BALTIMORE >> An act of road rage left a 2-year-old boy with a gunshot wound in the stomach today in Baltimore, a shooting emblematic of the city’s entrenched gun culture, which has already claimed more than 260 lives and left over 620 people injured this year.
In a news conference hours after the shooting, Baltimore Police Commissioner Michael Harrison said the boy was in “somewhat stable condition” and was expected to survive. Harrison said the suspect remained at large and he asked the man to voluntarily surrender to authorities.
“Whoever you are, please turn yourself in. You shot a child. Whoever you thought you were shooting at, you didn’t shoot. You shot a child,” Harrison said. He added he knows many in the community share his “outrage” and asked for their help in identifying the suspect, whom he described as a heavy set black man with dreadlocks.
Police believe the boy was inside a vehicle that honked the horn several times at vehicles that would not move when the light turned green at an intersection in central Baltimore. The vehicle with the boy then drove around the stopped vehicles and turned the corner. Harrison said a gray or silver minivan then caught up to the vehicle with the child and the driver fired his weapon.
Authorities were notified when the boy was taken to a hospital. Officers had responded to the area where the shooting happened around 12:30 a.m. after receiving an alert from the city’s automatic gunshot detection system, but they did not locate a victim or suspect.
Harrison said the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives is offering a $15,000 reward for information that leads to an arrest. He said authorities are using “every tool in the toolbox” to identify the suspect.
Baltimore, a once-thriving American seaport, has undeniable drug and violent crime challenges. It saw some modest success in reducing its violent crime scourge in 2018, but still exceeded 300 annual homicides for the fourth year in a row. In 2017, the 342 homicides in the city of roughly 612,000 inhabitants yielded a punishing homicide rate of 56 per 100,000 people, a rate the FBI called well above that of any other large U.S. city.
Harrison said the boy’s shooting is an example of the city’s “culture of violence” in which people want to settle their own disputes.
“The decision to use the gun is not made when you use it; it is made when you walk away from home with it. You’ve decided that if I need it, I’ll use it,” he said. “This is another example of that. We have to overcome people deciding to carry guns because when you carry guns, you’ll use it when the time presents itself.”