Tensions rise in Baltimore after arrest near riot scene
Baltimore — Days after riots crippled Baltimore, tensions again escalated Monday after police said they arrested a man who appeared to be armed. The arrest drew a crowd of protesters who chanted, "Black community, control the police!"
Lt. Col. Melvin Russell said police pursued a man who was spotted on surveillance cameras and appeared to be armed with a handgun. Police said the man was taken into custody after a brief chase, during which a gunshot was heard.
Russell said that police never fired their weapons and that no one was shot. Police recovered a handgun loaded with three rounds, one of which was spent. The suspect was not injured and did not want to go to a hospital, but was taken in an ambulance anyway, he said.
Sen. Catherine Pugh, a Democrat whose district includes the area where the situation occurred, said she went to a hospital to check on the man. She said she asked him if he was OK, and he told her he was.
"There were no visible injuries," Pugh said, though she didn't know what happened to him. The man was visibly upset, but he was able to see his mother before he was released to police, who arrested him, Pugh said. The man was able to walk to a police van, where he was strapped in and taken to Central Booking, she said.
Live television coverage and photos tweeted from the scene showed medics putting a man in an ambulance and a large police presence, with officers lining up to apparently block one street.
The arrest happened in the same area where police first spotted Freddie Gray on April 12. He was arrested and fatally injured in police custody. Six officers were charged Friday in Gray's death.
A few dozen police officers wearing helmets and carrying shields formed a line across North Avenue as crowds gathered across the street, occasionally shouting "Control the police!" at the officers. Minutes after police briefed reporters, the line of officers left the street and police began to allow traffic through the intersection.
Meanwhile, about a dozen protesters briefly blocked traffic while chanting, "Kill the killer cop!" and "Black community, control the police!"
Chimurenga Waller, an activist from St. Petersburg, Florida, with the Black is Black Coalition for Social Justice, Peace and Reparations, said that even if nobody was shot, the police overreacted to the situation.
"I think black people are always going to be skeptical about stories by the police, just like we were skeptical about the story about Freddie Gray," he said.
Pugh, who was nearby and arrived at the scene shortly after the incident, said she was trying to sort through conflicting narratives of what happened. She said witnesses insisted that police had shot someone, which police denied.
She said police did a good job defusing tensions after the incident by quickly breaking down a barricade and scaling back the number of officers on the scene. But she said police should consider using different enforcement tactics while tensions are still high.
"I think we need to keep police presence down at this time, especially in this area," said Pugh, a Democrat who represents west Baltimore. "I think we ought to just dial it back a little. Let's give the community a chance to heal."
James Carter, manager of Metro PCS cellphone store, said the incident happened about five feet from his shop on North Avenue. He heard a single gunshot and waited to hear another, but didn't.
Carter said he looked outside and saw no sign of a gun on the sidewalk. He went back into his shop, came back out and then saw a gun on the ground. He said he also saw a young African-American man lying on the ground. Carter said he saw no blood. He said the young man yelled as he was put into the ambulance.
Carters said people are "extremely" jumpy. This is the biggest police presence at Pennsylvania and North avenues since Saturday, the last night of the curfew, he said.