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Crime

Mayor, police commissioner frustrated after weekend shootings rip through Baltimore

After a weekend where three people were shot and killed and another 18 were injured, Baltimore Mayor Brandon Scott and Police Commissioner Michael Harrison called on would-be shooters to quit being immature cowards.

City officials’ frustration comes after a 10-day span where there were 17 homicides and 42 shootings resulting in injury. Put another way, roughly a tenth of the city’s killings and shootings this year have happened since June 16.

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Homicides and shootings are up this year compared to the same time last year.

“It’s frustrating because, for me, these are my contemporaries,” said Scott, 38, in an interview with The Baltimore Sun, referencing the ages of shooting victims.

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The Baltimore City Fraternal Order of Police criticized Scott and Harrison on social media Monday, pointing to the city’s officer shortage — the department has more than 600 vacancies — as the reason for the increase in gun violence.

But a triple shooting Sunday night at a Northeast Baltimore bar punctuated the weekend’s violence while underscoring how police visibility does not necessarily correlate with crime prevention.

Two men were killed and a woman was injured after gunshots rang out inside The Hub Sports Bar & Grill, a business in the Frankford Plaza shopping center. The shooting happened with police officers sitting outside in the parking lot, roughly 150 feet away from the bar’s front door, Harrison said Monday.

The officers went around the corner of the shopping center, toward the bar, where they found three victims — two men, aged 21 and 26, and a woman — suffering from gunshot wounds. Aid was rendered on the scene, police said, and one man was declared dead. The other died at the hospital.

“Officers were right there, on the side of the building, when this happened, which once again speaks to the brazenness, speaks to the cowardice and speaks to the total disrespect for authority and for human life,” Harrison said.

Detectives could be seen after the shooting examining a crime scene that stretched from the bar to the road, with numerous evidence placards strewn throughout. The placards typically are used to mark spent bullet casings.

On Monday, the bar, which is a narrow space with a long counter behind a glass window, was quiet. A man setting up for the day declined to comment to a reporter.

Next door, at the Tobacco Convenience and Mobile Repairs shop, a steady stream of customers stopped inside briefly for snacks, drinks and cigarettes as detectives spoke outside.

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Councilwoman Danielle McCray, who represents the neighborhood, called the shooting “a horrific tragedy” in a statement.

“This senseless act of violence took the life of two young men and severely injured a young woman, leaving their families and friends traumatized and forever impacted,” she said.

Such incidents, she said, “are not commonplace” in the community.

But some residents said weekend’s violence is not surprising, given the city’s challenges.

“We used to have rules,” said Barbara Faltz Jackson, president of Frankford Improvement Association Inc.

Jackson said the community’s social fabric has been undone as a result of the ongoing changes, including the pandemic that paused many community meetings and other events where neighbors met with each other.

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“It has eroded now,” she said.

Residents are less engaged than ever, she said. And police are less likely to respond for more minor issues.

“You saw policemen doing patrol. Police were a vibrant part of the community, but that’s not out there now,” she said. “It’s a different climate.”

Sunday’s shooting is the second triple shooting in recent weeks where police were present. On May 28, Harrison said about 20 officers were present in the Inner Harbor when a 15-year-old boy allegedly opened fire. Seventeen-year-old Neal Mack III was killed in that incident.

Sunday night’s shooting is the second shooting in the Frankford neighborhood in the past week and third since May.

On Wednesday, two people were shot multiple times in a drive-by at Parkside Shopping Center, just a block west on Sinclair Lane from Frankford Plaza.

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And in late May, two more people were shot when a would-be robber attempted to stick-up a T-Mobile store three businesses down from The Hub Bar & Grill. After a man walked into the cellphone store and brandished a handgun, an employee tried wrestling it away from him, police said. The gun went off, and another employee was hit in the leg. Then, the employee got the gun and shot the suspect in the chest, police said.

Other parts of Baltimore also dealt with gun violence over the weekend as well.

On Friday night, five people were injured in shootings.

On Saturday morning, a man was found shot in Otterbein. Southern District officers who were in the area of the 700 block of South Charles Street in Baltimore’s Otterbein neighborhood heard gunshots around 3 a.m. and were then dispatched to the 800 block of South Hanover Street. Once there, police said they found 22-year-old Devin Nathaniel Brown, who was shot multiple times.

Brown was taken to Shock Trauma and pronounced dead a short time later, police said.

The Sun was unable to reach his family Monday.

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Police also responded to two separate shootings Sunday morning in Fells Point.

Police say they are investigating a shooting in the 1600 block of Thames Street that happened around 12:30 a.m. Sunday. Officers found a man with multiple gunshot wounds who was taken to a hospital for treatment.

Later, at about 2:19 a.m. Sunday, officers went to the 1600 block of Aliceanna Street for a report of a shooting and found two victims: a 34-year-old man with a gunshot wound to the stomach, and a 23-year-old man who was shot in the leg. Both were taken to local hospitals for treatment.

Video of the suspects exist, and police are asking anyone with information to contact detectives.

The Fells Point shootings are the latest in the typically busy nightlife district. In April, Marco Nunez was shot and killed in the 1700 block of Thames Street, outside of the Sagamore Pendry Hotel.

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As to what’s driving the violence, Scott said it’s a mixture of things. There is the typical drug and gang-oriented crime, but many shootings are a result of petty conflicts that people are unable to resolve, Scott said.

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“No one should die over Instagram posts. No one should die over a message. No one should die over ‘Oh, somebody said something to somebody,’” Scott said. “It shouldn’t happen. Everyone’s going to get into basic conflict.”

Speaking at a press conference with Scott and Harrison Monday, U.S. Sen. Ben Cardin said a bill Congress passed Friday will make it harder for certain people to purchase guns, which should reduce some violence. The bipartisan legislation also funnels federal dollars toward mental health programs in Maryland and other states, which could lead to fewer shootings, Cardin said.

All three men called for stricter gun laws — Maryland has some of the strictest in the nation — and for there to be harsher penalties for people found with guns. Scott and Harrison have said several times that people previously arrested on gun charges are sometimes involved in future crimes.

However, a 2016 U.S. Department of Justice report found stricter, longer sentences have little crime-deterring impact, and that incarceration may exacerbate recidivism, meaning a person is more likely to commit another crime once released.

Scott said he is aware that the issue does not fall solely to the criminal justice system, pointing to more funding for public schools and for parks and recreation programs as a way to help weed out the root causes of violence.

“If investments were being made like the ones [my administration} is making into schools and rec centers and these things when I was a kid, we wouldn’t be having this discussion,” Scott said.

For the record

An earlier version of the article misstated the date from which 10 days worth of homicides and shootings were counted. The date is June 16. The Sun regrets the error.


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