Triple shooting pushes Baltimore closer to 300 homicides for second straight year
3 shot, 1 fatally, in West Baltimore
As killings mount in Baltimore, residents feel violent pace intimately
The older woman rushed out of her home, pushing a small boy in a stroller as she ticked off items not to forget in her haste: Diaper. Bottle.
The boy, all cheeks under a winter hat pulled tight, held a small Hershey's chocolate bar in his hand. The woman was frantic.
"I gotta get out. I gotta get out. I'm shaking like a leaf. I gotta get out," she said.
Three men had just been shot in the 800 block of W. Lexington St. in Poppleton, just beyond her small courtyard. She'd heard the gunfire inside. "Dead?" she asked.
One of them was, she was told.
"Oh my God. Oh my God," she said, as she sped off down the street. "I gotta get out."
The triple shooting about 11:30 a.m. Friday was the latest burst of gunfire in a city where shootings have become so common that, for the second year in a row and only the second time since the 1990s, Baltimore is poised to pass 300 homicides.
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As of Friday, there had been 270 killings in 2016.
Residents say the grisly pace of violence is something they feel intimately — and are unable to escape.
"I just wish that it would all stop, and everybody would just come together in unity," said Kenith Dingle, 33, who lives near the crime scene. "In the world we're living in today, it's chaotic. Everyone needs to come together. Stuff like this just makes it worse."
Police did not identify the man who was killed. They said the two who were wounded were expected to survive. Police do not name the survivors of shootings, who number nearly 600 this year.
In a recent interview, Police Commissioner Kevin Davis acknowledged that things are bad. "Every murder is important and every murder that happens, we wish it didn't happen," he said.
But he also said that the homicide rate is driven by many factors, including many outside of the Police Department's control — poverty and the drug trade, for starters, and light sentences for those arrested with illegal guns.
Davis said he's pursuing many different strategies to reduce crime, from improving community relations to get more tips, to looking for new technologies that could aid in capturing those responsible for violence.
"We're not taking our eye off that homicide rate or that nonfatal shooting rate. We're just trying to find creative, innovative ways to address that violence in different ways," he said.
"We have some really violent people that we've taken off the streets this year. I'm confident our strategy is the right strategy, though the pace of the violence hasn't slowed the way we would like it to slow."
Residents say whatever is being done, it's not working.
On a cool evening late last month, 65-year-old retiree Michael Bessick sorted cans on the small concrete pad behind his home, ignoring the homicide detective casually chatting with a crime scene technician who was placing a black jacket into an evidence bag.
A 43-year-old man named Corey Shell had just been gunned down in the parking lot next to Bessick's home. At the edge of the lot, crime scene tape wrapped around a sign promoting a neighborhood walking tour "in storied Old West Baltimore."
As dusk fell, four boys tossed a football in a nearby patch of grass as red and blue police lights flashed.
"It is sad, all these senseless killings," Bessick said. "It's insane."
This wasn't the first time the neighborhood had been disrupted by gunfire, he said. He takes odd jobs to keep himself busy, keep his head down. Almost every day he works.
"I come home, take a shower, eat, and I'm in bed," said Bessick. "Find some way to stop it. That's the best thing I can say."
Over 180 months, from 2000 to 2014, Baltimore saw 30 or more homicides in a single month only six times. In the past 18 months, there have been 30 or more homicides in a month eight times.
There was a notable spike in homicides after the unrest following the death of Freddie Gray in April 2015 from injuries suffered in police custody. Last year ended with 344 homicides, a per-capita record for Baltimore.
As of the start of this month, homicides were down 9 percent year over year. But nonfatal shootings were up about 5 percent, and there have been more than 800 shootings so far in 2016.
With more than a month and a half left in the year, the city is knocking on the door of 300 homicides once again.
neighborhood residents stood around watching as homicide detectives and young officers milled about, looking for something to help them solve the case. Police said they had no leads and knew of no motive. At one point, a mother rushed past the yellow police tape screaming.
"That's my son!" she screamed.
"Stop," a young officer said calmly, stepping forward. "He's not here. Everyone's at the hospital."
The woman jumped in her car and sped off, and the officer turned his attention back to the scene.
Not long after, a group of neighborhood men stood on the street discussing the violence. A block away, tourists wandered past, on their way to the Edgar Allan Poe House and Museum, the small home where the famous poet — who had a penchant for the macabre — once lived.
"While they're visiting the house of horror, we're living in a world of horror," said one of the men, 63, who has lived in the neighborhood 35 years.
The man didn't want to give his name. That's how you end up shot yourself, he said.
But he had thoughts on a range of issues — from what Donald Trump's presidency will mean for Baltimore to why he thinks politicians and institutions in the city have allowed violence to run rampant in his neighborhood for decades.
"Help," he said. "We don't like this. We don't like standing around having to worry about getting shot every five minutes."
Bmore : triple shooting pushes homicides closer to 300 for 2nd straight year (2015 set homicide records since 70s)
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