BALTIMORE – A feud between rival drug gangs led to a shooting at a backyard cookout that left 12 people wounded, including a pregnant woman and a 2-year-old girl, Baltimore's police commissioner said Monday.
In all, 16 people were shot, two of them fatally, in four incidents in poverty-stricken east Baltimore over a period of about three hours Sunday night and early Monday morning, police said. At least one of the subsequent shootings was related to the attack at the cookout, Commissioner Frederick H. Bealefeld III said.
The number of people shot in such a short period was unprecedented in the city's history, the commissioner said.
"It stacks up pretty high," Bealefeld said. "To have 12 people shot in one incident and [others] scattered around east Baltimore, it's just absolutely ridiculous."
The cookout shooting happened around 9 p.m. A gunman walked into the backyard of a rowhouse on Ashland Avenue and opened fire with a semiautomatic weapon before fleeing on foot, police said.
None of the dozen victims suffered life-threatening injuries. They were hit in the legs, arms, shoulders and backs, and the wounded included a 2-year-old girl, who was shot in the arm, and a pregnant 23-year-old, who took a bullet in the thigh, police said.
Investigators are "confident" they know who was being targeted in that shooting, Bealefeld said. Police did not identify any of the victims Monday morning.
"These are two organizations that tried to eliminate each other based on this drug feud," Bealefeld said. "They have no regard for who stands in the middle of that."
About two hours later, two 19-year-old men were shot and killed, police said. The victims were identified as Gary Martin and Darien Jones. Online court records did not indicate that the men had adult criminal histories.
Shortly after midnight, a man was shot several times while sitting in the back seat of a car. The three shootings occurred within a 2-mile radius.
A man was also shot and wounded about 3 miles north of the other incidents.
Police had not identified suspects in any of the shootings Monday morning, and Bealefeld would not say which of the subsequent shootings had been linked to the attack at the cookout, citing an ongoing investigation.
The man who was shot in the car was wounded in the head and buttocks but was conscious and talking before being taken into surgery, said Detective Donny Moses, a police spokesman.
The female driver escaped injury and drove the victim to Johns Hopkins Hospital in the same vehicle, a white Lexus that had several bullet holes in the driver's side when it arrived at the emergency room, Moses said.
Baltimore has been plagued by drug violence for decades, and while homicides hit a 20-year low last year, it remains one of the nation's most violent big cities.
Through Monday, there had been 130 slayings in the city in 2009, up from 122 on the same date last year. Nonfatal shootings, however, are down almost 30 percent over the same period despite Sunday night's violence, police said.
Bealefeld's strategy is to target "bad guys with guns" — the relatively small number of armed, repeat offenders who are responsible for the majority of the city's violent crime.
Police need more cooperation from the community for that strategy to bear fruit, the commissioner said.
"We need people to get involved. The families surely will grieve at funerals. The families certainly will be upset at going to the hospital to visit wounded and maimed loved ones," Bealefeld said. "We need them to get on the telephone and help us put an end to this stuff."