After an early morning mass shooting at a far south Baltimore block party that grabbed international headlines before many in the city had woken up, Acting Police Commissioner Richard Worley ran through the grim statistics this afternoon:
• There were 30 people shot, two fatally – an 18-year-old woman police found dead at the scene and a 20-year-old man who died at an area hospital.
• Victims ranged from 13 to 32 years old, with 14 of those shot under 18.
• Of those who were taken to or showed up at area hospitals, nine remain hospitalized, three in critical condition.
As for who did the shooting, which occurred after the annual “Brooklyn Day” event held at the Brooklyn Homes public housing complex, Worley had no information other than to say it was “more than one person.”
Of those officials who offered remarks at a press conference today, it was Senate President Bill Ferguson, who represents the district in Annapolis, who seemed, to some in the crowd, to get to the heart of the tragedy.
“I want to say to the families in Brooklyn: I’m sorry. You should never, ever, ever have to face something like this,” Ferguson said, as a sob could be heard in the crowd.
“This is a societal problem that we’re dealing with, a mass shooting where a disagreement turns into 28 people shot. This is insanity. This cannot cannot be the society that we are expected to live in,” he continued.
Like others at the microphone, Ferguson pointed to the proliferation of guns as the root cause for the persistent violence in Baltimore. But it was his simple apology that seemed to move some listeners.
“For the 28 families that were directly impacted, I am so unbelievably sorry,” he said, while another person in the crowd cried out.
UPDATE: According to an 8:21 p.m. release from BPD, the deceased are “18-year-old Aaliyah Gonzales (B/F) and 20-year-old Kylis Fagbemi (B/M).”
The release also said: “The non-fatal female victims injured were one 13-year-old, one 14-year-old, two 15-year-olds, three 16-year-olds, two 17-year-olds, two 18-year-olds, three 19-year-olds, one 20-year-old, one 23-year-old and one 32-year-old. The non-fatal male victims injured were one 13-year-old, one 15-year-old, two 16-year-old, two 17-year-olds, three 18-year-olds, one 22-year-old and one 31-year-old.”
Event Wasn’t Permitted, Police Say
The late afternoon press conference provided only minimal information about a community gathering that drew hundreds of people, but reportedly was marred by rising tension throughout the day.
Lakell Nelson, an area resident, said there had been several false alarms of people mistaking the sound of firework for gunfire.
Two residents who also spoke with the Baltimore Sun, described “two earlier mentions of someone having a gun during the party, prior to the shooting. But both times, the DJ diffused it and told people to come back.”
By the time police responded to a call from the 800 block of Gretna Court about 12:35 a.m. Sunday, they found a chaotic scene of people who had been fleeing from rampant gunfire.
Worley, who became Baltimore’s acting top cop on June 8, was questioned on some aspects of the incident that have generated controversy.
Told that there was no police presence at this year’s Brooklyn Day unlike last year’s event, Worley did not deny it.
“That’s what we’re trying to investigate,” he said. “This was an un-permitted event.”
“Our job now is to, when we figured out that this was occurring, what our officers did,” Worley continued. “If we made mistakes, we’ll fix them and move forward so that this does not happen again.”
“If we made mistakes, we’ll fix them and move forward so that this does not happen again” – Acting Commissioner Richard Worley.
On Twitter, the police union blamed chronic understaffing.
“Would anyone care to guess how many officers from the patrol shift were working in the Southern District at the time of this mass shooting? SEVEN (7)!” Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 3 tweeted.
“Ten years ago there would have been 20 from the shift,” @FOP3 continued, alleging that under former Police Commissioner Michael Harrison, “400 more cops left during his tenure than were hired.”
The union called on Mayor Brandon Scott to “create a retention & recruitment plan NOW.”
Scott: “We have to do better”
Regarding a video circulating on social media apparently showing a person taking a gun out of a bag at Brooklyn Homes, Worley said he had seen the video, but was uncertain about what to make of it.
“Anyone who has a gun in that area is a potential suspect,” he said.
Mayor Scott chided whoever filmed the person with the weapon and put it up on social media rather than report it.
“Those videos we saw were posted by adults. When did it become okay for adults to film young people having weapons and no one saying anything?” Scott said.
“We have to be better,” Scott said.
“This was a multi-generational event. You had young people, you had older folks, you had folks middle age like myself. We have to have a better level of accountability.”
Also speaking at the news conference was Councilwoman Phylicia Porter, whose 10th District includes this impoverished part of Baltimore, separated from the rest of the city by water and highways.
“I’m infuriated. I’m angry,” Porter said. “Brooklyn has always and forever been a neglected community.”
Asked to further describe the area, she said, “We have some of the highest unemployment rates down there. We have some of the highest violent crimes rates in Brooklyn proper.”
“At Brooklyn Homes, particularly,” she added, “we have some of the highest [rates of] violent crime.”