A Baltimore homicide detective was shot in the head Wednesday afternoon while investigating a killing near a notoriously violent intersection in West Baltimore, police said — an attack that stunned officials and residents already beleaguered by the city’s unrelenting violence.
Police Commissioner Kevin Davis, speaking outside the Maryland Shock Trauma Center Wednesday night, said the 18-year veteran was in “very, very grave condition.” He did not release the detective’s name, but said he is a husband and father of two.
Davis said the detective was in the 900 block of Bennett Place in Harlem Park at about 4:30 p.m. when he observed a man “engaged in suspicious behavior.” The detective tried to start a conversation with the man, Davis said, and was shot in the head.
The detective’s partner was nearby and came to his aid, police said.
Davis said the “cold, callous” shooter was still at large Wednesday night, but wouldn’t be for long. Authorities said there is a $64,000 reward for information leading to his arrest.
“With this community, we’re going to identify him, we’re going to arrest him, and we’re going to ensure justice is done,” Davis said.
Gov. Larry Hogan said on Twitter that the “individual responsible for this heinous crime will be found, charged, and prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.”
“Baltimore Police has our full support as they track down this violent criminal and bring him to justice,” he said.
The shooting was the second of a law enforcement officer in West Baltimore this month. Sgt. Tony Anthony Mason Jr., 40, a District of Columbia police officer who lived in Baltimore, was shot to death in the 2800 block of Elgin Avenue on Nov. 4. He was off duty at the time.
It came a week after Mayor Catherine Pugh said violent crime in the city was “out of control,” and Davis blasted prosecutors and judges alike for allowing violent repeat offenders back onto the city’s streets.
There have been 308 homicides in Baltimore in 2017, the third straight year of more than 300 killings.
After the officer’s shooting Wednesday, police set up a wide perimeter and officers could be seen taking cover around corners. The police helicopter, Foxtrot, swirled low, Police used the helicopter loudspeaker to tell people to go inside their homes.
Robert Queen, 23, lives about a block and a half from the scene. He said he was smoking a cigarette on his front steps when he heard sirens.
“It’s like a movie,” he said. He said he's sick of the violence that plagues his street and his city.
“Living like this,” he said, “who wouldn’t be nervous all the time?”
The location, just northwest of U.S. 40 and Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard, is a particularly violent one. More than a dozen people have been shot or killed there in recent years.
Two people were shot near the corner, one of them fatally, on July 18, and three people were killed in a single incident last December. After a particularly violent spate in 2013, police barricaded the block and stationed an officer there around the clock.
The area was targeted for increased policing again this summer after the separate killings of two 15-year-old boys in August — including one right at the intersection of Bennett and Fremont.
Jeffrey Quick was shot to death on the corner on Aug. 22. Tyrese Davis was killed down the street earlier in the month.
After those killings, Maj. Sheree Briscoe, the Western District commander, said the area would be targeted with increased policing, but also with other city services — the approach Pugh has touted as a holistic way to address crime.
A special warrant initiative led to 20 arrests in the area. There was a community cleanup in which city crews cleared alleys and gutters and talked with residents. Police raided the house of an alleged Crip gang member in which they recovered guns, drugs, and items they said were associated with the “52 Hoover Gangster Crip.”
More than an hour after the shooting Wednesday, police lights were still flashing in the neighborhood, the helicopter overhead. The federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives said its agents were on the scene assisting police in their investigation.
Neighbors crowded street corners near the scene, gathering in small groups near parked police cars.
One man stood hand-in-hand with his 6-year-old son in front of the New Hope Baptist Church. Together they watched more and more police cars pull into the large scene beyond the police tape.
The 39-year-old man, who declined to give his name out of concern for his safety, said he has been shot twice in the neighborhood. He said he's never seen so much police activity there.
“It puts you on edge,” he said.
Kia Middleton, 31, lives blocks from the scene
“It's dangerous to come outside,” she said. “You don't know what you’re going to get when you come outside.
“The people around here deserve better.”
The detective’s family gathered around him at Shock Trauma, officials said.
Dr. Thomas M. Scalea, head of the hospital, whose team Davis said had been working constantly on the detective since he’d arrived hours before, said the detective had a tough battle ahead.
Davis said police remained in Harlem Park trying to find “every bit of evidence” they could to help identify the shooter.
“This is going to be a long night for detectives and investigators,” he said.
Pugh said “enough is enough.”
“Crime has to come to an end in the city,” she said. “This kind of violence cannot be tolerated.”
Baltimore State’s Attorney Marilyn J. Mosby called the shooting an “act of cowardice.” She said she wanted his family to know it would not go unpunished.
“I want them to rest assured that we will do our part to ensure that the perpetrator of this offense is brought to justice,” she said.
Police union president Gene Ryan and Lisa Robinson of the Vanguard Justice Society both asked for the community’s support for police officers to solve not only the shooting of the detective, but other violent crimes in the city.
“Your help is necessary in the job that we do,” said Robinson, whose organization represents minority and female officers.