
"There was a line of about 70 people," Schmoke said. "We went to assist an officer who was making an arrest and trying to figure out who the supplier was. Then we heard a call for a shooting at the Gilmor project. We pulled up just as the officer was making an arrest."
Then came the shooting at Edmondson Avenue and North Pulaski Street.
"There were 300 people in the street," Schmoke said. "There was a young man, he was lying face down on the ground, he had four shots in the back. About a half block away was another guy who was even more severely shot."
Police reported that someone opened fire with a shotgun and hit Brandon Pride, 17, and Gurney Toulson, 21, both of West Baltimore. Both were in fair condition yesterday at the Maryland Shock Trauma Center.
"No motive, no suspects," reads the official police report of the incident. Five empty 12-gauge shotgun shells were recovered nearby.
A few hours later, two more young men were shot on Pulaski Street, this time 16 blocks to the south. And two more people were shot in Southeast Baltimore last night, bringing the night's toll to seven.
The number of shootings is not uncommon for a summer night. But Schmoke said the drama of what is considered routine gave him a new sense of appreciation for his police and what they and law-abiding citizens face every day. He said new overtime patrols could start Monday.
"We've got a beautiful city, but we are also home to half the state's poor," he said. "Although most poor people are struggling to do well, we've got a minority, particularly young men, who place no value on human life."
Schmoke said he was "very disappointed with the crowd" that gathered at Edmondson and Pulaski after the double shooting.
"There were not a lot of people showing outrage and disgust about the whole thing," he said. "That crowd does not represent all of our citizens, but among the young men around there, it was almost a sporting sense. These victims were in the game and they lost."
Pub Date: 7/01/98