When Jordan Taylor stepped foot into the Y in Catonsville, it was almost as if he were stepping onto a stage.
“Coach Jordan! Coach Jordan!” the children yelled, trying to get his attention, a fellow employee recalled.
Some wanted to say hi, while others just had to tell Taylor about their latest video game accomplishments. Taylor gave the kids, ranging in age from preschoolers to young adults, someone to look up to, the colleague said.
But around 9:30 Tuesday night, the 31-year-old sports and team director was shot and killed in the 4800 block of Clifton Ave. Police said it was a home invasion but have not released other details.
Taylor is one of at least 295 people killed since Jan. 1 in Baltimore, a city bracing to surpass the 300 mark for the fifth straight year. The pace of killings is 30 more than at this time last year.
[ As Baltimore homicide count passes 150, police chief Michael Harrison says 'culture of violence' must change ]
The number of people who have been shot but survived has climbed by more than 100, to 681. That means nearly 1,000 people have been shot in 2019 in Baltimore, with eight weeks remaining.
“The level of violence still remains unacceptable," Baltimore Police Commissioner Michael Harrison said. “It frustrates all of us. We are working every day to build the capacity to better investigate, to better prevent, to be more proactive, and building relationships, and building systems to help people not choose a life of crime.”
The most killings in a single district this year, and four of the past five years, have occurred in the Western District, where 52 homicides have been recorded. The Eastern District is second with 47 homicides.
Other areas have seen ebbs and flows in violence: The Southeast District doubled the number of shootings, from 12 to 24, while the Southern District has seen a decline from 37 to 22.
Harrison, who was sworn into the job in February, said the department faces the dual challenges of addressing the violence and implementing reforms required by the U.S. Justice Department consent decree.
“We’re dealing with a culture of violence while under a mandate of reforms,” he said. “We’re the only city to have both, and we are doing both.”
Still, Harrison said the department can do better.
“Anything other than zero is unacceptable," he said.
[ New Baltimore Police crime plan calls for 10-minute response time to serious calls ]
City Councilman Isaac “Yitzy” Schleifer, who chairs the council’s public safety committee, said “it really is disheartening that we continue to reach 300 murders in the city but our hope that it is the last year.”
Schleifer said he’s troubled by the number of repeat offenders who often commit multiple offenses, and the many unsolved cases.
"People who are victims of crimes and the community deserve closure and deserve to see resolution to the crimes that impact them,” he said.
In the case of Taylor, he had started working at the Y as a camp counselor during his teenage years. It’s where he met his wife and made his career running the sports program for preschool families.
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“We always joke that he was the local celebrity,” said District Executive Director Dawn Chrystal-Wolfe. “He knew all the kids’ names and knew the things he liked and didn’t like. He made them feel valued.”
The managers at the Y in Catonsville had a special lunch Friday to honor their colleague: peanut butter and jelly on white bread, plain Utz chips and Chips Ahoy cookies. It’s what Taylor had almost every day to eat.
Chrystal-Wolfe said she sat down her three kids, ages 10, 8 and 5, to tell them about Taylor. She said it was difficult for many reasons — but especially because of how he died.
“He was the most non-confrontational, mild-mannered kind of person you would meet,” she said. “It would be hard if we lost him in any way, but this just makes it so hard to wrap our minds around and to process the way in which he passed away, because of the type of person he was. Gun violence compounds your grief.”
[ Chart: Cumulative homicide trends ]
Schleifer said he hopes to get help from the state in the coming General Assembly session.
“With the legislative session around the corner, we certainty are going to be going to Annapolis to lobby the state, which has control of the department, to help address some of the challenges we are seeing on the street," he said.