(BALTIMORE) — A man who worked on the front lines to prevent gun violence in Baltimore, Md., was fatally shot Wednesday night in a quadruple shooting on E. Monument Street in the McElderry Park neighborhood.
DaShawn McGrier, 29, from Baltimore, worked as a violence interrupter for Safe Streets and is the third member of the organization to be shot last year.
“[DaShawn] was passionate about his community and worked hard to make this community safer for his family, friends and neighbors,” said Meg Ward, vice president of strategic growth and community partnerships at Living Classrooms, a nonprofit organization charity that runs two of 10 Safe Street venues in the city, including McElderry Park. “He was a son, he was a father, he was a partner. He was a brother, he was a devoted and present father for his child.”
According to Ward, McGrier was having a conversation with the other two victims while working at his post on Monument Street when the shooting occurred.
“Apparently a tow truck came around the corner and they just fired at the block,” Ward said.
BPD identified the other victims as Tyrone Allen, 28, and Hassan Smith, 24. A spokesperson told ABC News on Friday that “no arrests have been made at this time.”
“We are devoting all available resources to tracking down and apprehending the cowardly perpetrators of this act,” Baltimore Police Commissioner Michael Harrison said in a statement Wednesday.
When asked if it was a targeted shooting, police said the investigation was ongoing.
There have been more than 300 homicides in Baltimore each year for the past five years, including 338 in 2021 and 335 in 2020, according to BPD data.
Community members and Safe Streets workers gathered on E. Monument Street on Saturday afternoon to honor McGrier and other victims of gun violence.
“What choices are we going to make? This is our community,” Safe Streets violence switcher Alex Long said in an impassioned speech at the event. “These shootings must stop.”
Baltimore Mayor Brandon Scott also attended the event and said the city is “committed to honoring DaShawn’s legacy in the best way possible – by expanding community violence interventions across the city.” .
“[Safe Streets Baltimore] is not just an organization, but a vocation. DaShawn believed we could build a better Baltimore. Let’s show him we can,” Scott tweeted, along with photos from the event.
Ward said Safe Streets organizes shooting response events to “denormalize” gun violence — especially in neighborhoods where shootings are common — by creating an opportunity for the community to come together to honor victims and send the message. that, “That’s not OK.” And on Saturday, they honored one of their own.
Abuse switches also connect individuals with resources such as job placement opportunities and financial support.
Ward said McGrier had been working as a violence interrupter for just over a month, but had been part of the Safe Streets community for a long time. He was a “hard worker”, she said, who was a welding student at the North American Trade School during the day and worked nights at the Safe Streets McElderry Park site to help mediate disputes that could result shootings.
“The work that’s being done to prevent that from happening is really, really important. And that makes it even more important when you lose one of your own,” she said.
McGrier’s murder comes as the Safe Streets community continues to mourn the deaths of two long-time beloved members who were killed in the past year and who dedicated their lives to reducing gun violence.
Dante Barksdale, a Safe Streets outreach coordinator, and Kenyell “Benny” Wilson, a Safe Streets violence switch, were shot and killed in separate incidents in January and July. Two days before McGrier’s death, the community came together to honor Barklesdale on the anniversary of his death.
“We were devastated, it was very traumatic. It’s very difficult to say their names or think about them, and not feel this constant emptiness in our hearts, because they are definitely individuals who have had an incredible impact. on the community,” he added. Rashad Singletary, associate director of gun violence prevention at MONSE, told ABC News last year. “And for them to lose their lives to the same thing that we tried to save thousands of lives from, it was very, very disheartening and tragic.”
How Abuse Interruption Programs Work
Safe Streets was launched in Baltimore in 2007 in the McElderry Park neighborhood. It’s one of many violence prevention programs in the country that’s based on a model that began in Chicago in the mid-1990s.
Violence switches also connect high-risk individuals to resources offered by the organization, including placement and financial support that could help alleviate some of the suffering – conditions that lead some to resort to violence.
What the data shows
Recent studies have shown that Safe Streets programs have been effective in reducing gun violence in various neighborhoods.
A 2012 study published by the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health found that Safe Streets workers successfully reduced gun violence in three of the four neighborhoods where the initial sites were established, director of the Center for Gun Policy and Research of Johns Hopkins University Daniel Webster previously told ABC News.
Safe Streets workers negotiated more than 2,300 disputes in 2020, according to MONSE, and after securing more city funding, the organization opened its tenth location in 2021.
“Safe Streets workers are negotiating the very kinds of disputes we saw tonight,” Harrison said in a statement Wednesday. “All Safe Streets workers are to be applauded for their work in reducing gun violence and promoting a message of redemption and peace to the many young people in our city.”
MONSE director Shantay Jackson said the mayor’s office will provide support to the victims’ families and staff, including bereavement counselling.
“It’s a reminder of the brave but dangerous work our frontline staff do every day as they work with those most at risk of being a shooter or victim of a shooting,” he said. she said in a statement.
Ward said the “huge loss” highlights the need for violence prevention work in Baltimore.
“People are heartbroken,” she said, “and at the same time, [the] the feeling or sense is that’s the reason for doubling.”
ABC News’ Abby Cruz and Kendall Ross contributed to this report.
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