A 34-year-old man wanted in the fatal shooting of his pregnant wife and her unborn child on Easter Sunday in Baltimore admitted the crime before being found fatally shot in a parking lot in Baltimore County, city and county police said Monday.
Deron Deandre Barnes was "potentially suicidal" when he told family members over the phone about shooting his wife, Shahidah Barnes, 28, following a disagreement at a family gathering, city police said.
The exact cause of his death, and whether his injuries were self-inflicted, had yet to be determined by the state medical examiner Monday, city and county police said.
Investigators from both agencies were piecing together the facts of the case, which took them from Northeast Baltimore, where shell casings were found outside the family's home; to Southwest Baltimore, where Shahidah Barnes' body was discovered in a vehicle at St. Agnes Hospital; to just beyond the city's western border, where Deron Barnes' body was found.
T.J. Smith, a city police spokesman, called it a "ridiculously tragic" case, part of a particularly violent holiday weekend in a city facing historic levels of violence.
"It was certainly a tough weekend," Smith said. "It's not acceptable. We're not taking it as acceptable."
City officers were first called about 3:30 p.m. Sunday to the 4800 block of Claybury Ave., where the couple lived, for reported gunfire. They found shell casings and blood in the backyard of the Barneses' home but no victim, police said.
Neighbors told investigators they had seen Deron Barnes forcing a woman into the back of a car before driving away, said Capt. Chris Jones, assistant commander of the city police homicide division.
Police began searching for the couple's vehicle with the help of a police helicopter unit, eventually locating it — with Shahidah Barnes dead inside — about 5:40 p.m. at St. Agnes Hospital.
Smith would not say how many times she was shot, or where she was shot. Efforts to save her unborn child failed.
According to Jones, members of the couple's family told investigators that Deron Barnes had called them and admitted shooting his wife at some point that evening.
Smith said police were not certain that Deron Barnes was the unborn child's father but had no reason to believe he was not. They believe he fled on foot from the hospital after driving his wife's body there and do not believe that anyone else was involved.
About 7:45 p.m., Deron Barnes was found with "traumatic injuries" in a parking lot behind a building in the 5200 block of Baltimore National Pike, west of the city, according to county police. He was pronounced dead at the scene shortly after.
The parking lot where he was found is about four miles from the hospital.
The death of Shahidah Barnes, who was between 20 to 21 weeks pregnant, is being counted as a homicide, Smith said — one of 94 in the city so far in 2017.
Smith said the medical examiner's office will determine whether the death of the unborn child also will be considered a homicide, based on whether the child could have survived outside the womb were it not for the shooting.
The families of the couple could not be reached for comment.
Smith asked the public to provide any information they may have about that incident or any other recent violence in the city, which included a number of shootings.
He noted in particular a "silly and stupid" incident this past weekend in which a 90-year-old woman was wounded in a double shooting that occurred after an argument erupted over two people throwing chicken bones into a yard.
In that incident, on Saturday in the 1800 block of Harlem Ave., the elderly woman had yelled at the two younger people walking down the street to stop throwing bones. Others on the block then got involved in an argument. A man, among those throwing the bones, left the scene and then returned, opening fire, Smith said.
Smith said the 90-year-old woman and a 55-year-old man who also was shot were not the intended targets, but the fact they were caught up in the gunfire — and that the man who fired felt inclined to fire a gun over an argument about chicken — is "sad."
Anyone with information about homicides in the city is asked to call 410-396-2100 or text a tip to 443-902-4824. Anyone with information about shootings is asked to call detectives at 410-396-2221. People can also call Metro Crime Stoppers at 1-866-7-LOCK-UP.