A narrow East Baltimore street of marble stoops and boarded-up rowhouses, known for drug dealing, is among the latest scenes punctuating the city’s unrelenting gun violence.
Police say a gunman opened fire in the 700 block of Rose Street at midday Tuesday, spraying more than 60 bullets onto the street with an assault rifle, killing 25-year-old Chrone Cummings and injuring three other people.
Just hours later, across the city, five more people were shot on leafy Boarman Avenue, near Reisterstown Road, where many homes have wide, sometimes sagging, front porches.
Both streets, residents say, have long been scenes of drug dealing and shootings, and they question why city leaders have not done more to prevent violence there. The mass shootings that occurred Tuesday are part of an increasingly common trend in Baltimore where trigger-pullers are injuring and killing more victims in a single incident.
“It’s like a norm now,” said Warren Hawkins, 51, who lives near the East Baltimore shooting scene, of shootings in his neighborhood. “They just tear the [police] tape down and carry on like nothing happened.”
Hawkins grew up in this part of East Baltimore. He said he was arrested numerous times while in “the game,” but the birth of his child changed his outlook on life. He’s afraid to leave home at night now because of the violence, but Tuesday’s shooting unsettled him more because of the time of day and type of weapon.
The gun’s repeated blasts could be picked up by doorbell cameras in homes nearby Patterson Park and Butchers Hill.
”What you doing with that type of arsenal in a small city? That’s what you go to war with. … They got guns bigger than the police,” Hawkins said.
Police Commissioner Michael Harrison said the East Baltimore shooting “speaks to the brazenness, but it’s also cowardice. It speaks to [the suspect’s] devaluing of human life and shooting indiscriminately down the street, hitting anyone and everyone.”
The block is known to officers as “an area constantly plagued with heavy violence and known for open air narcotic sales,” police have said in charging documents for arrests there.
Police have not provided a possible motive in Cummings’ killing or identified a suspect.
A woman who answered at a number listed for Cummings identified herself only as his fiancee.
“He loved his family,” she said, but declined to comment further, saying his death was too recent.
At a rally held nearby the shooting scene Wednesday night, Councilman Antonio Glover said that it’s going to take more than City Hall or a single community to fix the violence.
“We can’t do this ourselves,” the District 13 council member said. “People are quick to point fingers but we’re doing the work. But we need people to step up. We have to come together as a community to change the trajectory.”
The rally, organized by the Tendea Family, an organization dedicated to improving the Black community in Baltimore, drew about 40 people and numerous speakers from organizations such as Safe Streets and Challenge 2 Change.
Terry Williams, or “Uncle T,” emphasized the importance of investing in the youth to help stop the perpetual cycle of violence.
“They are the future,” the Challenge 2 Change CEO said. “If we don’t intervene, we are creating the next generation of murderers.”
Williams, whose own son was killed in Baltimore by gun violence, echoed what Glover said by encouraging others to get involved and speak up to stop shootings.
“There’s a war-torn country right here in my beloved Baltimore,” he said. “We’ve got a lot of work to do. Let’s make Baltimore City a great place.”
Across town, near the Boarman Avenue shooting, residents in the community say have been increasingly frustrated by the violence, too.
“The police are not around there doing their job. They show up and leave,” said Cynthia Foote, of the nearby Towanda Neighborhood Association. “They don’t police and that’s a problem.”
Police were called at 9 p.m. to the 2800 block of Boarman where officers found three men who had been shot. Two other victims were found at area hospitals seeking treatment.
Foote said the area is well known for trouble, saying there are “so many balloons up and down Boarman Avenue,” referring to the informal gun violence memorials that have been put up in the area.
“It’s too much,” she said. “This stuff has got to stop.”
Councilwoman Sharon Green Middleton, who represents the neighborhood, said the area has long been troubled.
“I’m very familiar with that section of Boarman and Reisterstown. It’s been a very long-standing problem area, all the way back to the 1970s,” she said.
Middleton said the gun problem isn’t exclusive to Baltimore. It’s a nationwide problem.
The issue, she said, stems from young people increasingly settling disputes with guns. City programs working to address trauma will hopefully discourage such violence, she said.
“There are so many guns out there. Where do you start?” Middleton said. “This is a crisis ... but we as a city recognize trauma early.”
City leaders say they are working on several initiatives to address the violence.
Shantay Jackson, director of the Mayor’s Office of Neighborhood Safety and Engagement, said Tuesday, shortly after the Rose Street shooting, that in the coming weeks, the city aims to flood that neighborhood with city and local nonprofit resources.
“Each event of gun violence is traumatic,” she said. “But when you have got multiple folks being victims simultaneously, the trauma is multiplied.”
The effort is part of a larger strategy to address the root causes of violence, Jackson said, “to provide resources, to provide a stabilization effect, to make sure folks know we are not tolerating gun violence anymore.”
James “JT” Timpson, director of community partnerships at Roca Maryland, an anti-violence organization that focuses on mentoring youth, spoke Wednesday at an event for gun violence survivors hosted by the University of Maryland, Baltimore.
He said the alarming increase in brazen, multi-victim shootings likely indicates a breakdown of the rules and hierarchies of the streets that once helped keep violence in check, in addition to easier access to high-powered weapons.
Harrison said earlier this year that the city has had more incidents in which the offender shot multiple people than at the same time last year.
“The biggest thing is that somebody felt comfortable enough to use an assault rifle in the middle of the day and just shoot down the block,” Timpson said. “It makes you think, like ‘Where do we even live? What comes next?’”
Daniel Webster, director of the Johns Hopkins Center for Gun Violence Prevention and Policy, said researchers are still trying to understand the recent increase in multi-victim shootings.
He said there are likely several factors at play, including more people carrying guns and higher-powered firearms. Devices that make semi-automatic weapons fully automatic — meaning one squeeze of the trigger releases multiple rounds — also are becoming more common.
Webster noted that many shootings result from feuds between rival groups, which could help explain why shooters may target more than one victim. Assuming their targets also are armed and could shoot back, shooters could be acting on a simple calculus, he said: “Shoot them before they shoot you.”
But he warned against thinking about rising gun violence in oversimplified terms that suggest easy solutions. He said addressing such a huge problem requires a combination of large-scale efforts, including both law enforcement action and community violence intervention strategies.
For people working to quell the violence, Timpson, the Roca director, said, the job can become overwhelming.
”But we will not be defeated,” he said. “We have to stand together and work together because these young people are worth it. This city is worth it.”
The violence continued into Wednesday.
Breaking News Alerts
Just after noon, Western District patrol officers were sent to the 1600 block of Fulton Avenue for a shooting.
When officers arrived in the Sandtown-Winchester neighborhood, they found a 39-year-old man suffering from a gunshot wound. Police said it was non-life-threatening and that he was transported to an area hospital.
Then, shortly after 5:30 p.m, officers were called to the 1700 block of Division Street for a ShotSpotter alert.
Police said that they found an 18-year-old man suffering from gunshot wounds to his extremities in the Upton neighborhood. He was transported to an area hospital with non-life-threatening injuries.
About 2 1/2 hours later, officers were called to Northeast Baltimore for a shooting in the 3900 block of Tivoly Avenue in the Hillen neighborhood.
Officers found a 31-year-old man suffering from an apparent gunshot wound to his left leg. He was transported to an area hospital with non-life-threatening injuries.
Baltimore Sun reporters Alex Mann and Ngan Ho contributed to this article.