xml:space="preserve">
Derrick Owens, a Poe Homes resident, says he's tired of Baltimore's mounting violence.
Derrick Owens, a Poe Homes resident, says he's tired of Baltimore's mounting violence. (Jerry Jackson)

The barrage of rapid-fire gunshots that killed a 20-year-old man and injured three other people near the Poe Homes public housing complex in West Baltimore on Saturday “sounded like firing practice,” a neighbor said.

Homicide detectives in gray suits canvassed the neighborhood Monday after the quadruple shooting, which killed Deontae Taylor just three days after a 30-year-old, Brandon Hill, was shot to death in the same block of West Lexington Street with a gun in his hand, according to Baltimore police.

Advertisement

Just as city leaders had begun to hint at a trend of crime slowing, a staggering 17 people were shot — four of them fatally — in Baltimore over one of its most brutal weekends on record.

Residents are under no delusions about the pace of the violence.

“It’s not like there isn’t going to be another shooting,” said the neighbor, Keya, a 40-year-old woman who declined to give her last name because of safety concerns.

Most of the shootings took place Saturday, with 15 people shot, including a 2-year-old toddler in what police said was a road-rage incident.

On Monday, police charged Javon Johnson, 33, with attempted murder, assault and various handgun related charges in the shooting of the young boy, officials said.

Saturday’s violence spilled into Sunday, with a 40-year-old man shot to death just before 10 p.m. in the 500 block of Tunbridge Road on the city’s north side. Police found the victim with gunshot wounds to his body, and he died at a hospital, police said.

Just before midnight, a 22-year-old man was shot in the back in the 1900 block of W. Mulberry Street on the city’s west side. He was taken to an area hospital for treatment.

When it comes to tracking record-setting crime incidents, Baltimore police’s public data is recorded in such a way that makes it difficult to pinpoint the city’s most violent days.

But according to police data posted on Open Baltimore, which contains crime statistics dating back to 2012, the grisly record for most people shot in one day was previously 12 people.

In 2016, at least 19 people were hurt by gunfire in one weekend. And in 2009, before police published crime statistics online, 18 people were struck in multiple shootings spanning a Sunday night into Monday morning.

The violent crime is “sad and incredible sickening," Republican Gov. Larry Hogan said, "especially when innocent children are caught in the middle.”

“As I have said repeatedly, enough is enough," Hogan said in a statement. "We will continue working closely with city leaders and urging members of the legislature to do more to get these repeat violent offenders off our streets.”

A spokesman for Democratic Mayor Bernard C. “Jack” Young did not respond to a request for comment.

City Council President Brandon Scott, a Democrat who is running for mayor, called the weekend’s bloodshed “unacceptable” and said he intends to increase pressure on Baltimore police and Commissioner Michael Harrison to address the violence.

Advertisement

“We have to start to push a little harder on how they’re dealing with the violence day to day,” he said.

Harrison said in a statement that the men and women of the police department are focused on deterring violent crime in Baltimore.

“Prior to this weekend, as I mentioned to the City Council last week, I was encouraged by the overall trends in homicides and shootings over the past several weeks," he said. "I think we all recognize that the issues driving spikes in violence must be addressed by a wide range of people and organizations, not just the police department, in order to make Baltimore the city we all want it to be.”

Amid the mounting violence, a poll commissioned by a prominent local pastor found widespread support for the return of crime-fighting surveillance planes above Baltimore.

Another mayoral candidate, Thiru Vignarajah, called for the city to resume the surveillance flights at a news conference outside City Hall on Monday.

Vignarajah proposed the city sign a memorandum of understanding with plane owner Ross McNutt that ensured the protection of civil liberties by limiting its usage to investigations into homicides, shootings and carjackings; requiring a warrant to obtain the footage; and establishing a civilian oversight board to monitor the program.

“We are not solving murders at anything resembling an acceptable rate,” Vignarajah said. “It is time to act. People are fed up and frustrated. How many more lives must we lose before our city politicians hear us say, ‘Enough is enough?’”

Vignarajah was joined by former Baltimore NAACP president Marvin “Doc” Cheatham; former City Councilwoman Rochelle “Rikki” Spector; and Victory Swift, mother of Victorious Swift, a 19-year-old Baltimore Design School student and amateur boxer who was killed in 2017.

“Since Victorious was murdered in March 2017, there have been over 800 more homicides and over 2,000 attempted murders in this city,” Swift said.

“How can we continue to make weak excuses for the mounting homicides?” she asked, breaking into tears. “If this project can save one police officer’s life, one child’s life, one grandparent’s life, one mother’s son’s life, if it could save your family’s life, what would it be worth?”

Derrick Owens, a Mondawmin resident whose wife lives in a unit at the Poe Homes, said the gun violence is a symptom of "our society crying out.”

Owens, 51, acknowledged having spent time in prison on various charges, including assault and illegal handgun possession, when he was younger.

“I had a nice temper,” he said. “But God gave me control.”

Now a part-time roofer, the 51-year-old washes cars and fixes bicycles at the public housing complex in his spare time. He showed off nine different bicycles at his unit on Monday, including children’s bikes decorated with Spider-Man and Elsa from Disney’s “Frozen.”

Advertisement

When kids bring Owens a bicycle with a flat tire or broken chain, he tries to gently remind them that their lives are valuable, their choices have consequences and thoughtlessly pulling a trigger is easier than being a peacemaker, he said.

“It’s kids getting their brains blew out,” he said. “A bullet don’t know your age.”

The people living in the city’s impoverished communities are sick of hearing how bad the crime is, he said. They want to see leaders come to their communities and implement real change.

“Stop talking, start walking,” Owens said. “When you want to do something about it instead of talking about it, just do it. At least make an attempt.”

James Gaines, 42, another neighbor, said two factors would make an immediate, noticeable difference: offering jobs and re-opening more recreation centers.

“Jobs, jobs, jobs,” Gaines said. “Recreation centers and jobs have to be opened up, or it’s not going to stop."

The lack of investment in generations of the city’s youth is more harmful than the blighted, vacant homes and ancient infrastructure, Keya said.

“When it comes down to it, if they’re not going to invest money in the houses, the streets, these old, corroded pipes," she said, "at least invest it in these kids.”

Baltimore Sun reporters Luke Broadwater, Christina Tkacik and data journalist Christine Zhang contributed to this article.

Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement