BALTIMORE – Baltimore police had dealt with plenty of complaints at the spot where one or two gunmen sprayed bullets at six men sitting on a porch Thursday, killing one and critically wounding two others, the city's police commissioner said.
"Mostly complaints about drinking and drugs, drinking and drugs," Police Commissioner Frederick Bealefeld said. He added, "We're not operating in the dark here, our officers have conducted many enforcement actions there."
He said police were familiar with the victims too, some of whom had arrest records.
The men on the porch ranged in age from 28 to 72, including the unidentified victim who was pronounced dead at the scene, Bealefeld said.
Two others were in critical condition at the University of Maryland Shock Trauma Center while the others suffered non-life-threatening injuries, police spokesman Anthony Guglielmi said.
The six were on a porch when one, maybe two, gunmen, walked down an alley next to the house, opened fire and fled back down the alley, Bealefeld said.
Neighbor Charles Toy, who lives down the street, said drug dealing was common in the neighborhood, but gunfire was not.
"No, we're surprised by this," Toy said. "But this is over drugs. All of the ones that got shot, they probably know each other, even the ones that shot them."
Tony Johnson said he was walking down Edmondson Avenue when he heard gunfire. When he looked around the corner, Johnson said he saw the victims sprawled around in front of the house.
"Five or six shots, sounds like it was a big gun, whatever it was," Johnson said.
Johnson said he lives about six blocks away and drug dealing and other crimes are not uncommon in the neighborhood.
Several neighbors blamed the problems on dealers from outside the neighborhood who use the area.
Later in the day at a news conference at police headquarters, Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake echoed that theme.
"The people who live there and love their community are not the ones that are creating this havoc," Rawlings-Blake said. "People that are coming in from outside the neighborhood are causing problems."
The mayor and police commissioner asked neighbors to help them put an end to the violence, a perennial issue in the city where prosecutors struggle against witness intimidation.
"Someone knows who did this, someone knows why," Rawlings-Blake said.
Bealefeld said police "needed to know the why of it," and would put the resources necessary into the neighborhood west of downtown to find the gunmen.
"This is senseless, this is senseless, no one should be solving disputes in the city in this way. No one should be running around with guns, gunning down six people in the middle of the afternoon," the police commissioner said.