Did Baltimore police fail to intervene before mass shooting?

AP Photo/Julio Cortez

Baltimore police announced the arrest of a 17-year-old on weapons charges on Friday, alleging that the teen is one of several individuals responsible for a mass shooting on Sunday night that left two people dead and 28 others injured during a block party. The Baltimore Banner reports that police have found shell casings from more than a dozen different guns that were apparently fired at the scene, which says quite a bit about the effectiveness of Maryland’s extensive gun control laws, but the 17-year-old is the first person arrested in connection with the mass shooting.

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The unnamed person was taken into custody Friday morning around 7 a.m. after police searched a home. Detectives took the teen to Central Booking, where he is being charged with possession of a firearm by a minor, assault weapon possession, reckless endangerment and handgun in vehicle.

Police have not said whether the teen fired a weapon that injured people or fatally struck 18-year-old Aaliyah Gonzalez or 20-year-old Kylis Fagbemi. Officials say 28 people, most of whom were teenagers, were also injured in the attack — one of the largest casualty counts for a single incident in Baltimore’s recent memory.

The arrest is a significant development in a complex case that traumatized South Baltimore residents and drew scrutiny toward city agencies for their response leading up to and immediately following the shooting.

Let’s talk about that “scrutiny” for the moment, even if Baltimore Mayor Brandon Scott believes we should be more focused on the actions of the “cowardly gunmen” and gun control instead of, say, the Baltimore P.D.
Acting Police Commissioner Richard Worley has claimed that the department had no idea trouble was brewing in the Brooklyn neighborhood on Sunday evening, adding that the shooting had already taken place before officers arrived. But as the website Baltimore Brew reported on Friday, police scanner traffic from Sunday night shows that not only were at least a couple of officers on scene hours before the shooting erupted, they had already received reports about fights and even shots fired but decided “not to go into the crowd.”
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A Southern District dispatcher told officers about “armed people” as early as 9:45 p.m., but no concrete steps were taken to respond or investigate.

One officer joked that the dispatcher should redirect the call “to the National Guard,” while another remarked, “They say everybody got a gun or a knife.”

At 10:24 p.m., or two hours before the mass shooting, the dispatcher passed along an address and said, “People fighting and shooting at the location.”

To which an officer replied, “We’re not going in the crowd.”

The scanner transmissions confirm accounts given by many residents, who say they were calling police frantically, but got no response until gunshots rang out in the streets about 12:30 a.m.

The Brew requested the Southern District dispatch audio earlier this week, but police said the scanner transmissions were not available.

“We are working on requests,” said spokesperson Lindsey Eldridge, without offering any date for a possible release.

Turning to Broadcastify/RadioReference.com, The Brew reviewed five hours of Southern District audio stream from the period before, during and after the shooting.

It indicates that, at most, one or two officers observed the crowd from a distance before the shootings (making no arrests), while a sergeant relied on the Foxtrot police helicopter to provide flyby intelligence.

The sergeant asked Foxtrot for a head count of the crowd sprawled among the parking lots and narrow alleys of the Brooklyn Homes public housing complex.

Saying they had gotten 911 calls about “discharging firearms” in the area, he asked if anything looked suspicious.

“Nah. Negative,” the pilot said. All he saw were “fireworks” going off, and “approximately 700 people . . . just walking around, hanging out.”

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Many eyewitnesses dispute that there were only fireworks going off, with one resident of the Brooklyn neighborhood complaining that the police helicopter briefly hovered overhead before flying off into the darkness. There’s also been a bit of a dispute between the local police union and the acting commissioner regarding the presence, or lack thereof, of uniformed officers on Sunday night.

Sgt. Mike Mancuso, president of the Baltimore City Lodge No. 3 Fraternal Order of Police, previously told The Baltimore Banner that there had been seven police officers on patrol in the Southern District and that none of them were assigned to Brooklyn Day.
But Worley said “staffing was not an issue.” Police, he said, could have moved officers that were deployed in other parts of the city
At the same time, Worley said, one police district could not handle a party of that size itself. Law enforcement could have asked for additional city resources, “but unfortunately, we didn’t get there in time to prevent what happened,” Worley said.
You’ve got an officer joking about needing to bring in the National Guard at 9:45 p.m., which was almost three hours before the shooting took place. Clearly the BPD didn’t divert enough resources to the block party in time to stop the shootings. The question is why?
Maryland has all kinds of gun control laws in place that we’re told prevent incidents like this from ever happening, from handgun licensing to a ban on so-called assault weapons. Yet according to the scanner traffic guns were being carried, displayed, and discharged throughout the night with little-to-no response from authorities until the mass shooting took place. That’s a legitimate issue, despite the mayor’s insistence that the problem is “gun violence”.
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“This is not just a Baltimore thing. We have to be honest,” Scott later said. “This is the United States of America. This is our longest-standing public health challenge.”
“We need to focus on gun violence, regardless of where it happens, right, whether it’s in inner-city Baltimore, whether it’s in suburbia, whether it’s in rural America, with the same vigor that we focused on another epidemic that we had a few years ago, a pandemic, in COVID-19,” he added.

Unfortunately Democrats would much rather focus on gun ownership than “gun violence,” as Maryland’s legislature proved this year by adopting “carry killer” legislation that makes it a crime to carry a lawfully-possessed firearm almost everywhere in the state. That crackdown on legal gun ownership came after the same lawmakers approved sweeping “reforms” in 2022 that make it more difficult to charge and prosecute juvenile offenders, even for violent offenses.

Brandon Scott, Maryland Gov. Wes Moore, and the Democratic majorities in Annapolis have made it clear that their priority is reducing legal gun ownership, not violent crime. Sunday night’s shooting could very well have been prevented, but none of the state’s restrictions on lawful gun ownership are ever going to thwart incidents like this. You need a functional criminal justice system, adequate policing, and (most importantly), the will to ensure consequences for violent crimes; none of which appear to be the case in Baltimore these days.

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