A 44-year-old Safe Streets Cherry Hill outreach worker was fatally shot Thursday night in Baltimore, making him the second employee in the program to be killed this year, officials said.
Kenyell Wilson, who was known as “Benny,” drove himself to Harbor Hospital after being shot, Baltimore Police said. He later died.
It’s unclear where the shooting took place or the circumstances around it, but Baltimore Mayor Brandon Scott called it a “cowardly act” and said he is angry and deeply saddened by the loss.
”Safe Streets has a special place in my heart and I consider the Violence Interrupters who bravely serve this program as a part of my family,” Scott said in a news release. “Tonight, our brother Kenyell Wilson became a victim of the gun violence he worked every day to prevent.”
The Democratic mayor said he is working with Baltimore Police Commissioner Michael Harrison to make an arrest in this shooting “a top priority.” He also said that his administration will not waver in continuing to support community-based violence intervention programs.
Shantay Jackson, Director of the Mayor’s Office of Neighborhood Safety and Engagement, said both her office and Safe Streets are “devastated by the senseless loss of life.”
“As someone who turned their life around to do the work of curing Cherry Hill of violence, “Benny” epitomized redemption,” Jackson said. “While he has transitioned physically, his light will never leave us and it guides us as we continue the critical work of interrupting violence in our neighborhoods.”
Many of the “violence interrupters” work in the neighborhoods where they previously committed crimes but now work to get conflicts resolved peacefully.
This is the second fatal shooting of a Safe Streets worker this year.
Beloved and longtime violence interrupter, Dante Barksdale, was shot to death in January outside the Douglass Homes housing project in East Baltimore. Baltimore Police have not provided a motive for the attack, but said it was not a random encounter. Witnesses saw Barksdale talking to his assailant at some point before the shooting.
Cherry Hill Safe Streets leaders held a celebration last week, marking one year without a homicide in the South Baltimore neighborhood.
Officials have not yet said where Wilson was shot, and whether it was in the neighborhood within Safe Street boundaries. The borders of the program don’t align entirely with the neighborhoods they serve.
A Baltimore Sun database of homicides shows that one man was found slain Jan. 20, 2021, within the Cherry Hill neighborhood boundaries but just outside what Safe Streets considers its turf. Police said the victim was assaulted and set on fire on Dec. 27, 2020.