Around the time her older son started high school, Makia Henriques entered a state of perpetual fear, worrying constantly about the allure of the streets and their unrelenting gun violence.
She focused on keeping him in school, engaged in sports and surrounded by family. She called experts and Baltimore City officials, asking for advice and inquiring about youth programs, anything to keep him safe.
“I’ve been praying since he was 14 — let him see his 18th birthday,” she said. “I just know how dangerous this world is.”
Her fears were confirmed Friday morning when Evay Henriques was killed in a quadruple shooting on West North Avenue, just blocks from his childhood home.
He died two days before turning 18. Instead of a birthday celebration — he was excited to celebrate the occasion despite already acting grown up, his mom said — the family organized a balloon release Sunday evening in his honor.
The shooting, which left two people dead and two others injured, preceded an especially violent weekend across Baltimore, where an already surging homicide rate shows no sign of slowing. The current pace of killings: about one per day, according to the Baltimore Police Department and records maintained by The Baltimore Sun — 213 as of Monday, the 213th day of 2022.
That puts Baltimore on track to surpass 300 annual homicides for the eighth year running. If the current trend continues, the city would record 365 this year, well above the 338 recorded in 2021.
At the scene Friday morning on North Avenue, a busy transit corridor that cuts through West Baltimore, Mayor Brandon Scott condemned the staggering number of illegal guns and too many people willing to use them in senseless acts of violence.
“We will continue to apply pressure,” he said. “Nothing should be causing people to do the things we saw today.”
One of the victims was caught in the hail of gunfire while waiting at a bus stop, police said. Another was found inside a nearby house with a gunshot wound to the back. Both were expected to survive their injuries. A fourth victim died at the scene while Evay Henriques was transported to a hospital.
Based on video footage of the incident, police believe he was an intended target, according to his mom. Officials said previously that one of the victims got into an argument with the suspects in the moments before gunfire broke out.
“I have so many questions, like did he suffer?” Makia Henriques said in an interview Monday at her home. “I can’t imagine anything worse than lying there, knowing you’re dying.”
Police said three people exited a stolen vehicle in the 3100 block of West North Avenue and opened fire down the block, then carjacked another vehicle to make their escape, crashed a short distance away and fled on foot. Police have not identified any suspects in the case.
The shooting unfolded around 10:30 a.m. Friday, leaving neighbors shaken and scared, demanding solutions to the devastating problem of Baltimore gun violence that hits vulnerable communities the hardest.
‘I just want to know why’
The victim who died on the scene was later identified as Bartimaeus Morris, 34, who collapsed in some bushes near an apartment building on Longwood Street.
His mother, Tanya Morris, said he had taken the bus to North Avenue late Friday morning with plans to do some shopping at Rudie’s Liquors, a store he frequented.
She said he was buying supplies to celebrate her birthday Sunday.
“Nothing special, we just liked to spend time together,” she said in a phone interview Monday evening, her voice strained with emotion.
According to her conversation with Baltimore Police, Tanya Morris said, her son was not an intended target in the shooting.
“He was not. He was an innocent bystander,” she said. “The bullets killed him instantly.”
She saw the news about the quadruple shooting on TV later Friday and immediately thought about her son because he often shopped at Rudie’s. But 24 hours would pass before she confirmed his death. During that time, family members were calling and texting him, growing increasingly worried.
Finally on Saturday morning, Tanya Morris went to his house in Southwest Baltimore. She found a business card for a Baltimore Police Department homicide detective stuck on the door. Inside, her son’s two dogs were barking and barking, she said.
A lifelong animal lover, Bartimaeus Morris worked a host of jobs, from computers and manufacturing to, most recently, restaurants. He worked hard and stayed out of trouble, his mom said. He left behind a teenage daughter.
“All he wanted to do is make people smile,” Tanya Morris said. “He had his little ways, but that was his personality. He was so humble.”
His grandmother named him Bartimaeus after a man in the Bible healed by Jesus, Tanya Morris said.
“I just want to know why,” she said. “I keep thinking, like why did this have to happen?”
She’s plagued with thoughts of “what if” — what if he caught a later bus, or walked a little faster that morning? What if he didn’t die young?
Tanya Morris lost a brother to gun violence in 1988.
“Now I know what my mother went through,” she said.
‘An empty feeling’
Makia Henriques was in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, for vacation when news broke about Friday morning’s shooting. She started getting frantic calls from family members about her second-youngest child.
Relatives rushed to the hospital, hoping against hope for encouraging updates. Around that time, while waiting in agony hundreds of miles away, Makia Henriques had a feeling.
“All of a sudden, it was like an empty feeling in my chest,” she said. “Like I just felt he was gone.”
Minutes later, she got the call confirming his death.
The next flight to Baltimore was around 8 p.m. Friday, so she spent hours wandering around Myrtle Beach in disbelief, feeling somehow detached from reality and unable to process how her life had just shattered.
In retrospect, Makia Henriques said, she’s grateful for the distance because seeing the crime scene would have made that morning even harder.
“But in the same token, I felt so broken and lost because I was so far away,” she said.
Evay Henriques grew up in a brick rowhouse on Ashburton Street and attended nearby Rosemont Elementary School — where family and friends gathered Sunday night for the balloon release. He was a rising senior at New Era Academy in Cherry Hill.
He loved playing sports, including basketball and football, his mom said. He loved hanging out with his four siblings and taking his nieces and nephews to Chuck E. Cheese. He talked about moving the family outside Baltimore City to protect his younger brother from the same forces he was grappling with.
“He was full of life,” his mother said. “I’m not gonna say he was an angel, but he didn’t deserve what happened to him.”
Years ago, Makia Henriques watched her cousin deal with losing a son to gun violence.
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“I don’t want to be angry. I don’t want his death to consume me,” she said. “But I prayed and prayed and prayed to God not to take my son. I believe in God, I do, but my faith is getting so small. I feel like the devil is playing with me and my kids.”
Just this past June, she said, one of her daughters was riding in a car when she was struck by a stray bullet near the intersection of Monroe Street and Lafayette Avenue.
“It’s ridiculous. It’s terrible. These people have no regard for life,” said Makia Henriques, questioning why high-powered weapons of war have become readily available on the streets of Baltimore.
When it comes to addressing gun violence, she said, more police presence probably isn’t the answer — because she often sees officers patrolling in the area where her son was killed. On the morning of the shooting, officials said officers came upon the scene moments after it happened because they were tracking the stolen car later linked to the suspects.
What Baltimore needs, Makia Henriques said, is more programs for kids like her son, who had avoided serious school discipline and involvement in the juvenile justice system, but still veered onto a dangerous path. She thought maybe more structure or mentorship opportunities would have helped him.
About two years ago, she called the Baltimore City Juvenile Justice Center to ask about youth programs. After getting bounced around to multiple agencies, she said, a city employee told her the options were limited because her son had a clean record — on paper, he seemed fine. The employee also offered two words of advice: life insurance.
Makia Henriques said she will never forget that phone call. She almost couldn’t believe what she was hearing, but she instructed her ex-husband to purchase a policy for their son.