A recent spate of violence in Southwest Baltimore may stem from the shooting of a 35-year-old man who the city's police commissioner referred to Thursday as an "engine for violent crime."
In the past week, there have been four fatal shootings in the neighborhoods near the border of the Southwestern and Western police districts, as well as several non-fatal shootings. One of them was the Dec. 15 shooting of Stanley Brunson and another man in the 3000 block of Belmont Ave. in Rosemont.
Police Commissioner Frederick H. Bealefeld III, in an interview at City Hall about crime in 2011, mentioned Brunson twice, referring to him as a "legend," the type that police need to be more vigilant about building cases against. Court records show his prior record includes acquittals on armed robbery and attempted murder cases.
"These guys like Stanley Brunson and others, they're legendary in their neighborhood," Bealefeld said. "Legendary for being out on the street and being the engine for violent crime in their neighborhoods. The fact is, they shouldn't get the opportunity to stay out there and become legendary."
Bealefeld's comments came as he answered a question about why police have struggled with a sagging arrest rate for shootings and homicides despite a significant drop in recent years in cases to investigate. Bealefeld and Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake said the department is being more vigilant about presenting an investigation to prosecutors that will lead to a conviction.
"We need to focus on our clearance rate but do it in a way that continues to promote safety, and not just safety but the perception of safety – that there's a criminal justice system that works," Rawlings-Blake said.
Though the department has in recent years stopped releasing the names of non-fatal shooting victims - a break from tradition that is not the policy of other local and national law enforcement agencies - Anthony Guglielmi, the department's chief spokesman, confirmed that Brunson was a recent shooting victim and said police believe that shooting is related to other recent violence.
"He is very well known to the BPD," Guglielmi said. "It's fair to say we're looking at correlations between the shooting of Brunson and other ones in the district."
Brunson was shot in the arms and legs; he was able to get a ride to Maryland Shock Trauma Center for treatment, while the second man was found at the scene and is listed in critical condition. Guglielmi said he did not know Brunson's condition.
A law enforcement source not authorized to talk about investigations said it's too soon to tell whether the cases are linked, but officials are bracing for more violence. "Everyone's expecting the lid to blow off of it," the source said.
Guglielmi said the department is discussing whether to temporarily deploy plainclothes officers to the area. "The key is drilling down, making sure we know who his associates are and having an omnipresence," Guglielmi said.
Bealefeld added: "You better believe the Southwest District commanders are feeling our pinch. What's their plan to contain that?"
Brunson has been shot at least once before - in 2003, according to news articles. He is currently awaiting trial on drug charges stemming from September, but he has faced many charges before.
Armed robbery and handgun charges were dropped by prosecutors in 2008, and he was found not guilty of attempted murder in 2004. In 2007 he was convicted of drug possession with intent to distribute and sentenced to eight years in prison, but seven years and four months of the sentence were suspended.
[This post has been updated]