It was hot, and people were everywhere outside — on the sidewalk, on stoops, on the benches in the corner playground. Little kids played with water guns, climbed on a jungle gym, chased one another down the block.
Gunfire had burst out around 5:45 p.m. Friday, in the middle of it all in West Baltimore, and now cops were everywhere, too.
About an hour before that, across town in East Baltimore, a man had been stabbed to death. A couple hours after, another man would be shot to death in Northwest Baltimore.
A Friday evening in summer was just beginning in Charm City.
Police said a 55-year-old man was shot in the shoulder about 5:45 p.m. Two officers were in the area at the time, heard the shots and saw the victim running. The man was in good condition, police said. Neighbors watched detectives work the scene, marked by orange evidence cones, at North Stockton and Cumberland streets, around the block from the busy intersection of North and Pennsylvania avenues.
Maj. Sheree Briscoe, commander of the Western District, walked from group to group, chatting with Sandtown-Winchester's residents. At the playground, she asked grown men to stop smoking and drinking alcohol there.
"Y'all know we cannot stand here and act like these small things are acceptable," she said.
The violence is too much, and it takes a village to stop it, she told them.
"This is not going to stop until we decide it needs to stop. And not we the police, we the community," Briscoe said.
A man threw out a beer. A woman said she agreed. Another man furrowed his brow.
About an hour earlier, at 4:55 p.m., police had responded to the 1600 block of N. Gay St. in East Baltimore in the city's Broadway East neighborhood, and found a 56-year-old man suffering from a stab wound to the chest.
The man was transferred to a local hospital, where he was pronounced dead. Police believe the stabbing may be related to a domestic dispute, and said "a possible suspect has been identified."
At the scene, blood covered the sidewalk in splotches near a bench marked with Baltimore's old slogan — "The Greatest City in America." The blood was on and around an opened beer can in a brown paper bag and the spilled contents of a white plastic one: a tuna can, peanut butter, a box of noodles, cans of vegetables and stew.
About 7:36 p.m., officers in Northwest Baltimore responded to the 5200 block of Saint Charles Ave., in the city's Woodmere neighborhood, and found a 31-year-old man with gunshot wounds.
The man was pronounced dead at a local hospital less than a half hour later. Police said the man was standing in the block "when numerous shots were fired."