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A year later, what we know — and don't know — about the Mondawmin bus shutdown

What we know — and still don't know — about the Mondawmin bus shutdown

It's a lingering question that has yet to be fully answered a year later: Who shut down bus service at Mondawmin Mall, a transit hub students use to get home after school, on April 27?

With the city on edge after a week of largely peaceful protests following Freddie Gray's death from injuries suffered in police custody, police gathered at the Northwest Baltimore mall, based on reports of a possible disturbance as students poured out of school on the day of his funeral.

The situation spiraled out of control as rocks and bricks were thrown, leading to a night of rioting, looting and arson.

In the aftermath, many in the city asked about the bus shutdown, wondering whether the ordeal could have been avoided if students had been allowed to disperse on buses. Many wanted to know who made the decision and when.

"There's still some confusion about where the order came from," Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake said in July. "It definitely came in real time from the ground at Mondawmin."

In November, the Police Executive Research Forum, a Washington-based law enforcement think tank, said in a report that it was "unable to determine who issued the order to cancel bus service."

The following is a timeline for that day, compiled by The Baltimore Sun through interviews and reviews of the various reports, city emails and other documents received through Public Information Act requests.

At 12:01 p.m. the day of the clash, police received a tip from a Lake Clifton High School teacher that students indicated they would be going to Mondawmin after school "to cause a disturbance."

At 2:30 p.m., MTA police first reported an "unexpectedly high volume of students" on buses bound for Mondawmin.

At 2:33 p.m., students "begin to self-dismiss from Frederick Douglass High School."

At 2:45 p.m., a schools police officer "notifies his communications center that 'they're throwing rocks and bricks' at Mondawmin by the Dunkin Donuts."

At 2:53 p.m., a schools police officer "reports the crowd has been pushed away from the 7-11, asks the Schools Police representative in the Watch Center if buses in the area have been shut down or rerouted yet."

At 2:54 p.m., city, schools and MTA police officials in the central command center "jointly decided to divert bus service around Mondawmin and secure the entrance to the Metro station."

At 2:55 p.m., "The Schools Police representative in the Watch Center reports that MTA is closing the bus loop at Mondawmin; will keep the subway open."

At 3 p.m., the same representative "reports that MTA is now also closing the subway."

At 3:08 p.m., it is reported that officers are "being assaulted outside the MTA loop at Mondawmin."

Safety and service continuity factored into the decision to stop service at the mall, according to a report from the Johns Hopkins University Office of Critical Event Preparedness and Response released in December. It also didn't pin the decision on anyone.

"BPD and MTA Police were also attempting to minimize the risk of event escalation and risk to passengers," it said.

The report recommended improvements in communications and public information management in future incidents. Rawlings-Blake has said those changes have been implemented.

krector@baltsun.com

twitter.com/rectorsun

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