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An increasing number of Baltimore shootings are becoming fatal years later. Here's why that can happen

Devonte Rhodes, who was shot in June 2013, died in December 2017 of related injuries.
Devonte Rhodes, who was shot in June 2013, died in December 2017 of related injuries. (Family photo)

Quinton Rodgers’ March 23 death from injuries he suffered during a 2004 shooting is one of a growing number of homicide cases in Baltimore in which nonfatal shootings turn into murder investigations a year or more after the initial incident.

In 2018, 13 people died from injuries they’d suffered in shootings in the city in prior years, increasing the overall homicide rate to 309.

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So why do some who survived being shot sometimes die years later from related injuries?

Long road to recovery

Dr. Thomas Scalea, the physician-in-chief at Shock Trauma, told The Baltimore Sun last year that medicine has progressed to the point where “people survive now that didn’t survive 20 years ago, 10 years ago.”

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Still many shooting victims are left incapacitated or with long-term disabilities that can turn life-threatening. Infection, internal bleeding and other complications also increase risk of dying and can require multiple surgeries.

If someone is shot in the head or pancreas, Scalea said, they can need to spend up to nine months in the hospital and undergo multiple reconstruction surgeries.

At age 19, Devonte Rhodes, was shot multiple times and admitted to the hospital and never left. He died nearly five years after the shooting.

Devonte Rhodes died Dec. 8, 2017, of injuries he suffered from a June 2013 shooting in which he was struck several times in the torso in the 1900 block of Wilkens Avenue in Carrollton Ridge in West Baltimore, leaving him paralyzed.

Rhodes’ mother, Kim Harris-Elbourne, told The Sun last year that while Rhodes survived the shooting, he never fully recovered and remained the hospital for much of his remaining life.

Baltimore police said Rodgers, too, was paralyzed from the waist down after being shot multiple times in the torso.

Part of a growing pattern

While it’s much more common for a victim to die in the immediate aftermath of a shooting, Rodgers is part of a growing trend.

In 2015, three people in the city died from shootings that happened in previous years. That number rose to four in 2016, 10 in 2017 and 13 last year.

An increasing number of Baltimore shooting victims are dying in the years following their initial injuries.
An increasing number of Baltimore shooting victims are dying in the years following their initial injuries. (Baltimore Sun | Data: Baltimore Police Department)

Shootings that result in long hospitalizations are a drain on families.

Harris-Elbourne said her son required a feeding tube to live. Before Rhodes died, she said, his condition put such a strain on her that her doctor advised her to stop visiting him so regularly because it caused her blood pressure to rise.

Investigation into Rodgers’ death

As for Rodgers, police have not announced the arrest of any suspect after his death last week.

He was originally found suffering from gunshot wounds Oct. 6, 2004, in the 400 block of Normandy Ave. in Allendale in West Baltimore.

Police had charged a 26-year-old man with attempted murder about a week after the incident but dropped the charges.

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