Baltimore Police Commissioner Michael Harrison talks about the targeted violence against youth in the city.
A 10-year-old girl walking to buy a bag of Cheetos at the store Saturday afternoon, a 17-year-old boy washing car windows for money late Tuesday morning and another 17-year-old boy leaving a small corner store Thursday afternoon are among the city’s latest and youngest gun violence victims.
Five young people were shot in less than a week, angering city leaders and prompting calls for action. Mayor Brandon Scott wants police to identify “special initiatives,” and pledged to hold city agencies accountable for providing better resources for youth.
“We cannot accept this,” Scott said at a news conference Friday. “We have to understand that these are children, no matter what was said or what was done. They’re children, and children have to be treated differently than adults, especially when you’re taking about the life or shooting or harming a young person.”
Scott said he was especially troubled by the shooting Thursday night of a 15-year-old boy in the 5100 block of Chalgrove Ave., just south of Pimlico Race Course.
“For me that one was particularly chilling because I spent a lot of time in the 5100 block of Chalgrove,” said Scott, who grew up in Park Heights. “Imagine what the world would been like for my family if that had happened to me when I was 15 years old. And it could happen to anyone.”
The boy was pronounced dead Saturday afternoon at a local hospital, police said. They said he was shot after an argument that escalated into gunfire.
Police Commissioner Michael Harrison said at Friday’s news conference that the department is “working aggressively to identify who is responsible and bring them to justice for these senseless acts of violence. Detectives continue to follow investigative leads, some of them very promising.”
He said three of the five recent young victims are believed to have been targeted.
“All these incidents speak to the perpetuating culture of violence in our city to include the easy access of guns by criminal and their desire and willingness to use these guns to solve conflict,” he said.
So far this year, there have been 46 homicides and more than 100 non-fatal shootings in the city.
Earlier Thursday, just after 3 p.m., a 17-year-old boy was shot by two unknown suspects while walking out of a food market in the 2000 block of W. Pratt St.
Customers passed in and out of the corner store Friday afternoon, with few reminders of the recent violence except for a Baltimore Police patrol car parked across the street.
The store manager, who asked that his name not be published because of safety concerns, said he was working when he heard the gunfire inside but didn’t see exactly what happened.
“It happened so quick,” the manager said.
Outside, he said there was a group of people wearing masks because of the virus, and he saw two gunmen.
“It’s normal around here,” he said of the violence.
Investigators have not yet determined a motive, said Moses, the police spokesman. He said detectives are actively following up on leads in both Thursday shootings.
City Council President Nick J. Mosby said another factor is the pandemic’s ongoing effects, since it keeps children and teens out of the classroom.
“This pandemic has displaced our children from the safety of their classrooms, it has upended their routines and stability, exacerbated behavioral health challenges and created even more economic distress for many families,” Mosby said in a statement Friday. “Layering that on top of Baltimore’s longstanding challenges means too many of our young people are in harm’s way and often in dangerous situations.”
Mosby said the council must strive to find “sophisticated solutions to the root causes of violence — poverty, trauma, inequality — and intervene when we spot warning signs in our young people, like chronic absenteeism.”
The two shootings Thursday follow three other incidents involving young people in the previous seven days.
A 17-year-old washing windows off an Interstate 83 exit ramp was targeted by gunmen who fled in a vehicle. The shooting occurred shortly before noon on the exit ramp to Mount Royal and North avenues in Bolton Hill.
Two days earlier, 10-year-old Kaelin Washington was shot in the chest while walking to the store to buy a bag of Cheetos. Police said she was struck during a street gunfight between two groups several blocks away.
She continues to undergo treatment and physical therapy, her mother, Jasmine Ramsey, said Friday.
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As a parent of two young children, Councilman Mark Conway, who chairs the council’s public safety committee, said the violence against children is especially troubling.
“It’s really, really difficult, specially as a parent, I can’t imagine what those parents are going through,” he said. He said the council is working with police to address the long-term problems that drive the city’s violence.
He said he’s talked with members of the police department about the cases, and “fortunately we have some leads” but urged anyone with information to come forward.
Police have not announced any arrests in the shootings. Anyone with information to call police at 410-396-2477 or Metro Crime Stoppers at 866-7LOCKUP.