A 22-year-old Harford County man was stabbed in the neck and killed early yesterday during an altercation in Fells Point as hundreds of patrons were spilling out of bars at the 2 a.m. closing time.
Derek Gregory Mason II, whose father said he frequently ventured into the city for its night life, was pronounced dead at 2: 38 a.m. at Johns Hopkins Hospital.
Witnesses and police said at least 200 people were milling about in the 700 block of S. Broadway when a dispute involving several men broke out on a sidewalk near Broadway Market. Investigators said the assailant slipped through the crowd and got away.
"There were a lot of people there that night, but none have come forward to say they saw anything," said Detective Ray Jones of the homicide unit.
The victim lived in the 1200 block of Battery Drive in Havre de Grace.
His father, Derek Gregory Mason, 47, also lives in Havre de Grace.
"Your son goes out the door and doesn't return home," he said. "I don't understand it. He was into the night life. I thought Fells Point was a safe area."
Few homicides are reported in Fells Point, a waterfront attraction for tourists and known for its restaurants, taverns, antiques shops and 18th-century rowhouses.
A New Jersey conventioneer was beaten to death in his room at the Admiral Fell Inn in July after being robbed by a man he had befriended on the street. Before that, the area had gone more than a year without a killing.
Mason's slaying comes four days after a dental student was stabbed while chasing a robber in Ridgelys Delight, another neighborhood where violence is unusual.
Baltimore is one of the most violent cities in the nation with 300-plus killings a year for a decade. Homicides are continuing at a swift pace. As of yesterday, 123 people had been killed, compared with 94 at the same time last year, which ended with 310 homicides.
The new police commissioner, Edward T. Norris, was sworn in Wednesday night, just hours before Mason was killed, and reiterated his promise to aggressively patrol the streets and turn around the tide of violence.
"The police can make a difference," he said.
Because of the bar and restaurant crowds in Fells Point, city police usually have a large presence in the area. On weekend nights, they shut roads leading in to the area to prevent crowds from growing.
Tuesday night and early yesterday, police said they had a routine shift. Southeastern District Lt. Timothy O'Connell said an officer pulled up moments after the stabbing and before the first 911 call was made.
Jones said Mason was with several friends and had been from bar to bar before apparently having a run-in with another group of young men.
The elder Mason said his son knows the city because it is where he grew up.
"He was just a young man who enjoyed life," Mason said.