The fatal shooting of a 28-year-old woman Tuesday night in Milford Mill that lead to a suspect pursuit that shut down the subway set a record for Baltimore County for homicides in a year.
Police identified the victim as Wayniqua Johnson, and said she was shot around 5:10 p.m. inside her Stockmill Road apartment with her five children present. Patrol officers tracked a suspect, 18-year-old Shaheem Muse, to the Metro station at Milford Mill Road and took him into custody.
With her slaying, the county has seen 50 people killed this year, an increase of 69% over the same time last year and exceeding the number of people killed in 2019, which was the previous high. Nonfatal shootings also are up 20%.
“This level of violence is incomprehensible and it will not be accepted in Baltimore County,” Police Chief Melissa Hyatt said in a statement. “Violent crime inflicts pain and trauma on the entire community. The effects are long-lasting and far-reaching.”
County Executive Johnny Olszewski Jr. said he is “angry and frustrated on behalf every person who’s lost a loved one and for every tragedy that’s occurred in any one of our communities,” while noting a number of public safety initiatives underway in the county:
“I will do everything in my power to prevent as many these incidents as possible and we’re doing just that,” he said. But, he added, “Baltimore County remains a safe place to work and raise a family.”
Hyatt said the majority of the county’s homicide cases are mental health-related or resulted from a domestic dispute. In Tuesday’s shooting, police said a preliminary investigation indicated the suspect and victim had recently been in a relationship.
After being apprehended, Muse told police that Johnson was handling his gun and had shot herself, and then he fled. But police wrote in charging documents that the evidence refuted that possibility, as the shooting did not appear to have occurred at close range.
Muse has been charged with first-degree murder and is being held without bail.
Councilman Julian Jones, whose district includes Owings Mills and Woodlawn where many of this year’s homicides have occurred, highlighted the police department’s clearance rate as an indicator that the county is successful in combating crime when it happens.
”When you commit a crime in Baltimore County, especially something as serious as murder, you’re gonna get caught and you’re gonna get prosecuted,” he said.
It’s more difficult, Jones acknowledged, to prevent crime, especially domestic incidents that authorities say have driven up homicides this year.
The year has been marked by two mass shootings: In March, Joshua Green, 27, killed his parents, Douglas and Olivia Green, in their Baldwin home before fatally shooting two more people, Alpha Smith and Silvesta Daye Jr., at a Royal Farms in Essex. Police said Green then killed himself in an apartment parking lot.
About a month later, Everton Brown, 56, set his Woodlawn home on fire and killed three of his neighbors before police fatally shot him. Everton suffered from delusional thinking, 911 call records show, and believed the government was conspiring against him.
Olszewski said that the county is not an outlier for its uptick in domestic violence crimes, which has been a regional and national trend. And the county’s per capita homicide rate is lower than the state’s — 5.86 murders for every 100,000 residents compared to the state’s 9.1 murders per 100,000 residents.
The Dundalk Democrat said the county is committing “significant dollars to public safety” and community support. He wants to use $1 million in American Rescue Plan funds to pilot a firearms detection system in high-crime areas, install more license plate readers throughout the county and plans to expand the county’s mobile crisis teams, which handle behavioral health-related calls for service. He also plans to put clinicians in the county’s 911 call center to redirect such call from patrol officers to health professionals.
Jones, a Woodstock Democrat, is skeptical of the plan to commit the American Rescue Plan funding for the county’s own firearms detection system. He said that funding could instead be used to deploy more mobile crisis teams to respond to behavioral health-related calls for service.
”I’d like to hear an explanation on why we need such a thing,” he said.
Jones said trust between police and the communities they patrol is critical in preventing crime. Closing investigations often relies on witnesses, who must feel comfortable enough to come forward, he said.