When Letrice Gant helped organize Baltimore’s peace movement Ceasefire, she didn’t know the devastating pain of a killing first-hand.
That changed Wednesday when Gant’s 21-year-old niece Kaylyn High was shot in the head on East 22nd Street near Guilford Avenue. Police say she was an unintended target of a 25-year-old man arguing with another person when he fired his weapon.
Gant, 44, of West Baltimore, said her niece’s death is too raw for her to talk about, but in the aftermath she knows one thing for sure: Her commitment to healing the city through Ceasefire has deepened.
“It’s powered me up,” said Gant, who spoke Friday at the Baltimore Community Mediation Center in Waverly with her fellow Ceasefire organizers. “Any anger, any frustration, any sadness that I feel, I use those feelings as a platform to get the work done.
“Love is an action word.”
The group is planning a ceremony at 6 p.m. Wednesday to recognize High’s life and death. It is a ritual to create a “sacred space” by praying over an area and burning sage and camphor. The location was planned for the site of the shooting but is being moved to Digital Harbor High School for safety reasons.
Few details about High’s death have been revealed.
Police are continuing to investigate, but have arrested 25-year-old Ramon Burks of East Baltimore in her killing. He was taken into custody Thursday in North Baltimore and charged with first-degree murder, reckless endangerment, assault and handgun violations.
Around 9:30 p.m. Wednesday, police said they received a ShotSpotter alert for the 300 block of E. 22nd St., but when officers arrived they did not find any victims.
High, of Johnston Square, meanwhile arrived at a nearby hospital with a gunshot wound to her head. She died during surgery.
Detective Chakia Fennoy, a police spokeswoman, said police believe Burks was arguing with another person when he fired a gun and struck High. Fennoy said High was not the intended target. It is not clear whether High and Burks knew each other.
Online court records did not list an attorney for Burks.
Anyone with information about High’s killing is asked to call police at 410-396-2100 or Metro Crime Stoppers at 1-866-7LOCKUP.
Gant saidHigh’s death has been traumatic, and unlike anything her family has dealt with before.
She posted an emotional plea to her friends on Facebook, saying: “I don't want condolences. I don't want anybody to tell me how sorry they are. I do want people to heal from whatever trauma they are going through so that they don't give it to anybody else.
“I want people to stop acting like it can't happen to them. I want people to learn how to manage conflict without violence. I want people to commit to healing Baltimore City. I want people to stop believing the lie that being a ‘good person’ is enough.”
Ceasefire was created in August 2017 when Gant and a group of friends called for an end to gun violence — urging “nobody kill anybody” over a single weekend that summer. The calls for peace have continued quarterly; the next is set for Mother’s Day weekend in May.
Over that weekend, people are invited to take whatever action they can to spread peace and love under the Ceasefire banner, from having a family dinner to holding a sign on a prayer walk to playing video games with friends.
Gant said if a killing does happen between 12:01 a.m. on the Friday of a Ceasefire weekend and 11:59 p.m. on that Sunday, it does not mean that the ceasefire is broken or unsuccessful. Victory is measured in many ways, she said: hope in a child that violence can be conquered, calm in the heart of a mother or help offered to someone in need.
Even as High’s death was personal for Gant and the Ceasefire organizers, the group said they place no more value on one life than another: Every single life in Baltimore matters.
“A life is a life to us,” said Erricka Bridgeford, Ceasefire’s founder. “Hundreds of people are touched by one life being lost, no matter who you think that person was, or who you think that person should have been.
“We talk to loved ones all the time. We hear all the stories of who that person was and why they were loved, and who they could have been and what their potential was.”
A viewing will be Friday from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. with a wake Saturday at 12:30 p.m. and funeral Saturday at 1 p.m. All events will be at Wylie Funeral Home at 9200 Liberty Road in Baltimore.
Baltimore Sun reporter Sarah Meehan contributed to this article.