A group of men were hanging out in a small concrete courtyard near the intersection of Park Heights and Shirley avenues around lunchtime Wednesday when a silver sedan drove up and multiple shooters opened fire, leaving six people injured and one dead.
The daylight mass shooting unfolded just after 12:30 p.m. along the busy Northwest Baltimore thoroughfare. Neighbors said the courtyard is a common gathering spot for older guys, who often would spend their afternoons playing cards.
“This was a mass casualty incident,” Baltimore Police Commissioner Michael Harrison said at the scene Wednesday. “When you get out of a vehicle and open fire indiscriminately on a group of individuals minding their own business … this was very brazen and very cowardly.”
Harrison called the violence unconscionable and pleaded with members of the public to call police with tips. He said multiple shooters jumped out of a silver four-door Lexus, which fled north on Park Heights Avenue immediately after the attack.
Police released photos later Wednesday afternoon of a silver 2016 Lexus CT200H hatchback.
“We need people to call us right away,” Harrison said. “We need to know who was in that vehicle. We need to hold them accountable.”
Police said two victims collapsed on the scene. The other five walked into nearby hospitals seeking treatment. All the victims were men, according to police.
Officers placed evidence markers indicating at least 25 shell casings.
A painted mural depicting a human pyramid of sorts towers over the courtyard. Several chairs were scattered around, including on the pavement and in nearby grassy areas.
Neighbors said people were always out there, sometimes sitting under nearby trees for shade on hot afternoons. They also frequent two convenience stores at the intersection, located less than a block from the Park Heights office for Safe Streets — one of 10 sites across Baltimore where the longtime anti-violence initiative focuses its efforts. The program aims to reduce violence by hiring community members — people with knowledge of the streets and often criminal histories — to mediate disputes before they become deadly.
The shooting unfolded as state and local officials held a press conference on the other side of the city pledging more resources to fight violent crime. Gov. Larry Hogan, Baltimore Mayor Brandon Scott, U.S. Attorney of Maryland Erek L. Barron, Maryland Attorney General Brian Frosh and other leaders gathered in East Baltimore to discuss a new state-funded violent and organized crime unit.
One young man, who lives near the scene and asked to remain anonymous due to safety concerns, said he heard the gunshots loud and clear from inside his home. He quickly put on shoes and went outside to survey the damage. He said two victims had collapsed on the ground; only one was able to speak.
The man said the victim who died was his good friend, a well-known fixture in the neighborhood.
“He was loved,” the man said.
In the hours after the shooting, he and other neighbors gathered outside the crime tape, exchanging sympathies in hushed tones.
Pam Curtis, president of the Park Circle Community Association, said the group that hangs out on that corner is like a family.
“I’m just like, what happened?” she said. “It really makes you pause. … But you don’t have time to get numb because once you get numb, you stop looking for solutions.”
Curtis, who said she has two sons herself, said she wants to see more outrage about the rampant gun violence claiming too many young lives in Baltimore. She wants more people to channel their anger into action and advocate for their communities, presenting a united front instead of allowing division to weaken their efforts.
“Where is the uproar, where is the uprise for us?” she said. “Enough is enough. People need to start forgiving. Don’t we all want to go home to someone?”
So far this year, Baltimore has experienced 233 homicides, an increase from 2021 that puts the city well on track to surpass 300 homicides annually for the eighth year running. Officials also have decried a trend they’ve noticed in recent months: more daytime gunfire and more multi-victim shootings.
Marvin Knight, 54, who has lived in the neighborhood most of his life, said he was visiting his sister Wednesday afternoon when the gunshots rang out.
“We froze silent. I felt ice cold,” he said.
Knight said he’s tired of city officials making empty promises about reducing gun violence.
“It’s all political,” he said. “The elected officials have failed the citizens of Baltimore City. We didn’t fail the city. The city failed us.”
Closing recreation centers and defunding city schools helped put neighborhoods like Park Heights on a downhill trajectory, he said, allowing the violence to infiltrate as more and more people got ahold of guns: “Now it’s like the Wild Wild West.”
Edwin Richardson, 64, of Pikesville, grew up around Park Heights and was trying to visit family when the expansive crime scene blocked his route Wednesday afternoon. He pointed out several boarded up houses and said he’s saddened by the deterioration of a neighborhood where he said they “very seldom had a murder” when he was growing up.
“It brings down the morale of the people,” Richardson said. “They think their self worth is nothing. They don’t push to do anything better, especially young people.”
As Richardson scanned the crime scene, a woman walked by and chatted with him. She declined to be identified for safety reasons. She said she was home during the shooting but went to check on friends of hers who live in the block police cordoned off with crime tape. The woman said she and her friends only go out to the store at certain times of day out of concern for their safety.
“It’s like limiting your own life,” Richardson said. “It’s sad.”
Anyone with information about the shooting is asked to call Baltimore Police homicide detectives at 410-396-2100.