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Community rallies for peace, mourns loss of youth mentor shot on Tuesday

The Oliver community rallies for peace after spate of violence.

Gregory Mungo worked two jobs to buy a house in Oliver with his girlfriend. He grew up in the East Baltimore neighborhood and coached basketball there in a youth mentoring program.

The 32-year-old was working to improve the neighborhood, friends said. He was killed there Tuesday, shot inside a car he had just bought.

"He was doing the right things," said Gary Crum. He said his friend was rebuilding his life after being released from prison, where he had served time on a gun conviction.

Mungo's death came as the city reached yet another grim milestone for homicides. With 317 homicides, including two Friday, 2015 has been Baltimore's deadliest year in the past 20. It was already the deadliest year per capita, with 50 killings per 100,000 residents.

His death also came during the start of the trial of Officer William G. Porter, the first of six Baltimore police officers to be tried in the arrest and death of Freddie Gray.

Gray, 25, died in April after suffering a severe spinal cord injury in police custody. His death sparked protests and riots, and since that time, the city has seen a spike in violent crime.

Mungo's friends and others frustrated by the continuing violence rallied Friday for "Peace in Our Streets" at the intersection where Mongo was shot to death Tuesday.

About two dozen men and women gathered at North Caroline and Preston streets and walked south for five blocks. They stopped at the sites of six recent killings, the locations marked by deflated balloons, signs and stuffed animals that had been left as makeshift memorials.

Three people died in the past 21/2 weeks in just the first block they walked. The victims included Mungo and another man, Arkeem Harris, 30, who was killed Nov. 13. Two of the deaths happened within days of each other and just feet apart.

Within the next five blocks were three more memorials. Two men died during the summer, marchers said. Another was killed earlier in the fall.

The marchers knew the victims. In some cases, they had grown up with them, and called them by their nicknames. They said several of the victims were men who had been volunteering with young people in the community.

Kirsten Allen, a resident, organized the march after Mungo was killed. She was out last week for a vigil after another death.

"We have come together because we are a community. We are a family," she said to the crowd. "The whole point is to pour some love on to Caroline Street."

At several stops, the group discussed what they might do to stop what they called a crisis of violence in Baltimore.

One man said he had lost his son and two brothers in the violence. Crum said the victims had children.

"We need people to come to these corners and talk to these kids and say, 'What can I help you with to get you off this corner?'" Crum said.

Among the marchers, he said, is enough talent and expertise to intervene to take back the neighborhood and stop the killings.

"We have to acknowledge that we have a serious crisis on our hands of young black men killing each other," Crum said. "If we as a city don't come out and get these young men off these corners … this is not going to stop."

For a time, Crum said, drug dealers stayed away from Oliver. But now "it's turning for the worse."

"This epidemic of people killing each other for no reason," he said. "People are just walking around carrying guns."

The mentor program that Mungo worked with, Oliver Community 250, has lost two other volunteers to violence this year, including Harris.

Allen, who also works with the group, said Harris helped with the program's youth basketball league, setting up before games.

Brian Augins, 36, who went by the name "Rabbit," was one of the first ones to show up on the basketball court, Allen said. He was shot to death in June.

Allen described Mungo as a hardworking man with a good sense of humor. She said his family has had to cope with the recent loss of other family members, including a cousin.

"They've just been going through a lot," she said. "Everybody pretty much knows somebody. Every time something else like this happens, you hate to go on social media, you just see it."

Stephen Tatum, a local rapper who goes by the name Skarr-Akbar, learned of Mongo's death on Facebook.

"In that neighborhood, I know a lot of people that have passed," he said. "It happens so often that I'm used to it. It's just crazy. It's hurtful."

He said the violence has become a part of life for some in the city. He worries about how children who lose their fathers and uncles will turn out.

Crum has similar concerns.

"These guys are guys who were part of the positivity in the neighborhood," he said. "These guys were actually part of the solution. That's what makes it even sadder. These guys that we needed are being taken away."

Allen said Friday's rally alone wouldn't stop the violence, but it could offer hope.

"I don't think anything drastic will come out of this march," she said. "I just want to flood the street with love. … There is so much hate in the area right now, and people need to see there is more to it."

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A story published on Saturday Dec. 5 misspelled the name of Gregory Mungo, who was killed in a shooting in the 1200 block of N. Caroline St. on Dec. 1. The Sun regrets the error.