As of Friday, 124 people had been slain this year in Baltimore, including five on a recent day, making the homicide rate among the nation’s highest. It is higher than the rates in New Orleans and Chicago, two places that have become national symbols of gun violence. This year, it is on track to surpass all other big U.S. cities. Each murder in Baltimore leaves a mark on those who witness it and those who investigate it. Few have been as haunting as the scene that played out on March 27 in front of a carryout that, in contrast to its cheerful name, Rainbow, has metal bars over its windows, the Washington Post reports. More than an hour had passed since Ernest Solomon had been shot and taken to the hospital and still no one had opened the locked car. It was a key piece of evidence, and officers knew the less they touched it the better. Following protocol, they planned to tow it to a police lot, and then take it to a crime lab where a technician skilled in finding fingerprints would await a search warrant signed by a judge. It could take hours, or even a day.
Then came a faint cry. “Did you hear that?” asked a homicide detective. Inside the car, he found Solomon’s 10-month-old daughter strapped in her car seat. The detective pulled her out and held her up, as other officers looked on, mouths agape. The moment was captured by a Baltimore Sun photographer in a picture that quickly spread across social media. Baltimore has long struggled with violence and a strained relationship between its police force and many African American residents. It went a decade with 300 or more killings each year in the 1990s. The numbers finally began falling, but the homicide rate hit a high in 2015, the same year Freddie Gray died in police custody and the city erupted in civil unrest. Baltimore’s police force has shrunk in the past several years, from 2,900 officers to 2,700.