Motorist shot dead after firing baseball bat in confrontation with downtown Baltimore squeegee workers – Baltimore Sun

A confrontation between a driver and a group of squeegee workers ended in deadly gunfire in downtown Baltimore on Thursday afternoon after the motorist brandished a baseball bat – and one youths pulled out a gun in response.

The shooting was reported around 4:30 p.m. at the corner of East Conway and Light St., and officials said the 48-year-old victim later died in hospital. His name has not been released.

Baltimore Police Commissioner Michael Harrison said the motorist drove through the intersection, parked on the opposite side of Light Street and got out of his car with a baseball bat. He then returned to the group of children and “swung the bat at one or more of the squeegee workers”.

“In return, one of the squeegee workers pulled out a gun,” Harrison said. He said it was unclear how many shots were fired.

At the crime scene later Thursday evening, the metal bat lay on the sidewalk next to a pool of blood.

Witnesses at the scene heard three gunshots followed by a quick police response. The deadly altercation rumbled through downtown traffic for hours during rush hour and ahead of a matchup between the Baltimore Orioles and Los Angeles Angels scheduled for 7:05 p.m. at nearby Oriole Park in Camden Yards.

Harrison said the shooting was the second incident involving a squeegee worker Thursday at that same busy downtown intersection.

Several hours earlier, police had confiscated a firearm from a squeegee worker, and employees from the mayor’s office of African-American Men’s Engagement were on the scene to raise awareness, Harrison said.

In a statement, Councilman Eric Costello said officers stopped a squeegee worker at the intersection shortly before 2 p.m. Thursday and seized a pellet gun.

“This is a very complex situation where someone took charge, regardless of what you think,” Harrison said, noting that he fully briefed Mayor Brandon Scott.

In a statement, Scott said his administration would work to hold accountable anyone who resorts to violence on city streets.

“Whatever the cause of this incident, it is a sad reminder that too often easily avoidable confrontations escalate into violence,” he said.

In a statement late Thursday, Baltimore State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby called the violent episode “completely unacceptable,” saying it “should serve as a flashpoint for our entire city.”

“There are too many guns on our streets and those who willfully turn to violence to resolve disputes will be held accountable to the fullest extent of the law,” she said.

The presence of squeegee kids on the streets of Baltimore has been a flashpoint for years. Drivers unfamiliar or uncomfortable with the practice often complain about youngsters, sparking an uproar from businesses in the city that rely on visitors. Sometimes physical clashes broke out. But city officials say their presence is symptomatic of poverty in Baltimore and needs to be addressed with better social supports.

Baltimore launched an employment program in December matching former raclette workers with jobs in the hospitality industry, as part of a broader campaign to find them alternative employment.

“It’s about figuring out how we can support what they need, so they’re not pushed into begging, which is basically what scraping is,” Faith Leach said at the time. Deputy Mayor of Baltimore for Equity, Health and Human Services.

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During his remarks at the scene Thursday night, Harrison avoided commenting on the bigger picture or addressing the ongoing tensions that exist between motorists and squeegee workers in Baltimore.

He said it was unclear whether the shooting victim had actually hit any of the squeegee workers with the bat – including the shooter – before the shots rang out. The group of children fled the scene immediately after the shooting and “managed to get away,” Harrison said.

Detectives are reviewing video evidence from various sources in the area and looking for more footage, he said. What police know now is mostly based on testimony from people who were in the area when the shooting unfolded around rush hour Thursday.

Cody Bro, 30, was traveling to Baltimore from Phoenix for a convention when he heard three gunshots and saw police quickly invading the area. He said other witnesses to the confrontation up close told him what they saw immediately after the shooting.

“There was a driver arguing with one of the scrapers – the people who scrape your windows,” he said.

Bro said the victim fell to the ground after being shot. He wondered aloud why the man had a baseball bat in the car.

Baltimore police have asked anyone with cellphone video of the incident or with relevant information to contact detectives at 410-396-2100.

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