Baltimore’s streak of 11 days without a homicide ended Tuesday, though some residents said the fatal shooting doesn’t quell their hope in grass-roots efforts to curb violence.
Officers on Tuesday afternoon found an unresponsive 22-year-old man with gunshot wounds to his chest, the Baltimore Police Department said in a statement. The victim was pronounced dead at a local hospital.
The killing was the city’s first since the group Baltimore Ceasefire called for a 72-hour suspension of violence starting February 2.
Activist Erricka Bridgeford was on her way to a local high school to speak about violence reduction when she learned of the homicide, she told CNN.
“I cried and screamed to get it all out before I got to the school,” she said, adding that her presentation began with a moment of silence for the slain man.
Gauging a ceasefire’s success
Organizers in August launched the ceasefire effort, aiming to reduce street violence one weekend at a time. They canvass neighborhoods with posters, hand out flyers and speak with neighbors — including those involved with rival gangs — via social media.
T.J. Smith, the police department’s chief spokesman, said the city has made great strides, even considering Tuesday’s homicide.
“We can’t call (the ceasefire) unsuccessful because someone was shot or killed — that’s not the gauge of success,” he said. “The gauge of success is that more and more people are talking about it.”
“As a result of hearing or seeing something about it, more people are mobilized to get involved,” he said.
Until Tuesday, the 11-day homicide-free streak had been Baltimore’s longest since March 2014. The city of 620,000 residents saw 343 homicides in 2017, according to Baltimore police, a record when compared with population and the highest tally since 1993.
‘That’s where hope lives’
Bridgeford and her team plan to visit the place where the 22-year-old victim was found to “reclaim” it and honor the life lost, she said.
“We’ve got to care when someone gets killed,” she said. “This movement isn’t just so people can stay numb. It’s not just preventing killing or getting killed. It’s to remember and say it matters and it matters every single time.”
After her school presentation, students sought out Bridgeford to learn how to become ambassadors for her movement, she said.
“What’s amazing to me is this city always responds to murder with hopelessness, but now you see people saying, ‘We were at 12 days, maybe we can start the streak again,'” she told CNN. “That’s where hope lives.”