Black bunting hung last night from the podiums and partitions in Baltimore's City Council chambers as members stepped forward to remember their former colleague, Kenneth N. Harris Sr., who was murdered over the weekend.
They recalled his mischief - a time that he stole his colleague's grocery cart at the Giant and when he would sometimes send late-night pages. They became emotional when they recalled his work for public safety. And some sounded angry as they called for his killers to be brought to justice.
"Still I feel in disbelief that someone who had such a zest for life is no longer with us," said City Council President Stephanie C. Rawlings-Blake. "We just shouldn't be here talking about him in past tense."
Harris was shot early Saturday outside a jazz club in Northwood Plaza, a strip mall in Northeast Baltimore. He and a friend stopped at the club about 1:15 a.m. to borrow a corkscrew and encountered a group of armed robbers - one of whom fired at Harris as he ran to his car. He drove a short distance away before crashing into a grassy median.
Yesterday, council members wore on their lapels black and yellow ribbons with "KH" handwritten on one tail and the number 4 - for the 4th District that he represented - on the other. And each member spoke just before voting yes on a resolution, introduced by his longtime friend Councilman Robert W. Curran, that called Harris "a distinguished son of Baltimore City gone far too soon."
"One of Ken's main legislative quests was making this city a safer place. ... He sought to keep young people off the streets," according to the resolution. It passed without opposition.
Harris served on the council from 1999 to 2007 but left his seat in a failed bid for City Council president. Harris was in the final round of interviews for a job at his alma mater, Morgan State University, to be the assistant to the president for government relations, said university spokeswoman Rachel Irving.
"People are murdered every day, but this one is family," said Councilman Nicholas C. D'Adamo Jr. before voting for the resolution. "This one hit home."
D'Adamo said he spent some time Saturday with Harris' wife, Annette, and his college-age children, Nicole and Kenneth Jr. Annette Harris told him that police Commissioner Frederick H. Bealefeld III, dressed in a suit, came to her door about 5 a.m.
"He said, 'Kenny's gone,' " D'Adamo recalled.
"What Kenny? You mean my son?" she had asked.
"Your husband, he's been killed."
Councilwoman Helen L. Holton said last night that the crime must be solved. "It is our duty to find the people who did this heinous crime," Holton said. "For every victim in this city who finds themselves in the same place, we have much work to do."
The last speaker required special permission to speak since he no longer serves in the chamber. Former Councilman Keiffer J. Mitchell Jr., who gave up his council seat when he ran unsuccessfully for mayor last year, asked the community to come together.
"If there is any legacy, it is that we continue to fight for the safety of our citizens," Mitchell said. "That we continue to go to community meetings. The mayor can't do it all by herself, the commissioner can't do it all by himself."