A male driver and his female companion were fatally shot last night on a Bolton Hill street in what police believe was a road rage confrontation.
The names of the victims, both described as adults, were being withheld pending notification of family members, a police spokesman said.
Witnesses told police that about 6 p.m., a man and woman in a white Ford Crown Victoria were involved in a verbal dispute with two men in a green Volkswagen Jetta while the vehicles were westbound on West North Avenue not far from Mount Royal Avenue, said Agent Donny Moses, the spokesman.
Moments later, both cars turned left onto southbound Mount Royal Avenue approaching Maryland Institute College of Art, about two blocks away, Moses said.
Moses said detectives have not determined the details of what occurred next, specifically, whether gunshots were fired while both cars were moving or whether the assailants had gotten out of the Jetta.
He said one possibility was that both cars were abreast of each other while southbound in the 1500 block of Mount Royal Ave. when both male occupants of the Jetta opened fire multiple times on the Ford, hitting the victims in the upper bodies.
At least one of several shots punctured the driver's-side rear window and another struck a vertical door frame panel.
At the scene, a narrow, one-way stretch of Mount Royal with cars parked on both sides and a brick divider lined with ivy and trees, it was difficult to tell whether the driver's window was struck or whether it had been left down while words were exchanged between the drivers, police said.
Moses said detectives were also investigating the possibility that the men in the Jetta got out, ran to the Ford as it passed by parked cars next to the divider and fired into the vehicle before driving away.
"We just don't know right now exactly what occurred," Moses said.
After he was shot, the driver of the Ford lost control and struck a parked van and a sedan, forcing the latter vehicle a few feet off the ground. Neither the van nor the sedan was occupied.
Several 911 calls brought Central District police and at least two city Fire Department ambulances to the scene.
After the victims were removed from the bullet-riddled Ford, they were treated at the scene by medics before being taken to Maryland Shock Trauma Center, where both were pronounced dead shortly after their arrival, Moses said.
The green Jetta being sought has extensive front-end damage, police said.
Heavy early-evening traffic at Mount Royal Avenue and West North Avenue was detoured or slowed by the presence of several police cars. Crime-scene tape surrounded the site of the double-fatal shooting, and residents, students and passers-by stopped to watch. Witnesses were taken to police headquarters for interviews by homicide detectives.
The Bolton Hill deaths brought to 27 the number of homicides in the city this year as of yesterday, compared with 45 in the same period last year, police said.
Yesterday's confrontation is the latest in a string of area road rage attacks over the past two years. Ragina Averella, a spokeswoman for AAA Mid-Atlantic, said incidents involving the use of a motor vehicle as a weapon have recently increased, sparking soon-to-be proposed legislation.
Del. Dana M. Stein, a Baltimore County Democrat, said in an interview last night that he planned to introduce two bills clarifying road rage and proposing potential fines up to $2,000 and jail time for offenders.
Stein said Maryland law does not define road rage, and that his interest in the subject relates to an incident years ago in Northern Virginia in which he nearly collided with the back of a taxi cab, which he said stopped short when the driver intentionally slammed on the breaks. Stein said he believes the taxi driver thought that Stein had previously cut in front in him.
"I veered off onto the side. If I hadn't I would have hit him," Stein said.
Stein said the recent episodes in Baltimore have highlighted the problem.
On Christmas, a 24-year-old woman driving in the 1700 block of Orleans St. went around a driver who was stopped at a green light and exchanged words. During the brief quarrel, a passenger in the stopped car fired at least one shot into the woman's car, hitting her in the stomach.
In June, a cab driver in Charles Village got into a heated argument with another driver and tossed a cup of coffee at the car. The driver of the car shot the cab driver in the head, killing him.