Hours after Brooklyn’s fourth deadly shooting in the past two weeks, a group of young men gathered at the scene in the South Baltimore neighborhood Friday to mourn the loss of their friend and brother.
While they added empty Hennessy cognac bottles to a growing sidewalk memorial, a Baltimore Safe Streets worker approached them and delivered an impassioned plea, hoping his words could quell any thoughts of retaliation. He was furthering the mission of the citywide anti-violence program, which hires people with knowledge of the streets to intervene in potential conflicts and stop cycles of violence.
“The candlelight memorial — that [expletive] is so old,” he told the young men. “You’ve gotta move different, think different. You can just do something different, all together.”
The worker, who declined to provide his name because he was not authorized to speak with the media, asked them to think about the people they value most — their parents, siblings, children — “before you pull the trigger.”
“When you see death that close, it changes you,” he said. “But it can change you in the right direction.”
Facing increased gun violence that shows no sign of slowing, Brooklyn residents are frustrated and fearful. The neighborhood has experienced nine deadly shootings already this year, the same number recorded throughout all of 2021, according to records maintained by The Baltimore Sun.
Friday morning’s deadly shooting unfolded around 12:15 a.m. on 5th Street in Brooklyn — about a half-mile from a double homicide Wednesday night on Audrey Avenue.
“People are angry, and they have every right to be,” said Baltimore City Councilwoman Phylicia Porter, whose district includes Brooklyn. “They need protection, but they also need services. Things should not have gone this far where the violence is out of control.”
The Wednesday double homicide occurred around 1:30 a.m. Police responded to reports of gunfire in the 4200 block of Audrey Avenue and found two men unresponsive.
Police identified the victims Thursday morning as Devin Moll, 21, and Denzel Scipio, 30. Both men were pronounced dead on the scene. When reached by phone Thursday, a relative of Scipio declined to speak with a reporter, saying it was not a good time. Attempts to reach Moll’s family were unsuccessful.
On Wednesday afternoon, about 12 hours after the shooting, Audrey Avenue was quiet. Some residents sat outside smoking, while others walked to a nearby corner store for lunch. A group of men worked on fixing up an aging rowhouse, explaining that the owner was ready to sell — in part because the neighborhood had gotten more dangerous.
One woman said she was watching TV when gunshots rang out after midnight. They were close enough that she heard the “whoosh” of the bullets.
“I ducked,” she said.
After living in Brooklyn for 20 years, changes to the neighborhood are obvious, the woman said. She asked to remain anonymous to protect her safety.
“It’s gotten worse,” she said. “The crime is worse.”
On the morning of April 15, less than two weeks earlier, the woman was walking through the nearby Brooklyn Homes housing complex when she heard gunfire and quickened her pace, she said. She found out later that two people had been shot, one fatally.
Brittany Keyser, 30, was pronounced dead in the 800 block of Gretna Court that morning, and a man was hospitalized with serious injuries. Police have not released a potential motive or other details about that shooting, but the investigation is open and active, officials said last week.
Just around the corner from where Keyser was killed, a Feb. 21 double homicide claimed the lives of Edward Johnson, 35, and Marcus Harris, 43. The Johnson family organized a candlelight vigil for the longtime Brooklyn resident, and Baltimore Mayor Brandon Scott pledged to intensify anti-violence efforts in the area.
Porter, the District 10 councilwoman, said Wednesday that she’s committed to making sure the neighborhood gets increased police patrols, in addition to an influx of services.
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The unmet needs are significant, she said: “People need more employment services, transit equity, better-funded schools, youth recreation programs, conflict mediation, effective drug treatment and also true rehabilitation services for people who made a mistake.
“Brooklyn has a lot of challenges,” she said. “This may take a little more time, but I’m not giving up on it. … We are leaving no stone unturned.”
Porter noted the diversity among Brooklyn residents and the close-knit nature of the community. She said police have received tips from residents that hopefully will help detectives solve some of the recent shootings.
Although homicide arrests could help them feel safer, some residents were doubtful the violence would stop anytime soon.
“You hear gunfire every night around here,” said a young man who asked to remain anonymous because of safety concerns. “This is typical. It’s not cool, though.”
News of the latest homicide came Friday morning.
Baltimore police said a man was found dead from gunshot wounds in the 3600 block of 5th Street — where his friends gathered hours later, leaving flowers, candles and spilled champagne. His name has not been released, but loved ones described him as a devoted father and loyal friend.