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Mayoral candidates react after Baltimore reaches 300 homicides for fifth consecutive year

Posted at 3:09 PM, Nov 14, 2019
and last updated 2019-11-17 10:50:40-05

BALTIMORE — For the fifth consecutive year, Baltimore City has reached 300 homicides.

The 300th murder was recorded just before 3 a.m. Thursday, following a double homicide in the 1900 block of McHenry Street.

Officers responded to the area for a shot spotter alert and found a man and woman suffering from gunshot wounds.

The female was pronounced dead on scene, while the man died a short time later at an area hospital.

Hours earlier, 21-year-old Donnell Brockington of Aberdeen was shot to death in the 2600 block of McElderry Street.

SWAT officers patrolling the area heard gunfire nearby, and noticed a gold Infinity with six people inside, speed away.

All six later ran from the vehicle after it crashed at the intersection of Ashland Avenue and Caroline Street. Police caught four, and are considering them persons of interest.

Following a Thursday appearance on WYPR's Midday with Tom Hall, WMAR 2-News Investigative Reporter Brian Kuebler, spoke with Baltimore Police Commissioner Michael Harrison on the staggering homicide rate.

"We're all disgusted by it, it's horrible it should not be that way, because our goal is zero. We don't want any murders, and any ones we have we want to clear, and have people held accountable for the harm they've caused to families and to our city and to society. We want people held accountable so we don't want any. I understand the sense of urgency, I wake up with it and go to sleep with it every night," said Harrison.

This latest string of violence comes on the heels of a deadly home invasion last week, that claimed the life of Y Coach Jordan Taylor.

His death prompted Y CEO, John Hoey to write a scathing Op-Ed, criticizing City leaders and their response to the spike in crime.

On Wednesday, Mayor Jack Young responded to the Op-Ed saying the homicide rate wasn't his fault.

"There's not any lack of leadership on my part, I've been moving the City forward, and I don't know, he never called me, because you know I'm not committing the murders. That's what people need to understand, I'm not committing the murders, the police commissioner is not committing it, the council isn't committing it. So how can you fault leadership? This has been five years of 300 plus murders, and I don't see it as a lack of leadership, so I beg to differ with him," said Young.

READ MORE: Mayor Young on crime concerns: "I'm not committing the murders"

The response didn't seem to bother Harrison, but drew quick backlash from one of Young's opponents running for Mayor.

"There's no light between the Mayor and police chief, we want the city to be a safe city," Harrison said.

“From relying on boxing rings and cold weather, the mayor has said some ridiculous things about crime. But this may be the most insulting and tone-deaf thing he has said. Is he really confused why people look to the mayor for leadership on crime? If he thinks it's not just his job to end the bloodshed, he should hand over the reins to someone who realizes it is,” said Thiru Vignarajah.

Vignarajah was referencing other past controversial comments Young has made regarding crime, including at last weeks Board of Estimates, where he expressed hope that cold weather would keep those responsible for the violence inside their home watching television.

In June, Young suggested boxing as a way to reduce crime and for people to settle their disputes.

"If they want to really settle them, we can have them down at the civic center and put center and put a boxing ring up and let them go and box it out, those kinds of things, and the best man wins, and the beef should be over," Young said at the time.

Meanwhile on Thursday, City Council President Brandon Scott called on Young to support his proposed bill, that would require any future Mayor to provide an updated crime plan every other year.

Scott says the bill would be coordinated by the Mayor’s Office of Criminal Justice, and allow city agencies to assist Baltimore Police in their crime fighting strategy.

On July 18, Baltimore Police Commissioner Michael Harrison released his crime plan. At the time, Scott claims Young was going to reveal his own plan a few weeks later that would coincide with Harrison's.

Since then, Scott alleges Young changed his mind and decided to not create his own plan, and just follow Harrison's, which the Fraternal Order of Police has heavily criticized.

The reversal is consistent with Young's remarks last week, where he vowed to not micromanage Harrison and the police department.

"One thing I'm not gonna do, I'm not gonna micromanage the Police Commissioner, because that's his job to reduce crime. I think his plan is working, it's gonna take some time for it to reduce all the crime that we want to see reduced, and I have every bit of confidence that this plan will work," said Young.

Former Baltimore Police chief spokesman and Mayoral candidate T.J. Smith also weighed in saying the focus should be on gun legislation.

"We must finally put forth meaningful, impactful legislation to hold violent offenders accountable and focus on getting the guns out of hands of people who possess them illegally. The consequences and certainty of prosecution must be swift. In parts of Baltimore, it’s easier to access handguns than an apple or salad," said Smith.

Smith himself is a surviving family member of a victim to Baltimore's gun violence. In July 2017, his brother Dion was shot and killed in the 1400 block of Argyle Avenue.

Just over two weeks ago at that same location, Smith announced his candidacy for Mayor.

On Thursday, Smith named several victim's whose lives were claimed this year by City violence.

"Among this year’s 300 victims are Kaylyn High, Taylor Davis, Kyeon Gaither, Kevon Dix, Milton Carrington, Bailey Reeves, Jordan Taylor, and many, many more. Having spoken with surviving family members, and being one myself, it’s become clear that we can no longer ignore the trauma unleashed on those who are left to grieve, or the lasting trauma in communities that have become used to seeing this level of violence," Smith said.

Baltimore Police officers have also been the victims of gun violence in 2019.

In August, Baltimore Police Sergeant Isaac Carrington was shot off-duty while talking to a neighbor on his front lawn. Luckily Carrington survived, but he remains unable to work and in a wheelchair.

A little more than two weeks earlier, Sergeant Bill Shiflett was shot in the line of duty, during an exchange of gunfire with Ashanti Pinkney, who had just killed methadone clinic phlebotomist David Caldwell.

For his part, Scott says he has proposed gun legislation that he plans to discuss November 19, following a hearing on his crime plan bill.

"At this hearing, we’ll also discuss another bill I introduced to hold gun traffickers accountable who bring weapons into Baltimore City and sell them illegally to minors."