Baltimore sees 15 shot, 5 fatally, in warm winter weekend

BALTIMORE (AP) — A warm winter weekend in Baltimore was marred by violence, as more than a dozen people were shot and the city's leadership continued to struggle against deadly gun crime.

The shootings of 12 people, five of them fatally, Saturday marked the third time within the past month that at least eight individuals have been shot in a single day.

Maryland's largest city reached its most violent year ever on a per-capita basis in 2019.

"It goes without saying that the level of violence in the city yesterday was deeply disturbing and deeply troubling,” Baltimore Police Commissioner Michael Harrison told reporters Sunday. He said detectives have been working to identify suspects and the department has redeployed officers and SWAT and K-9 units to the affected areas.

But even for a city accustomed to hearing about shootings, Saturday came as a shock and drew some to protest.

“We want a life plan,” a group of residents shouted Sunday as they held signs showing the city's homicide counts for previous years. The phrase was a play on the much-touted crime plan that Harrison unveiled last year as blueprint to fight crime and reform the dispirited police department.

“We have lost too many, and if City Hall doesn't come to get us, and if the police commissioners don't have a plan, what are we going to do? We are going to make a plan," Tori Rose, rally organizer and city council candidate, said. "If not us, then who?”

Saturday's shootings took place across the city. The first one, reported round 2:30 a.m., involved three women who were found with apparent gunshot wounds in a vehicle. One of them died shortly after arriving at a hospital. The day's violence ended shortly before 11 p.m., when officers found a man fatally wounded in the northwest part of the city.

Three other people were wounded Sunday.

Saturday's total number of victims surpassed that of Dec. 17, when eight people were shot, at least three of them fatally, and Dec. 22, which ended with nine people shot, at least one fatally.

The city closed 2019 with 348 homicides, its fifth year in a row with more than 300 slayings. As of Monday morning, the numbers of fatal and non-fatal shootings in 2020 are lower compared with the previous year. The city has recorded 11 homicides and 21 non-fatal shootings so far.

City spokesman James Bentley said Mayor Bernard “Jack” Young has been briefed about the weekend's violence. He added that Young remains fully supportive of Harrison's five-year crime-fighting plan, which includes the goals of responding to police calls within 10 minutes and increasing the number of police officers.

Baltimore activist Kwame Rose said community-based violence has become the norm in Baltimore and urged officials to look at it as a public health crisis resulting from a lack of access to medical treatment, healthy food and other resources.

“In certain communities where the residents look like Freddie Gray, it's hard to say that they are not affected by violence,” Kwame Rose said. He was referencing a young black man who died in police custody in 2015, whose death sparked civil unrest in Baltimore. “You know, I've been to more funerals than graduations.”

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