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Annapolis leaders, community concerned about gun violence as police increase patrols

Longtime Annapolis civil rights leader Carl Snowden was showing a couple of recent police recruits around the city Friday, talking to them about the city’s history as part of a new orientation program, when they bore witness to some of its current ills.

It was about 1:30 p.m., barely two hours after some of Annapolis’ top police and elected officials stood in front of the police station to announce arrests in a recent homicide, when a car drove down Clay Street and an occupant opened fire near where the 23-year-old man had been killed in October.

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“They literally saw first hand the car that was doing the shooting,” said Snowden, who acknowledged they could only catch a partial license plate number.

Police recovered shell casings from the scene and nobody was injured, but the incident contributed to a spate of violence in Annapolis that prompted Police Chief Ed Jackson to bring cops in from their days off and put them on the streets, and politicians to issue statements relaying their concerns. Two people were shot Friday in separate, but possibly related, incidents.

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“We have information that there may have been some type of feud going on,” Jackson said. “We haven’t gotten to the bottom of it but obviously there’s something going on.”

About three hours after the apparent drive-by attempt on Clay Street Friday, police arrived at the scene of another shooting in the 1400 block of Tyler Avenue.

It was shortly after 4:30 p.m. when officers found a man who’d been shot. He was taken to a hospital with injuries police described as not life-threatening.

Around 8:15 p.m., police learned about gunfire in the 1000 block of President St., near the Eastport Community Center.

In the area of the Harbor House and Eastport Terrace communities, officers found a boy who’d been shot. Police did not believe his injuries were life-threatening. Jackson said Saturday the boy was in stable condition.

Police recovered three handguns, including one from the boy who’d been shot, and arrested two teenagers on handgun offenses. Deputy Police Chief Stan Brandford said boys were 15 and 17 years old. One was charged as an adult, though Brandford declined to identify him.

“Juveniles with guns,” Jackson said. “It’s just crazy.”

In response to ongoing violence, Jackson deployed “just about everyone out there in the agency” over the weekend, an effort made possible by approving overtime for the understaffed department. The ranks include patrol officers, plain clothes police, detectives and FBI help. Jackson also asked Anne Arundel County Crisis Response to help communities affected by the violence.

“We’re not just out there riding around,” Jackson said. “We’re actually trying to solve some of this violence and get intelligence.”

Residents on Clay Street told The Capital after Friday’s gunfire that the community is still scarred from the fatal shooting of Shawn McGowan, a 28-year-old man from Baltimore who died during a quadruple shooting in the neighborhood. Police announced Friday arrests of two Annapolis men on murder charges stemming from the October fatal shooting of Cornell Young, also of Baltimore.

Snowden, a longtime Annapolis resident who leads the Anne Arundel County Caucus of African American Leaders, acknowledged that it’s not unusual for Annapolis to experience stretches of violence but said that he’s concerned that guns are falling into the hands of children.

“That is different,” Snowden said.

He implored law enforcement to focus on the flow of guns into the city, a message bolstered by Annapolis Mayor Gavin Buckley.

In a statement, Buckley, a Democrat, commended police for making arrests but urged community members to respond with information about the crimes and to report people who have illegal guns.

“The safety of this community is our top priority,” Buckley said. “The chief also informed me that he has been in contact with our federal partners to step up their efforts with informants to gain intelligence and monitor social media for the drivers of this unacceptable violence.”

State Sen. Sarah Elfreth, a Democrat whose district encompasses Annapolis, described the shootings as “incredibly disconcerting” in a Facebook post. She wrote she’ll continue to advocate in the legislature for more money to support public safety in the city.

“Everyone in our community has the right to, and should, feel safe,” Elfreth said.

Jackson hopes to broach the subject of staffing shortages at the department soon. He said his agency is authorized for 124 officers but has 90. While eight recruits are expected to join soon, it’s been difficult to fill the vacancies.

In the meantime, they’re looking into the shootings.

Exactly what prompted the latest outburst is unclear. Investigators have not yet identified suspects, though Jackson said his detectives were in the process of reviewing camera footage.

But the story of neighborhood disputes in Annapolis is not novel. One such dispute in 2016, which police have said began when a fight broke out at a baby shower, set off a surge in violence that resulted in the most homicides ever recorded in a year. A handful remain unsolved.

“It’s some kind of feud that has triggers,” Jackson said. “It calms down and something refuels it.”

Capital Gazette reporter Lilly Price contributed to this article.

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