BALTIMORE – Baltimore police have found a white Mercedes-Benz that was seen in the area where a 7-year-old girl was fatally shot in an apparent drive-by shooting but there still have been no arrests in the attack more than two weeks since she was shot in the back.
Detectives working the slaying of second-grader Taylor Hayes are struggling to overcome a chronic problem: Baltimore's strong anti-informant culture that makes eyewitnesses to murders and other crimes sometimes too afraid or simply unwilling to come forward.
Acting Police Commissioner Gary Tuggle made an impassioned appeal to residents of the Southwest Baltimore area where Taylor was shot to come forward with whatever they know. He's calling for witnesses to have "some level of sympathy."
"We know that a number of people saw that shooting. We know that for a fact. And we want you to come forward. There's a child who is no longer with us — have some level of sympathy with respect to that," he said at police headquarters. "That child needs justice; her family needs justice."
Tuggle said he understands only too well that a number of Baltimore citizens are fearful of providing information to investigators. But he urged witnesses to have a heart.
"I get the issue of fear. However, we're not talking about something as simple as maybe a burglary or a robbery. We're talking about the life of a 7-year old child that has been snuffed out," Tuggle said.
Witness intimidation is a persistent problem in Baltimore, home to an infamous underground DVD called "Stop Snitching" that made international headlines in 2004. There's also a longstanding deficit of public trust in the police across large swaths of the city that has only gotten worse with a recent corruption scandal.
Providing only the broadest outlines of the ongoing investigation into Taylor's death, police spokesman T.J. Smith told reporters Friday that detectives know the identity of the owner of the Mercedes-Benz they'd been seeking.
But Smith declined to provide details about how this has advanced the investigation. He stressed that no charges have been filed in the killing, saying: "We are still trying to identify the murderer."
Taylor, a bright-eyed child who loved music and dancing, died of her injuries early Thursday. She had been in critical condition at a hospital since being shot in the back on a Southwest Baltimore roadway on July 5. Another child seated beside her in a Honda Accord was uninjured.
Darnell Holmes, the woman behind the wheel of the car where Taylor was shot, has been charged with possession of heroin, a digital scale, and a loaded .40-caliber pistol with an extended magazine in her glove box. But Holmes has not been charged in the shooting.
Police have said Holmes was refusing to cooperate with detectives, but they declined to provide more clarity on Friday. Her lawyer, Staci Pipkin, said Holmes doesn't know who fired at the car. The defense attorney said Taylor was the daughter of Holmes' cousin. The uninjured child is Holmes' daughter.
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