Mourners had just gathered around the casket of a teenage homicide victim at Mt. Zion Cemetery in Lansdowne on Wednesday afternoon, waiting for the ceremony to begin when, instead of consoling words, the sharp pop-pop-pop of gunfire pierced the humid air.
Everyone — including, police said, possibly more than one shooter — ran in different directions seeking cover. Nearby Lansdowne High School was put on lockdown.
When the chaotic scene was cleared, there was one more homicide victim, with another man fighting for his life.
“This is the last place, resting place, for someone and then they gonna do that?” said David Rogers, superintendent of the cemetery. “That’s no respect for life whatsoever. This is sad. This is double sadness.”
Police, who responded to the cemetery at 3900 Hollins Ferry Road shortly before 12:45 p.m., said both men were shot in the chest and taken to the University of Maryland Shock Trauma Center. There, one man was pronounced dead and the other man remained in grave condition, police said. A third person who had chest pains after the incident was also taken to a hospital for treatment.
Police spent the afternoon interviewing mourners and others and reviewing video footage to sort out what happened, including how many weapons and suspects were involved, and why.
“It’s unclear just yet who at the funeral was targeted or if the funeral itself was the target,” said Officer Jennifer Peach, a Baltimore County police spokeswoman.
The man who was killed was identified Thursday as 32-year-old Maurice Brown Jr. The funeral was for Marcus Brown, 18, his brother, who was fatally shot on the 1400 block of N. Mount St. near Gilmor Homes in West Baltimore just before 8 p.m. on Aug. 25.
In Baltimore, where one shooting can trigger a chain of retaliatory ones, memorials to victims of crime have occasionally spawned further violence in recent years.
Less than a week ago, mourners had just released blue balloons into the air at Eager Street and North Broadway to honor Dimetric Jones, 21, who had been killed on Sept. 3. Gunfire rang out, scattering a crowd that included children and striking a 19-year-old man.
On April 16, relatives of Carlos Chase had just come from his viewing at a funeral home when a SWAT team descended on their house in Greenmount West. Police said two suspects in a nearby shootout had fled into the home and perhaps run out the back door; they recovered four handguns, one in a trash can in front of the home and three in the backyard. Police said they were trying to find connections between the shootout and other recent violence, including the April 7 killing of Chase.
On March 10, Dannta Holmes, 39, was driving in a funeral procession making its way through the Penrose neighborhood of West Baltimore when he was shot and killed in his car.
In June 2016, during a repast at the New Song Worship & Arts Center in Sandtown-Winchester for homicide victim Antonio Addison, 22, an argument over an obituary broke out. Police said Addison’s brother shot their father in the stomach. The brother’s name, his grandfather said, had been left out.
The following month, four women and a man were shot five minutes into a vigil for Jermaine Scofield, 24, who had been killed the day before on West North Avenue.
On Wednesday, the funeral procession for Brown had just arrived at Mt. Zion for Brown’s funeral and the service was about to begin when the shooting erupted, Peach said.
“Everyone had gotten out of their vehicles and they were surrounding the casket,” Peach said. “They were just about to begin the funeral when shots rang out among the people who were at the funeral.”
Police said they believe the gunfire began in a small group standing adjacent to the main crowd gathered around the grave site.
The afternoon shooting was the latest in a violent day for Baltimore County. The Police Department is investigating overnight shootings in Parkville, Woodlawn and Towson that left three people injured, including one person who was shot during a home invasion robbery, police said.
The mayhem in the cemetery left Rogers, who has worked there for 25 years, shaken.
Now he’s considering whether future funeral processions should be escorted to and from the cemetery by police.
“We have never had this,” Rogers said. “We have had some fights out here, but never nobody playing with a gun.”
Baltimore Sun reporter Christina Tkacik contributed to this article.