Federal office worker beaten downtown

Inner HarborCrime, Law and JusticePoliticsTheftSafety of CitizensArtscapePratt Street

A 51-year-old federal office worker was jumped and beaten by up to five juveniles Thursday morning in downtown Baltimore’s Hopkins Plaza — an apparent random attack and the latest in a series of assaults in the heart of the city.

Police are also investigating a fight that occurred at Charles and Lombard streets Wednesday morning and involved youths who may have been wearing school uniforms. Eight days ago, a group of youths stole candy and attacked the owner of a convenience store on Light Street.

The string of incidents has prompted the police commander in charge of the Central District station to propose teaming his patrol officers with school police during the morning and evening rush hours. That would put police who know many of the students on the front lines.

“We want to partner with the school system,” said city police spokesman Anthony Guglielmi. “We want to quickly identify those involved, and it’s easier to do that with the school police.”

The latest attack occurred outside the Fallon Federal Building at Hopkins Plaza, located along South Charles Street between West Baltimore and West Lombard streets. The square is three blocks northwest of the Inner Harbor, near several downtown hotels, the convention center and the 1st Mariner Arena.

Police did not have any details on the victim or precisely where he worked. The Fallon building contains offices for several agencies, including the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives and the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Court. There are several other federal buildings nearby.

Guglielmi said the victim was apparently walking to work about 7 a.m. when he was attacked by at least five juveniles - four males and one female. One youth was not wearing a shirt. Other clothing descriptions were not available, but police said they did not appear to be wearing school uniforms.

Police were viewing video from surveillance cameras to try and identify the youths involved. Guglielmi said the victim was “punched in the head and kicked to the ground,” but was not hurt seriously enough to require medical attention. Police said he was not robbed.

The earlier attack occurred Wednesday about 8:30 a.m. at Charles and Lombard streets, at the southeast corner of Hopkins Plaza. Police said officers responded to 911 calls reporting “a group of juveniles fighting,” possibly wearing school uniforms.

Guglielmi said that officers responded but the fight was over by the time they arrived. Authorities said video surveillance cameras confirmed there was a fight and police using the footage and talking with school police to try and identify suspects and victims.

Meanwhile, prosecutors are reviewing the police case in the May 23 attack in the 7-Eleven on Light Street. Police said detectives using footage from video cameras were able to identify the youths involved. Police said they are students at Mergenthaler Vocational-Technical Senior High School in Northeast Baltimore.

A spokesman for the Baltimore State’s Attorney’s Office said no charges have been filed as of Thursday, and he declined to comment further on the open investigation.

Putting school police officers with city patrol officers would be an extension of weekend night police foot patrols that the mayor ordered to saturate the Inner Harbor and downtown after hundreds of teens converged on St. Patrick’s Day and fought street corner to street corner. School police officers are staffing a post outside the Harborplace Gallery, a shopping mall on Pratt Street that attracts many students.

There was no immediate comment on Thursday from the city school system. A spokeswoman was checking with the school police chief.

The repeated incidents of violence have raised questions about security and safety as the summer season approaches. The city is gearing up for several large scale tourist events, including June’s 2012 Star-Spangled Sailabration commemorating the bicentennial of the War of 1812, July 4 fireworks, Artscape north of downtown and the Grand Prix road race.

On Thursday, Delegate Patrick McDonough continued his pressure on the city, proposing what he calls a “Solutions Summit” and the creation of a Maryland Youth Advocacy Fund to raise money through private contributions to fund youth initiatives.

But McDonough, a Republican from Baltimore and Harford counties, has been dismissed by city leaders and others after he complained about “black youth mobs” terrorizing the city and asking the governor to send in state police to restore order. He said the Inner Harbor should be declared a “no travel zone.”

The delegate is holding a steady series of news conferences to garner attention. At his latest gathering, McDonough challenged Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, a Democrat, to a televised debate over the safety of the city.

“The youth crime problem in Baltimore City and the state must no longer be ignored,” the delegate said in a statement issued Thursday.

Ryan O’Doherty, the spokesman for the mayor, said that McDonough “should debate himself and his Republican colleagues who supported deep cuts to the Police Department and cuts to gun prosecutions as part of the state doomsday budget.”

The spokesman charged the cuts — which did not take effect after the General Assemble voted in a special session to raise taxes on the state’s top wage earners and to shift some teacher pension costs to counties — would have decimated public safety in the city.

O’Doherty said police academy classes would have been cut, 92 police positions abolished and 18 prosecutors who handle gun crimes fired. “Crime is down to historic lows in Baltimore because of the smart investments that the city and the state have made in public safety,” the spokesman said.

Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times
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