Five people were shot in northwest Baltimore near Bloom St. & Pennsylvania Ave. (Ulysses Muñoz, Baltimore Sun video)
A barrage of evening gunfire that wounded four men and killed an additional man in West Baltimore accounted for less than half the city’s shooting victims Thursday, the most violent day of acting Police Commissioner Michael Harrison’s short tenure.
In all, 12 people were shot — four fatally — in a series of seven shootings that started in the morning and lasted into the night.
The five shot in Thursday evening’s quintuple shooting, which occurred just as Harrison and other law enforcement leaders in the city were preparing for a community meet-and-greet in North Baltimore, ranged in ages from 19 to 46, with a 26-year-old man among them suffering the fatal injuries, police said.
The other three fatal victims — a 20-year-old man found dead in a car, a 27-year-old man declared dead at a hospital and another man found in Hamilton Hills — were shot in three incidents throughout the day, police said.
Where one of Thursday's shootings occurred was still being investigated. Locations for the other six are approximate, accurate to the 100th block reported by police.
Two more men were shot — one fatally — overnight. Police said 38-year-old Jason Hodge was shot just after midnight Friday in the Woodmere neighborhood and later died at Sinai Hospital. Later, a 55-year-old man was shot in the wrist during an attempted robbery at the intersection of North Fulton and West North avenues, police said.
Inured to the violence, some neighbors near the Druid Heights intersection where Thursday evening’s shooting occurred said they know the drill by now: duck on the floor, wait for the firing to stop.
“We deal with it every day,” said an elderly man who lives nearby.
Standing before a crowd of more than 75 religious leaders at a meet-and-greet for clergy, acting Baltimore Police Commissioner Michael Harrison described his recent arrival in the city as a “calling” from God — and one for which his experience as a church elder in New Orleans prepared him well.
The man, who asked to remain anonymous for fear for his safety, said the street is poorly lit, insufficiently patrolled by police, and controlled by warring drug gangs whose pushers work around the clock.
“We raised up in this neighborhood, but we just got to move. It’s just getting too bad,” he said. “We don’t have that [police] presence.”
The shootings and the man’s concerns reflect the issues dogging the Baltimore Police Department as it struggles with high rates of gun violence coupled with staffing problems amid low morale and federal oversight stemming from a history of unconstitutional policing.
To lead the department, Mayor Catherine Pugh hired Harrison away from the New Orleans Police Department, where he had worked his entire 28-year career in law enforcement and had served as police superintendent since 2014.
Harrison took over as acting commissioner in Baltimore on Feb. 11, and has spent much of his time talking to local residents about his vision for moving the department forward — out of the cycles of violence that have seen more than 300 people killed in each of the past four years, out of the cycles of corruption and unconstitutional policing that left the Police Department under a federal consent decree mandating sweeping reforms.
On Thursday, he met first with clergy members during the day and later in the evening with a gathering of community members. After the later meeting, the eighth of its kind, he said the day’s violence was “totally unacceptable.”
Residents at each of the meetings have lamented the crime in their neighborhoods, he said, and many people at Thursday’s meeting also spoke of the lingering trauma caused by shootings and homicides.
“People are tired of the violence,” Harrison said. “What happened today is totally unacceptable.”
He said he was encouraged by the number of people who have expressed interest in helping to improve the city. He also wants to mend the department’s relationship with residents to solve and prevent crime, and said he is committed to collaborating with state and federal agencies to reduce it.
“People are tired of the violence. What happened today is totally unacceptable.”
Acting Police Commissioner Michael Harrison
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“We’re committed to making sure we’re working as effectively and efficiently as we can,” he said.
The street violence swirling around the city before, during and after the events Thursday — which Harrison said he did not believe to be connected — re-emphasized the sweeping need for change, and the stark challenges the new commissioner is facing.
Through Feb. 16, 2019, homicides were up 10 percent over last year, to 33 from 30, but nonfatal shootings were up much more sharply — by 46 percent, to 67 from 46.
In addition to the slain 26-year-old man, who died at a hospital, the quintuple shooting left a 46-year-old man shot in the buttocks, a 19-year-old man shot in the hand, and a 25-year-old man and a 35-year-old man shot in the back, police said. The victims were found separately over the course of more than an hour, with officers first responding to the area near the scene — ultimately determined to be in the 500 block of Bloom St. in Druid Heights — about 6:13 p.m., said Detective Jeremy Silbert, a police spokesman.
Silbert said at the scene Thursday night that it was too early to ascribe a motive, but he noted that two patrol officers were already in the area when they heard the gunshots and began investigating — even before the ShotSpotter alerts or 911 calls came in.
They immediately began investigating, he said, and quickly found two victims in the 500 block of Bloom St. A third and fourth were found in the vicinity shortly thereafter, and a fifth victim was found at North Avenue and Monroe Street, he said.
But for the 26-year-old who died at a hospital, the victims are expected to survive, Silbert said.
The neighbor said violence makes it too dangerous to go to the corner store, or to sit on his front step in the summer. Still, he said he clung to hope that things would change under Harrison.
“We are hopeful that it will happen,” he said.
The seven other victims shot in the city Thursday were shot in six incidents across the city.
» About 8:30 a.m., a 20-year-old man was found shot in the neck in a vehicle in the 1700 block of N. Longwood St., in the city’s Northwest Community Action neighborhood, police said. The man, identified as Darius Davenport, 20, of the 400 block of Shirley Mae Road, was pronounced dead at the scene, police said.
» About 11:08 a.m., a 37-year-old man was found in critical condition with a gunshot wound to his neck at a Baltimore County hospital. It was not clear where the man was shot, but city detectives are investigating, police said.
» About 2:47 p.m., a 31-year-old man was found with a gunshot wound to his arm at a hospital. Police believe the man was shot in the 2500 block of Washington Blvd., in the Morrell Park neighborhood in Southwest Baltimore, before driving himself to the hospital.
» About 3:30 p.m., two other victims were found at a hospital with gunshot wounds. One, 27-year-old Justin Forney, died, and the second, a 27-year-old woman whom police did not identify, was being treated for her injuries, police said. Police believe both were in the 5100 block of Charlgrove Ave., in the city’s Central Park Heights neighborhood, when they were shot. They then drove to the hospital, police said.
» About 7:38 p.m., a 39-year-old man was found shot in the 6300 block of Tramore Road, in the Hamilton Hills neighborhood. He subsequently died, police said.
» About 9 p.m., the 12th shooting victim was located in the 3600 block of E. Lombard St., near Highlandtown, police said.
Anyone with information about the nonfatal shootings is asked to call detectives at 410-396-2221 or Metro Crime Stoppers at 1-866-7-LOCK-UP. Anyone with information in either of the homicides should call Metro Crime Stoppers or homicide detectives at 410-396-2100.