Police fanned out Friday afternoon to search for clues in the killing of teenager Michael Mayfield in Northwest Baltimore, handing out fliers with the victim's image as they moved door to door along Lyndhurst Avenue.
Two days after the fatal shooting of the 17-year-old, investigators say they are still at a loss for a motive. As a homicide detective ordered 16 police cadets to hit the streets in the case, he reminded them of the gravity of the case.
"The most important thing you're going to handle is a murder," said Lt. Michael Newton.
Mayfield was the second teenager killed in the city this week. According to court documents, 18-year-old Raysharde Kevin Sinclair was the victim of a fatal stabbing Monday in the 5100 block of York Road.
Police have made an arrest in the Sinclair case, charging Jimy James Jackson, 24, with murder and other offenses. Another suspect is still at large.
According to charging documents, Jackson was captured on surveillance footage fighting with the victim. Jackson was able to get behind Sinclair and hold him in an "exposed position" while the other man stabbed him, police wrote in the court papers. No motive has come to light in that case, either.
Councilman Brandon M. Scott said so many of the city's killings turn out to be over things "so small, and so stupid."
"It puts a lot of stuff in perspective," said Scott, who knew Mayfield. "Even when you're a great kid doing everything the right way, you're not exempt from the foolishness that happens in our town sometimes."
The two young men were conscious of the pervasive role of violence in Baltimore. Mayfield had been involved in a project to help make teenagers more welcome at the Inner Harbor and once said in a speech that neighborhood disputes are often to blame for conflicts between rival groups downtown.
Mayfield proposed peer mediation as one way to quell problems, and Sinclair told a school newsletter in 2010 that he and his older brothers looked to basketball and other sports to avoid violence.
Friends of Mayfield have said they can't imagine anyone being motivated to kill him. Police did not offer any reason for the crime as they searched for more information.
Even in a city where people are notoriously reluctant to come forward in homicide cases, Newton said, it can be useful to canvass the area around a crime scene for details or witnesses.
Standing on the brick front patio of a house a few yards from the scene, Richard Miller, 47, studied a flier handed to him by a pair of trainee officers. He had seen the teenager around the neighborhood, he told them.
He also heard the volley of gunfire that ended his life, Miller told the cadets.
After the officers had moved on, Miller said in an interview that he was on the back porch of the house smoking a cigarette when he heard the shots — "bang, bang, bang, bang, bang" — and ran back into the house, keeping away from the windows.
Meanwhile, Jackson, the suspect in the Sinclair case, was being held without bail.
Attorney Warren A. Brown said he was representing Jackson and believes his client did not knowingly position Sinclair to get killed. He said he may have inadvertently held the victim as part of the fight while another person took advantage of the victim's defenselessness.
"Everybody agrees my client did not do the stabbing," Brown said. "The question is: Is my client responsible because someone else who was with him may have done the stabbing?"
Whatever the causes, the two young men's families have been left to prepare their funerals. Some of Sinclair's teachers at the Friendship Academy of Science and Technology said his family was suffering financial difficulties and started an online fund to help pay for his funeral.
They had raised a little over $1,800 by Friday evening.