Baltimore suffered an exceptionally deadly year with 348 people killed and twice as many injured in shootings, figures that attracted national headlines and sent local politicians and law enforcement scrambling for answers.
Less chronicled was that 2019 also brought a sharp increase in the number of attacks in which four or more people were shot in the same incident. Whether those incidents are considered “mass shootings" depends on who is supplying the definition.
Baltimore Police do not track such events, but the D.C.-based nonprofit Gun Violence Archive — which broadly defines mass shootings as any incident with four or more victims excluding the perpetrator — recorded 18 such events in Baltimore in 2019, more than triple the year before.
Last year, 11 people were killed in such shootings and 73 others were injured.
By comparison, the nonprofit documented five mass shootings in Baltimore in 2018, six in 2017, seven in 2016, 11 in 2015 and four in 2013. The site did not list any for 2014.
Among the agencies and academics that track such mass shootings, the definition can vary.
The FBI doesn’t address nonfatal mass shootings, but classifies “mass killings” as incidents in which three or more people are killed in public places, a definition created in 2013 by Congress after the shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut. A database compiled by the Associated Press and Northeastern University defines mass killings as four or more victims, excluding the perpetrator.
And The Congressional Research Service classifies mass shootings as those with four or more victims, whether they survived or not.
Daniel Nagin, professor of public policy and statistics at Carnegie Mellon University’s Heinz College, said criminologists have largely used four or more deaths as the standard for defining acts of mass violence. The narrow definition was meant to help track “the rarest forms of homicides with multiple victims,” he said.
Many criminologists also do not include homicides that include other crimes, such as a robbery or gang disputes.
“It’s a subjective standard,” Nagin said.
While Baltimore has had many shootings and homicides, it did not have any incidents in which four people were killed in 2019, according to the Gun Violence Archive.
“The majority of deaths are not from instances of public mass violence, like in Las Vegas” when a gunman fired upon a music festival killing 58 people and wounding 413 in 2017, Nagin said. “The majority [of mass killings] are domestically related. It’s usually a man will kill a partner and other relatives."
Still, Nagin and others have noted a rise in public killings similar to the Las Vegas incident.
Whatever they are called, the number of incidents in Baltimore with multiple victims has escalated sharply in the city over the past six months.
The latest occurred Dec. 22, when police said seven people were injured in a shooting by two unidentified men at the iVilla Hookah Lounge at 225 Park Ave. downtown. Police said the victims were standing in a line outside the lounge when a man armed with a rifle and another with a handgun approached the crowd and opened fire.
The shooting with the most victims occurred April 28, when police said eight people were shot when a gunman approached two cookouts at the corner of Edmondson and Whitmore avenues in West Baltimore. One person was killed.
The Labor Day holiday closed the summer with one of the most violent weekends of the year, including three quadruple shootings in as many days.
Philadelphia, which had 356 homicides in 2019, had a similar number of “mass shootings," according to the Gun Violence Archive. That city had 13 shootings with at least four victims.