Homicide count mounts again in Baltimore after violent week

Homicides rapidly stacked up in Baltimore in the last week, quickly overshadowing a brief lull in killings seen at the start of the month and reviving the daily pace of death that has defined the crime fight in the city for much of the past year.

As of Monday, there had been 71 homicides in Baltimore in the first 79 days of 2017. Eleven were logged in the last week, compared to zero the first week in March.


The deaths included those of Shi-Heem Sholto, 19, and Tyrone James, 17, in the firebombing of an East Baltimore home Saturday, and the fatal shooting of Dashon Houston, 26, on the Alameda in Northeast Baltimore on Sunday, police said.

They also included the fatal shooting in West Baltimore on Wednesday of Montell "Telly" Pridgett, 24, a local boxer, and the fatal shooting in East Baltimore on Thursday of Markell Scott, 19, a student.


Police said Davon Fair, 24, who was shot on Tuesday in Northeast Baltimore after "an attempted robbery went bad," died from his injuries on Friday. Also on Friday, Donya Rigby, 28, was fatally shot in Southwest Baltimore. Police arrested Aaron Daniels, 24, in Rigby's killing on Sunday.

One of the week's homicide victims, Terry Wells, 29, was shot in 2007. But his death was only recently ruled a homicide.

Two others, Howard Martin and Earline Thomas, both 53, were discovered with fatal stab wounds in a North Baltimore home on Tuesday, though police said the couple had been "dead for a while." They are still investigating.

T.J. Smith, a police spokesman, said the city has seen "some absolutely tragic cases" in the past week.

He said the violence is due to a range of factors, but is not related to any change in deployments by the police department — including its recent move away from plainclothes officers in violent neighborhoods.

"We don't think any of these situations were due to any deployment issues," Smith said. "The fact of the matter is there are actually more officers in uniform on the street, and there is a different level of omnipresence than existed when officers were in plainclothes."

Commissioner Kevin Davis ordered plainclothes units into uniformed patrol after seven plainclothes officers were indicted on federal racketeering charges for allegedly shaking down residents, filing false court paperwork and committing overtime fraud. The officers have pleaded not guilty to the charges.

The federal indictment landed as the department is exceeding its overtime budget by tens of millions of dollars. Police officials have said they are struggling to fill patrol shifts.

Baltimore saw the most homicides per-capita in its history in 2015, with 344, and the second most in 2016, with 318. So far, a similar pace has held in 2017.

Months with 30 or more homicides used to be rare; since July, it's happened five times. There have now been 17 this month with 11 days to go.

In addition to the killings, Baltimore police were also investigating a number of non-fatal shootings in the last week, including the separate shootings of two men in their vehicles late Sunday and early Monday.

Early Monday, a 23-year-old man was shot in his vehicle in West Baltimore. Late Sunday, a 27-year-old man was shot in his vehicle in Southeast Baltimore, in Dundalk.


On Friday, a 13-year-old boy and a 41-year-old man were shot in Southwest Baltimore.

Police also this week arrested 19-year-old William Neely in the fatal shooting of Donald Symptom, 20, on Feb. 1. Neely had been wanted in the shooting for nearly two months, police said.

Also arrested this week were Charles Cottman, 15, and Kevin Vaughan, 14, both charged as adults with the attempted carjacking and shooting of a 58-year-old man in West Baltimore on March 11.


Recommended on Baltimore Sun