James Forrester battled health issues over the past several months, but he kept playing music, most recently at a holiday party over the weekend at the Baltimore Tattoo Museum.
“He had a huge passion for what he was doing,” said Chris Keaton, Forrester’s longtime friend and owner of the Fells Point museum and shop, where Forrester worked as a body piercer.
But Monday night, Forrester’s life was cut short. He had stepped outside the shop to call his wife when he was shot in the chest, according to Baltimore police and Keaton.
Police said officers were called to the 1500 block of Eastern Ave. at about 7:36 p.m. and found Forrester, 43, who was being treated by medics. He was taken to Johns Hopkins Hospital where he died a short time later. Police have not identified a suspect or a motive in the case.
“We’re all devastated. We just celebrated with him and now he’s gone,” Keaton said Tuesday.
Though Forrester did body piercings at the shop, his true passion was his music, Keaton said. Forrester was a bassist in two bands, Foghound and Serpents of Secrecy. He also played for years in a band called Sixty Watt Shaman, according to his Facebook page.
He was an “icon” in the local heavy rock music scene, Keaton said, and also had become known outside Baltimore for his music.
Keaton said he first met Forrester while working at the now-closed Memory Lane punk rock music venue in Pigtown. Their friendship continued with Keaton later serving as the officiant at Forrester’s wedding several years ago, Keaton said.
He said Forrester previously worked in construction, and also held jobs at the Ottobar in Charles Village and as a body piercer at other shops before coming to work for him at the Baltimore Tattoo Museum.
“He just seemed to fit in perfectly here,” Keaton said. “He was awesome, just very energetic.”
Forrester continued working in Baltimore after he moved to Ranson, W.Va., Keaton said.
Forrester was working Monday night when he stepped outside the shop to call his wife. “She heard him say ‘get away from me,’” said Keaton, who spoke with Forrester’s wife at the hospital.
Forrester’s wife could not be reached for comment.
Keaton said Forrester’s wife had supported him through his recent health issues. Keaton said Forrester has two step-children.
“It’s just so devastating. He’s just been fighting to stay alive the whole time,” Keaton said.
In a recent interview on the Obelisk Radio website, which promotes metal rock bands, Forrester described his recent health issues. He said over Memorial Day weekend, he woke up with “abhorrent abdominal pain,” which was later determined to be caused by a blood clot in his liver. He suffered additional problems but continued performing in his bands, including at the Maryland Doomfest III music festival in Frederick in June.
J.J. Koczan, the creator of the Obelisk Radio website, said in a recent post he had known Forrester for years, and that Forrester was eager to move beyond his medical issues and focus on his music.
“He was someone second to nobody in passion for what he did, and his death is a significant loss,” Koczan said. “As much as I’ve enjoyed his work over the years, I will remember more the sincerity of his character and the wholesome spirit beneath his gruff exterior, and like all who were lucky enough to know him during his time, I will miss Jim.”
Forrester was the 334th person killed in Baltimore this year. The city has surpassed 300 homicides each of the past three years, after not having reached the mark since the 1990s.
About three hours after Forrester was killed, police said a 19-year-old man died in a shooting in the 3500 block of Pelham Ave. in the Belair-Edison neighborhood.
The victim was taken to an area hospital where he later died. Police have not released his name.
No arrests had been made in either homicide. Detectives are attempting to locate witnesses and view video footage to identify a possible suspect.
Anyone with information is asked to call detectives at 410-396-2100, Metro Crime Stoppers at 1-866-7LOCKUP, or text a tip to 443-902-4824.
Baltimore Sun reporter Kevin Rector contributed to this article.