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‘It’s horrific’: Person found dead in East Baltimore car fire was fatally shot first, police say

A body found in a burning car alarmed authorities and baffled advocates and community leaders in East Baltimore’s Lake Clifton neighborhood this week.

The Baltimore City Fire Department responded to the 2800 block of St. Lo Drive for a reported brush fire around 9:30 p.m. Monday, but discovered a burning car when they arrived, department spokeswoman Blair Adams said.

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Firefighters extinguished the blaze and found the body inside, Adams said, with the victim being pronounced dead at the scene. The gender of the person has not been released.

The medical examiner performed an autopsy and found the victim suffered a fatal gunshot wound to the body. The victim’s identity is unknown, police said Wednesday.

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The Lake Clifton neighborhood is largely composed of park space, according to Baltimore CityView. No homicides were reported in the neighborhood in 2019, during a year that set a record for the highest murder rate per capita and surpassed 300 killings for the fifth year in a row, according to Baltimore Sun data.

John Ciekot’s Civic Works office has been located at Lake Clifton Mansion for 27 years. In that time, the special projects director for the nonprofit says he’s never heard about an incident of this nature.

Ciekot and his coworkers have been trying to make sense of the gruesome discovery since learning of it Tuesday morning.

“It’s horrific,” Ciekot said. “We don’t get a lot of abandoned cars in the area so I think this was just an anomaly.”

City Councilwoman Mary Pat Clarke, who represents the neighborhood, called the fire and the firefighters’ find “unusual” and “shocking.”

“This is random and isolated and extremely upsetting,” she said. “Crime is not usually in that area and it’s been fairly violent free.”

Nearby Clifton Park is safe and undergoing upgrades to add a rain garden, a pickleball court and a new football facility, said Mark Washington, president of the Coldstream/Homestead/Montebello Community Corporation.

Washington has been in touch with the Eastern police district’s major for updates on the incident, he said.

“It’s a pretty sad situation, as is all the cases with all the violence in Baltimore City,” Washington said.

Baltimore Sun reporter Lillian Reed contributed to this article.

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