A 48-year-old man was fatally shot on Thursday after he confronted squeegee workers with a bat near the Inner Harbor, witnesses and police say.
The man was identified by police as Timothy Reynolds.
Baltimore Police Commissioner Michael Harrison said the shooting occurred around 4:38 p.m. at the intersection of Light and Conway streets after an exchange between a driver and squeegee workers became heated. The man drove through the intersection, parked, got out of the car with a bat and began swinging at one or more of the squeegee workers, Harrison said.
In response, one of the workers shot and fatally wounded the driver. The shooter fled the intersection on foot. The driver was taken to a local hospital and pronounced dead, Harrison said.
Harrison said he briefed Mayor Brandon Scott on the “very complex situation.” Detectives are reviewing video and looking for additional cameras “so we can piece together what happened here and have evidence of what happened,” he said.
Scott said in a statement that there is still an “active investigation” and more details would be provided as the “facts become clear.”
“I want to be very clear — if you are on the streets of Baltimore and endanger the safety of others or turn to violence to solve your problems, we will hold you accountable,” Scott said. “Regardless of what caused this incident, it is a sad reminder that far too often easily avoidable confrontations escalate into acts of violence.”
Hours before the shooting, police had responded to the area after reports of a squeegee worker with a firearm. They arrested one person, Harrison said. State Sen. Antonio Hayes also encountered a squeegee worker at the same intersection earlier in the day and filed a police report, a source told The Banner. Hayes declined comment on the incident.
The shooting adds fuel to an already contentious debate over what to do about the “squeegee kids” — young men at intersections who clean windshields in exchange for a few dollars. Many local businesspeople say that the workers are a dangerous nuisance and deter people from visiting the area, while others praise their entrepreneurial spirit and say the workers are respectful to people who are respectful to them.
Garrett Schiche said he was in front of the new apartment tower, 414 Light Street, when he heard gunshots and saw a man fall to the ground and squeegee workers scattering. He approached the victim and was told by others that the man had confronted the workers with a baseball bat.
Tosha Bazemora, who was standing near the scene Thursday evening, said the situation didn’t need to escalate like that.
“Every situation doesn’t deserve a reaction,” she said, referring to the driver who exited his car with a bat. Andrew Green, another bystander, agreed: “You’re a grown man, who got out your car, and let your emotions get to you. Grown men should not do that.”
Kathy Van Order said she has never had a bad experience with a squeegee worker. “But the bigger picture here with incidents like this is that some people want to defend them all like they’re innocent, but they’re absolutely not ... the squeegee boys aren’t all good in heart and minds and this situation has basically proven that,” she said.
Andrew Creech said he wasn’t surprised by the turn of events.
“I just think it’s really unfortunate because the squeegee people that are on this side have always been, like, really a lot more confrontational,” he said, gesturing to the intersection where the bat was found. “I mean, like, one of our neighbors, they had just had a new baby and got a brand new car, and they keyed the side of their car.
“It’s one of those things that just should have been stopped a long time ago, and I think we all could have foreseen this coming about eventually, somebody getting mad enough that they provoke an attack, and then it’s not too shocking, how this city is, that they had a gun, unfortunately.”
”Seeing such a large number of young people on corners illustrates our failings as a city,” Scott said in a statement at the time. “This practice has been part of Baltimore culture for a long time, growing over the last 20 years to become more widespread, visible and divisive.
“It is crucial that we look at this as a public health matter, look at the underlying factors that cause these young people to squeegee,” Scott said, “and ... give them the support they need.”
The Mayor’s Office of African American Male Engagement was scheduled to hold a job readiness event Thursday afternoon at the Reginald F. Lewis Museum. Faith Leach, deputy mayor of equity, health and human services, tweeted asking people who saw squeegee workers to encourage them to attend.
Donte Johnson, general manager of Revival Baltimore in Mount Vernon, has brought on eight apprentices since May as part of the Mayor’s program. The city subsidizes their pay for 30 hours per week; the hotel will decide after six months whether to bring the workers on board permanently.
Johnson said he has driven through these intersections twice a day for three years and only had positive interactions. Revival Baltimore, he said, felt that the program was an opportunity to collaborate with the city on solutions.
”The most vulnerable citizens among us deserve much better than they’re getting,” Johnson said. “It’s really difficult to blame someone for refusing to starve in the margins. ... If we don’t invest in creating more attractive, more sustainable options for them, then we should ask ourselves, ‘What are we leaving them to choose?’”
The shooting elicited quick reaction from several local officials and political candidates.
In a statement, Baltimore City State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby said: “I am completely dismayed at the heinous act of violence that occurred this afternoon. ... I want to be unequivocally clear that today’s episode is completely unacceptable and should serve as a flashpoint for our entire city. There are too many guns on our streets and those who willingly turn to violence as a means of resolving conflicts will be held accountable to the fullest extent of the law.”
Councilman Eric Costello, whose district includes the intersection where the shooting took place, called the violence in the city “unsustainable.”
“Two lives were destroyed today and one person is dead because we have failed to adequately address the situation,” he tweeted. “As a government, we have failed everyone here by allowing these circumstances to continue to occur.”
Meanwhile, at a nearby intersection on President and East Pratt streets, it was business as usual with squeegee workers continuing to hustle a few bucks by spraying down windshields.
“We’re just trying to make money,” said one 23-year-old worker who asked to be identified by only his last name, Johnson. “The way the story sounds, it’s like he threw his own life away. If [the driver] would have hit him with a bat, all they would have said is someone got hit with a bat.”
“I don’t know why people hop out of their cars and try to fight,” said Ty’Quan Young, 15.
Another worker, 16, who refused to provide his name but said to call him “kiddo,” added: “It wouldn’t have gone there if it wasn’t for the driver. I ain’t blaming him, but ... I’m at a loss for words.”
This story has been updated.
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