BALTIMORE (WJZ) — More than 340 people have been murdered in Baltimore this year, making the city one of America’s most violent and breaking a per capita record. Hundreds attended a vigil Thursday night at the Baltimore War Memorial Building for the victims.
Mayor Catherine Pugh has urged patience, saying stopping the violence is not a sprint but a marathon. Many people, though, are fed up after federal and state help — and a lot of funding — has yet to reduce the killings.
Morgan State University sophomore Jonathan Tobash is one of 343 people killed in Baltimore this year.
A family friend says the 19-year-old’s death was like losing her son.
“I want Baltimore to get themselves together and stop killing our children — it’s too many,” Lombrae Patton said. “This one right here hits me in my heart, as it does other people. Because I want him back here with me. He’s supposed to be at my funeral, I’m not supposed to be at his.”
Tobash was shot after coming upon a robbery in progress on Dec. 18. That same day, James Forrester was shot to death when he stepped outside the Baltimore Tattoo Museum to take a call from his wife.
Tina Forrester, James Forrester’s wife, spoke with WJZ’s Ava-joye Burnett following the vigil.
“This is the reality. The numbers have climbed substantially since my husband died. This is absolutely ludicrous,” she said.
Tina Forrester says her husband was the 334th person murdered in the city this year.
“He was a great guy, loved by so many. Never in my wildest dreams did I think that I would ever face a day where I would listen to my husband being murdered at work,” she said.
Police have released surveillance video of suspects in Tobash and Forrester’s killings.
The murder of 24- year-old Markell Coleman is one of the homicides that pushed Baltimore past the per capita record. Coleman was found shot in the back on Hilton Street. A 97-year-old man was the oldest victim. Waddell Tate was found bludgeoned in his home in July.
The murders of two police officers remain unsolved. D.C. officer Sgt. Tony Mason Jr. — who lived in Baltimore — was shot while off-duty in Northwest Baltimore in November.
Just weeks later, Baltimore homicide detective Sean Suiter was shot in West Baltimore.
The crime rate is a source of frustration for many, like a teacher who said he wants investments in schools over prisons.
“It’s sickening, it’s tragic. New York City has a lower murder rate than Baltimore City and they have 10 million people,” Brad Bixler said.
New York City — with nearly 14 times the population of Baltimore — has had less than 300 murders.
There were signs of hope at the vigil, though.
“I think we’ve hit a high and now things will start improving,” Baltimore resident Larry Mullin said.
Meanwhile, the Baltimore City Police commissioner has touted an increase in officers.
“We’ve actually hired more police officers than we have lost to retirement or resignation, which is very unusual,” Commissioner Kevin Davis said.
Mayor Catherine Pugh said she hoped the vigil will help with healing.
“We know that they are suffering, and we do no want to infringe upon that pain that they are already suffering, but more importantly, we want to lift them up,” Pugh said.
But for a grieving wife, the gathering is merely a start.
“I completely respect having a vigil in memory of the people that have been lost, but where are the other ideas? I think it’s absolute irony that this is being held in the War Memorial, because this place is a horror zone,” Tina Forrester said.
The vigil was moved inside the building because of the cold weather.
Attendees were encouraged to bring a sign displaying a word of inspiration for 2018.