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48 in city killed in 64 days of '07

The Baltimore Sun

Michael A. Woods Jr. was the 48th person killed in 64 days in Baltimore this year.

According to police, Woods, 28. was upstairs in his West Baltimore rowhouse yesterday when someone knocked on the door shortly before 7 a.m. When his 5-year-old son answered, two men barged inside, shot the boy in the foot and ran upstairs to the second floor.

There, they found and fatally shot Woods, a man who used a wheelchair after being paralyzed in a previous shooting. Woods grabbed his gun and returned fire, though it is unclear whether he hit anyone, according to a law enforcement source.

It was the third killing in as many days in Baltimore, a city of 640,000. Statistics through yesterday show that New York City, with a population of about 8 million, has had 57 killings this year, Philadelphia, with 1.4 million people, has had 66, and Washington, with 550,000, has had 28. Boston, with a population of about 560,000, has had nine people killed this year.

Though robberies - which spiked last year - have declined 20 percent this year, the city's pace of shootings and killings has remained steady.

Mayor Sheila Dixon, through a spokesman, said police and others are making headway, that crime overall is down.

"Solving this problem is going to take the full commitment of citizens, community groups, faith institutions, law enforcement and prosecutors," Dixon said in the statement. "This presents a challenge to government and community, and we will continue to come together to develop and implement new strategies."

Police would not elaborate on why they think Woods was killed. The victim had a record of dealing drugs.

Woods, who was shot in the stomach, was pronounced dead at Maryland Shock Trauma Center. His son was treated for injuries that were not life-threatening at Johns Hopkins Hospital Children's Center.

Yesterday, Ernie McNair, the victim's cousin, said Woods had been paralyzed in a shooting a few years ago and rarely left the house. He had a shed in the backyard where he sometimes raised pigeons.

McNair said Woods' mother, who also lived in the house, had left for work in the early morning. The armed men came to the door soon after. Family members thought it might have been a robbery, McNair said.

"I think folks knew he was vulnerable and decided they would take advantage of his vulnerability," said McNair, who stood outside the home and waited for police to leave so he could lock the doors to the West Baltimore rowhouse.

About 40 percent of the city's homicides this year have occurred in the long-troubled Western and Eastern Districts. Once again, police commanders are pouring more resources into these areas, with a focus on targeting violent gangs and getting illegal guns off the street.

The department's SWAT team has been tasked with tracking and enforcement in gang-infested parts of East Baltimore, with a focus on catching criminals with guns. Last week alone, police officers seized 62 weapons - mostly handguns, along with sawed-off shotguns.

Police officers are being told to focus on "top 10" lists of each district's most violent offenders, and target neighborhoods where gangs are known to be fighting with rivals.

In one such neighborhood - East Baltimore's Ellwood Park - a man was killed Sunday night.

About 8 p.m., Anthony M. Brown, 19, left his house in the 700 block of N. Curley St. and got into his Buick LeSabre, which was parked nearby. Two men walked up, briefly struck up a conversation and then fired multiple times into the car, striking Brown in the head and body.

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