New Police Commissioner Darryl De Sousa was just hours on the job when gunfire rang out in East Baltimore — his administration had its first shooting.
Earlier, De Sousa had announced plans to flood the most violent city blocks with extra officers. He said the additional patrols would deploy in waves every hour.
“I’m a chess player, and I don’t like to be outwitted,” he said at a morning news conference. “This initiative during this next 13-day period is going to be very effective.”
Around 11:30 a.m., a gunman rushed in G Styles Barber Shop & Hair Salon in East Baltimore and shot up a man in the barber’s chair, said one customer waiting for a haircut.
Security guards locked down the Northeast Market across North Duncan Street. The shooter fled. It was nearly lunchtime, and a crowd gathered at the police tape.
The customer stepped out of the barbershop, ducked under the yellow tape, and walked down East Monument Street. He gave his name only as Duwayne.
Police commissioners come and go, the 34-year-old said. “For us down here on the ground level, it doesn’t change.”
The victim was shot multiple times, police said, and hospitalized in critical condition.
“You know George Orwell? This is the ‘Animal Farm,’” the customer said.
Poverty, hopelessness and unemployment affect crime, he said, more so than any police commissioner.
“You have to put people in a position to believe again,” he said, walking away.
Elsewhere, citizens said they were skeptical one man could staunch the street violence. Some 343 people were killed last year, a staggering pace cited by Mayor Catherine Pugh as a reason for firing former commissioner Kevin Davis.
“It’s a really simple priority, and that’s violence reduction,” De Sousa said. “Second priority is violence reduction, and third priority is violence reduction — at accelerated pace.”
The first wave of officers, he said, hit the streets at 9 a.m. De Sousa didn’t say how many extra officers deployed, but he planned to decentralize units to free up the manpower.
“We took a look at the top four districts in the city that led to violence last year; they’re deployed there,” the commissioner said.
Police officials declined to reveal their exact patrol routes. Some police cars drove up and down Greenmount and North avenues; it’s unclear if they were routine patrols.
Clemon Owens, a 73-year-old minister, watched them pass his home on Bennett Place in a crime-ridden stretch of West Baltimore. Police Det. Sean Suiter was shot and killed one block away in November.
On Friday, between the patrols, burglars broke into the home of Owens’ neighbor. He watched from the corner as officers investigated.
“He [De Sousa] can send all them out,” Owens said. “These people don’t pay no attention to the police.”