Student, 16, identified as homicide victim in burning Baltimore house

Body of female in a burning house on Sunday was a 16-year-old Baltimore high school student.

A 16-year-old girl was killed before her Northeast Baltimore home was set on fire, police said Monday, the latest child caught up in the surge of violence afflicting the city.

In Curtis Bay, officials canceled classes Monday at an elementary school after police found the body of a man outside. Four children were wounded during the weekend; three by gunfire.

"As a mother, to know that this violence has impacted our young people is stressing," Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake said Monday night at an anti-crime walk in South Clifton Park.

"We have to be present in every neighborhood around the city. We have to be present as one unified. The police and the community together, and that's what this is about."

The City Council held a moment of silence Monday for Arnesha Bowers, a 16-year-old City College high school student whose body firefighters found in a burning house. She was one of six people killed in Baltimore between Saturday and early Monday, bringing the total for June to 13.

Martha Armenti, a former teacher of Bowers', described her as "effervescent," "wise" and "enterprising."

Armenti spoke of her student's careful preparations for her retirement party last week. The 11th-grader collected money and measured class time meticulously to make sure there was enough time for small talk and a parade of hugs. She made sure to order a pizza with black olives and peppers, because she knew Armenti was a vegetarian.

"It was just so beautiful," Armenti said. "I was just going to try to slip out of there without a big to-do, and Arnesha wasn't going to let that happen. I said to her, 'Just enjoy your last week of your junior year.'"

Armenti received a note Sunday informing her that Bowers had been found dead. The teacher's thoughts turned to the girl's smile, infectious personality — and the leftover pizza in the school fridge that Armenti had forgotten to bring home.

"I saw that message and said, 'I still have to go in and get it,'" she said.

Police say they have no suspects in Bowers' death. An autopsy is planned.

Three other children were victims of violence over the weekend.

An 8-year-old boy and a 10-year-old boy were in the the Darley Park neighborhood on Saturday night when they were hit in the back with bullets from at least one unknown shooter.

A 13-year-old boy walked into a Baltimore hospital on Sunday afternoon with a gunshot wound to his side. Police believe he was shot in the 200 block of Cherry Hill Road in southern Baltimore.

A young child was hospitalized Saturday after he was struck by a dirt bike in the 3400 block of Round Road in Cherry Hill. It's illegal to ride dirt bikes in the city.

As counselors attended to students and staff at City College grieving over Bowers' death, police detectives surrounded Curtis Bay Elementary/Middle School on Monday.

The body of an adult male was found outside just before 5 a.m., prompting school officials to close the school.

Police said the man was killed. The cause of death remains under investigation.

Jermaine Johnson's10-year-old son is a student at Curtis Bay.

"Time's getting hard," he said. "I lived here 19 years. I want to get out of here."

On Monday evening, Rawlings-Blake attended the Citizens to Patrol Good Neighbor walk in South Clifton Park, aimed at improving police and community relations. She called on witnesses to help detectives.

Rawlings-Blake stood at the corner of Old York Road and McKewin Avenue in Waverly last week as officials renamed the intersection "McKenzie Elliott Way."

McKenzie, 3, was standing on her porch last year when she was struck by a bullet. Officials and activists have returned to her unsolved killing when talking about violence against the city's youth.

Rawlings-Blake led the effort last year to change the city's curfew law, making it one of the nation's most restrictive. The goal was to keep children out of trouble and safe. The 8-year-old and 10-year-old boys shot Saturday were outside in the 1600 block of Cliftview Ave. at 10:41 p.m. — nearly two hours after the city's curfew.

There's no one solution," Rawlings-Blake said. "It takes a full-court press. All of the resources. Continuing to look to use them in different ways."

The mayor announced $4.2 million in new funding for afterschool and summer school programs.

Twenty-two children have been shot and wounded this year, according to City Councilman Brandon M. Scott, the vice chair of the public safety committee, up from three during the same period last year.

Nine juveniles have been killed in 2015, up from seven at the same time last year.

Scott spoke at the funeral Saturday of Kester "Tony" Browne III, who was found dead with his mother in their home in Southwest Baltimore. Both were shot in the head.

"Nothing angers me more than anyone harming a child," Scott said. "On top of that anger, we know there are people who are harboring these people who are harming these children. … We can't continue doing that.

"If you take the life of a child, I question whether you have a right to breathe air."

Armenti recalled a story Bowers told her recently. The girl had boarded a plane for her first flight and saw that an older woman was in her seat. She asked the woman to move. A flight attendant told Bowers she could just move to another seat.

Bowers told Armenti she wasn't going to let "an old lady" steal her seat. But upon further reflection, Armenti said, the girl acknowledged that she could have made a more compassionate decision.

"She had a good moral compass," Armenti said.

Armenti recalled with pride another example of Bower's resourcefulness.

Armenti's class had read the memoir "The Other Wes Moore," about two Baltimore men with the same name — the author, a Johns Hopkins graduate, Rhodes scholar and Army officer, and another man, a convict sent to prison for life for killing a police officer.

Bowers wrote to the author. He responded and visited the class in April.

"She took it upon herself without my knowledge to get him to come and speak to City," she said. "Because of her email, he came."

Moore recalled getting the email from Bowers. She asked him to write a note to the class. Inspired by her initiative, and learning she was being mentored by one of his friends, he decided to go say hello instead.

Moore stayed in touch with Bowers after the visit.

"You realize early and you realize quickly when you're around something that's special, and she had something that was special," Moore said.

Moore said he was saddened not only by Bowers' death but by the violence that is affecting the city's youth.

"This is not normal, and this is not fine," Moore said. "These are our children."

Research has found that exposure to violence can cause mental health and behavioral problems in children that can continue into adulthood.

In the worst cases, children can develop post-traumatic stress syndrome, said Dr. Sharon Moore, a psychiatrist with the Trauma Disorders Program at Sheppard Pratt. They can also suffer anxiety, depression, sleeping problems and sadness.

The children closest to violence suffer the most, Moore said. But even the constant chatter about crime can affect some.

"Children will have a fear they will become next or targeted," Moore said. "They become hypervigilant."

City College Principal Cindy Harcum sent a letter to parents saying that social workers, psychologist and counselors were available to counsel students.

"Your child may be affected in some way by this news," Harcum wrote. "The well-being of our students and staff is our top priority. We will continue to do all we can to help them during this difficult period."

Baltimore Sun reporters Andrea K. McDaniels, Christina Jedra, Mayah Collins and Yvonne Wenger contributed to this article.

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