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Crime

A proud new father among those dead in a spree of violence that Baltimore’s mayor calls ‘sickening’

Jonathan Miller had spent the past two weeks changing diapers, cleaning bottles and staying up for the overnight feedings for his newborn son.

After a visit with his mother Friday night, she texted: “I am so proud of you. You are an awesome dad,” Zina Jones recalled.

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Then on Saturday, she rushed to the hospital after learning her only son had been shot. Miller, 30, was found suffering from multiple gunshot wounds inside a vehicle on Walther Avenue, near Herring Run Park in Northeast Baltimore. He was pronounced dead at a nearby hospital.

Miller is one of nine people shot and killed since Friday, and 50 others have been injured in shootings since the start of the year. The city’s 31 homicides so far are already more than recorded in all of January last year.

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On Tuesday, James Blue, the husband of a Baltimore Police lieutenant assigned to internal affairs, was shot and killed in a leafy, residential neighborhood in Northeast Baltimore. Police said investigators do not believe Blue was targeted because of his wife’s work.

Once again, city leaders are condemning the violence and vowing to reduce it.

“The level of senseless violence occurring across our city is sickening,” Mayor Brandon M. Scott said in a statement Tuesday.

Scott said he met with police leaders Monday “to focus and further our coordinated efforts on those who continue to carry out acts of violence in our city to reduce violent crime.”

Miller’s mother said she was stunned by the shooting.

“I didn’t see it coming at all,” Jones said.

She said her son had been excited to become a father, and looked forward to playing sports with his son when he grew older.

Jones said her son had once been incarcerated but had been trying to improve himself, working to get his commercial driver’s license to become a truck driver.

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“He was doing everything he needed to do,” his mother said. “His son was his focus.”

Police reported three other homicides on the Saturday Miller was killed. Among them was 20-year-old Kenneth Lawson who was found unresponsive Saturday night near a ramp from Westport on the Baltimore-Washington Parkway in South Baltimore.

Police said later he had been shot in the head and were investigating his death as a homicide.

Two others were killed earlier that day. Christian Williams was found shot on Powhatan Avenue, near Lake Ashburton, and Avian Porter, 30, was found shot inside a vehicle nearby, in the 2900 block of Allendale Road.

Police have not announced any arrests in the recent killings, or whether any are connected.

The department said in a statement that it made 84 arrests over the weekend, including 10 for handgun charges, four for robbery and three arrests for carjackings. It also issued 64 warrants.

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“Those who commit these violent acts will be held accountable and we will use all resources at our disposal to ensure the safety of Baltimore residents,” Baltimore Police Commissioner Michael Harrison said.

But Harrison said the department cannot stop the violence alone. He has said repeatedly that the city must work to address the root causes of violence, and address a culture where so many people feel they must use a gun to settle their disputes.

The comments by Harrison and Scott follow three homicides Monday, another one Tuesday and a deadly shooting last week in which three people were killed, including a Safe Streets violence intervention worker.

In Blue’s slaying Tuesday, officers found him in the 1400 block of Walker Avenue suffering from gunshot wounds around 2:42 p.m. He was pronounced dead at a hospital.

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On Monday, 44-year-old Chesley Patterson, the general manager of La Scala restaurant in Little Italy, was shot shortly after midnight just blocks from the restaurant in the 1700 block of Eastern Ave. Two hours later, 51-year-old Cheryl McCormack, a grandmother who had been working as a Door Dash driver was killed during a “robbery gone bad” in the 3900 block of White Ave. in the Glenham-Belford neighborhood.

And at 10:07 p.m. Monday officers from the Western District found a man suffering from multiple gunshot wounds in the 2200 block of Ruskin Avenue. He was pronounced dead at the scene.

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Scott released a crime plan in July to expand the city’s violence intervention efforts with programs such as Safe Streets, which hires reformed criminals to mediate disputes in the community before they become violent.

But even those workers have not been safe. DaShawn McGrier, a Safe Streets violence interrupter at the McElderry Park location in East Baltimore, was one of four men shot Jan. 19 on East Monument Street. Police said McGrier and two other men died.

Speaking on the C4 and Bryan Nehman show on WBAL News Radio, Harrison said investigators do not yet have a motive or suspects in that case, and that it remains unclear whether McGrier was targeted.

McGrier is the third Safe Streets worker killed in a year. Kenyell Wilson was killed in Cherry Hill in July and Dante Barksdale was shot to death outside Douglass Homes last January. Police charged someone with Barksdale’s murder, but whether he was targeted because of his work is unclear. Police wrote in charging documents that he was seen having a conversation with the suspect before the shooting.

Scott’s crime plan calls for expanding the number of violence prevention programs and in October, he announced $50 million of the city’s federal coronavirus recovery allocation would be put toward violence prevention work.


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