Three armed suspects carjacked an unmarked police car from a Baltimore police detective outside a Cherry Hill convenience store Tuesday evening, then sped across the Hanover Street Bridge before crashing in Port Covington, officials said.
The stolen black sedan landed upside down after a rollover crash near the entrance of Nick’s Fish House, and officials said two suspects — Trevor Gardner, 23, and a 16-year-old whom officials didn’t name — were arrested after fleeing on foot. Police still were searching for a third.
Police Commissioner Michael Harrison said the detective discharged his gun during the incident, but investigators still are working to determine whether any of the suspects also fired a weapon. A gun that likely misfired was collected at the scene, he said.
Neither of the two people in custody was injured in the gunfire, but police said they were later treated for minor cuts and abrasions sustained from the crash. The officer was uninjured.
The detective was on duty but not in uniform, but, Harrison said, he had on a polo with the department logo and his badge, which “clearly identified him as a police office.”
The incident adds to a significant increase in carjackings throughout Baltimore over the past several months, a trend reflected in other cities during the pandemic. Experts have struggled to explain the increase, noting that many of the robberies are later linked to teenage suspects.
Baltimore Mayor Brandon Scott said he was grateful the outcome wasn’t worse.
“Clearly when folks are so brazen that they would do this to a police officer, we need to have a community check in on what is happening in our streets, especially with our young people,” the Democratic mayor said. “Everyone needs to hold people accountable.”
The incident unfolded around 6:15 p.m. in the 2800 block of Hanover Street outside a small retail strip near Middle Branch Park and MedStar Harbor Hospital — right around the corner from the Baltimore Police Department’s Southern District office. The shopping center includes a 7-Eleven, a rehab facility, a check cashing store, and a meat and seafood market. It sits at the intersection of Hanover and Potee streets, where the two converge before the bridge connecting Cherry Hill to Port Covington.
A Baltimore Sun reporter happened to be in the area Tuesday evening and witnessed the incident from a distance. In the moments before the suspects sped away in the stolen vehicle, a man was heard yelling something inaudible. Then, several gunshots rang out. A few moments later, the suspects jumped into a black sedan and headed across the Hanover Street Bridge.
Officers quickly swarmed the parking lot and set up a perimeter while a police helicopter circled overhead.
Detectives marked what appeared to be six shell casings and discussed the possibility of obtaining surveillance footage from the nearby businesses.
The suspects face the following charges: armed carjacking, armed robbery, first- and second-degree assault, and various handgun violations.
At the scene of the crash on Cromwell Street near Insulator Drive later Tuesday evening, the overturned sedan showed extensive damage, with one of its wheels hanging by a thread. Police blocked off the area for hours.
The carjacking occurred about 45 minutes before a scheduled community policing meeting hosted by Southern District police at their nearby office, where officials were expected to address a recent rise in gun violence in the area — particularly Brooklyn, which had four homicides last week alone. The meeting proceeded as planned, despite the circumstances, but some district leaders were unable to attend.
Asked about how police are investigating and classifying recent violent incidents, Capt. David Brust mentioned carjackings, which he said “have just exploded” both in Baltimore and other cities over the past couple years.
“Unfortunately, the carjacking trend is not letting up,” he said. “They’re doubling down.”
In terms of motive, he said some organizations steal cars with plans to sell them, but sometimes teenagers just “want to drive around on a Friday night, and they don’t have a car.”
Carjackings are up 69% in Baltimore this year over 2021, according to the latest available crime data. Since Jan. 1, police have recorded 198 such incidents citywide. In the Southern District, they’re up 67% — with 30 so far this year, compared with 18 at this time in 2021.
That trend is happening in other large cities nationwide, including Chicago, New Orleans and Philadelphia. And officials have pointed to another trend: Many of the suspects getting arrested in these cases are teens.
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Despite these recent increases in some categories of violent crime, Blust said, other types of crime are trending downward in the Southern District. He said additional officers are being deployed to certain locations as part of ongoing crime suppression efforts.
At the Hanover Street strip mall late Wednesday morning, the stores were busy, and the parking lot was nearly full, with no obvious signs of the carjacking that occurred hours earlier. Some of the businesses have surveillance cameras out front, but it was unclear whether any of them were actually functioning and could have captured the incident.
A sign in the window of Package Deals Plus, a butcher shop and seafood market, warned people that video surveillance was in effect 24/7, but the message was referring to cameras inside the store, according to staff.
Brett Nunnally, whose brother owns the business, said his nephew and another employee left the store just moments before the carjacking occurred and headed toward Camden Yards to watch the Orioles game. They were sitting at a red light on Hanover Street when the stolen car came screeching up behind them, turned onto Cromwell Street and crashed.
Despite the close call, Nunnally said he’s never felt unsafe at the Cherry Hill store, a longtime neighborhood staple with a robust clientele.
But after working in Baltimore for nearly five decades — first at the Nunnally Brothers butcher stall in Cross Street Market and now at Package Deals Plus — he worries about kids growing up without access to good schools and decent job opportunities.
“These kids have nowhere to go, nothing to do,” he said. “It’s as bad as it’s ever been, as far as I can remember.”