Three more killings in Baltimore bring July total to 42, matching May's 25-year high

Baltimore police investigating two overnight homicides, surpassing 40 for July.

On a blighted block of Abington Avenue in West Baltimore, Derrick Smiley said he regularly sees young men selling drugs — but rarely any police.

"A lot of elderly people are hostages here," he said. "They are afraid for their safety. I think that's a serious problem."

Officers came to the block early Wednesday after a man was shot fatally in the back and another was shot in the leg.

Another man was killed earlier in a shooting on Bloomingdale Road. And a third person was killed Wednesday evening.

They were Baltimore's 40th, 41st and 42nd homicides this month, matching the total from May, the city's deadliest month in 25 years. It is the second time this year that the city has recorded more than 40 homicides in a month and only the fifth time in the past 45 years.

Violence has spiked in the city since the death of Freddie Gray in April. After the 42 homicides in May, the pace slowed in June, with 29 killings, before picking up again this month.

Baltimore police have reported 185 homicides in 2015, up 60 percent from this time last year.

Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake said the Police Department is now "more nimble" under interim Commissioner Kevin Davis. Rawlings-Blake appointed Davis this month after firing Commissioner Anthony W. Batts.

Speaking Wednesday at her weekly news conference, Rawlings-Blake said Davis is taking a "collaborative approach to reducing violence in our city." Davis has established a "war room" with state and federal law enforcement agencies to target the offenders that officials say are behind much of the violence.

"We're still in a fight," Rawlings-Blake said. "There is still much too much violence on our streets. ... We've got a much more nimble department when it comes to identifying suspects when we've had these incidents."

Davis said Tuesday that police had solved three recent killings. Rawlings-Blake said their ability to identify suspects is a sign that the relationship between the police and the community is improving.

"To me, [that is] more than just a sign of his work with the department, but also growing confidence from the community that they're giving information and willing to work with the officers," Rawlings-Blake said. "Because of his collaborative approach, the buy-in from our partners has strengthened, and over the long haul that will be a benefit to the city and will help us reduce violence."

In the killing early Wednesday, officers called to the first block of N. Abington Ave., a residential street with small yards and porches, arrived shortly after 2 a.m. to find a man shot in the back, police said. He was taken to a hospital, where he died.

A 25-year-old man walked into an area hospital a short time later seeking treatment for a gunshot wound to the leg, police said. Officers determined that he was in the area of North Abington Avenue during the shooting.

Later Wednesday, a bloodstained sheet lay in the street. Smiley said he does not feel safe coming to work in the neighborhood, where he is a home care provider for elderly residents.

"I don't believe there is a high level of active policing," he said. Officers "are not as present in the community."

Smiley said a lack of opportunities for children in the city has contributed to the violence.

"This is an environment of survival," he said. "There is nothing else here."

On Wednesday evening, a 40-year-old man was shot to death on the porch of a vacant home in the 2200 block of Annapolis Road in Westport, police said. Family members at the scene showed cellphone pictures of the man to officers, who confirmed that the victim was their loved one. Police did not release his name.

About three hours before the killing on Abington, homicide detectives were called to the 1400 block of Bloomingdale Road. A 23-year-old man had been shot in the head, police said.

Police have not released the victim's name. A woman who identified herself as a friend of the man said he appeared to be running from someone, cutting through an alley and whistling to get her attention. She said she heard a popping sound and thought it was firecrackers.

"He was a good person," the woman said. She did not want to be identified for fear of being targeted herself.

At the end of the block, the Belmont Liquor store was opening for the day. Owner Myong Lee said she has never had any problems there. She closes at 10 p.m. to avoid nighttime violence.

"This area of people are good," Lee said as she greeted customers from behind Plexiglas.

Just across the intersection, on Belmont Avenue, a minivan was parked with one of its windows smashed out.

"It ain't no worse than the rest of Baltimore," said Van Harvey, a mechanic who works at Holiday's Automotive. "We have confrontations like this everywhere, even in what they would call the better neighborhoods. It's everywhere."

He sympathized with the load on police.

"There is only so much they can do," he said. "The rest is on the neighborhood."

Police asked anyone with information to call 410-396-2100 or Metro Crime Stoppers at 1-866-7LOCKUP.

Baltimore Sun reporter Yvonne Wenger contributed to this article.

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