A confrontation between a driver and a group of squeegee workers ended with deadly gunfire in downtown Baltimore late Thursday afternoon after the motorist wielded a baseball bat — and one of the youths pulled a gun in response.
The shooting was reported around 4:30 p.m. at the corner of East Conway and Light streets, and officials said the man shot, age 48, later died at the hospital. Police on Friday identified the man shot as Timothy Reynolds.
Baltimore Police Commissioner Michael Harrison said the motorist drove through the intersection, parked on the other side of Light Street and exited his car wielding a baseball bat. He then walked back toward the group of kids and “swung the bat at one or more of the squeegee workers.”
“In return, one of the squeegee workers pulled out a gun,” Harrison said. He said it was unclear how many shots were fired.
At the crime scene later Thursday evening, the metal bat laid on the pavement next to a pool of blood.
Witnesses at the scene heard three shots fired followed by a rapid police response. The deadly altercation snarled traffic downtown for hours during rush hour and before a matchup of the Baltimore Orioles and the Los Angeles Angels slated for 7:05 p.m. at nearby Oriole Park at Camden Yards.
Harrison said the shooting was the second incident involving a squeegee worker Thursday at that same busy downtown intersection.
Several hours earlier, police confiscated a gun from a squeegee worker, and employees of the Mayor’s Office of African American Male Engagement were on the scene doing outreach, Harrison said.
In a statement, city councilman Eric Costello said that officers arrested a squeegee worker at the intersection shortly before 2 p.m. Thursday and seized a pellet gun.
“This is a very complex situation where someone took matters into his own hands, whatever you believe about that,” Harrison said, noting he had fully briefed Mayor Brandon Scott.
In a statement, Scott said his administration will strive to hold accountable anyone who resorts to violence on city streets.
“Regardless of what caused this incident, it is a sad reminder that far too often easily avoidable confrontations escalate into acts of violence,” he said.
In a statement Thursday evening, Baltimore State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby called the violent episode “completely unacceptable,” saying it “should serve as a flashpoint for our entire city.”
“There are too many guns on our streets and those who willingly turn to violence as a means of resolving conflicts will be held accountable to the fullest extent of the law,” she said.
The presence of squeegee kids on Baltimore streets has been a flashpoint for years. Drivers unfamiliar or uncomfortable with the practice often complain about the youths, prompting outcry from city businesses who rely on visitors. At times, physical confrontations have erupted. But city officials argue their presence is symptomatic of poverty in Baltimore and needs to be addressed with better social supports.
Baltimore launched an employment program in December pairing former squeegee workers with jobs in the hospitality industry, part of a larger push to find alternative employment for them.
“This is about figuring out how we can support what they need, so they’re not driven to panhandling, which is essentially what squeegeeing is,” Faith Leach, Baltimore’s deputy mayor for equity, health and human services, said at the time.
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During his remarks on the scene Thursday evening, Harrison avoided commenting on the larger picture or addressing ongoing tensions that exist between motorists and squeegee workers in Baltimore.
He said it was unclear whether the man actually struck any of the squeegee workers with the bat — including the shooter — before gunfire rang out. The group of kids fled the scene immediately after the shooting and “made good of their escape,” Harrison said.
Detectives are combing through video evidence from various sources in the area and looking for more footage, he said. What police know now is mostly based on witness accounts from people who happened to be in the area when the shooting unfolded around rush hour Thursday.
Cody Bro, 30, was visiting Baltimore from Phoenix for a convention when he heard three gunshots and watched police quickly swarm the area. He said others who witnessed the confrontation more closely told him what they saw in the immediate aftermath of the shooting.
”There was a driver who was arguing with one of the squeegee people — the people who squeegee your windows,” he said.
Bro said the man fell to the ground after being shot. He wondered aloud why the man had a baseball bat in the car.
Baltimore Police asked that anyone who captured cellphone video of the incident or has relevant information contact detectives at 410-396-2100.