Access to Murder

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The Baltimore Police Department granted The Baltimore Sun exclusive access to the homicide unit as it investigated the killing of Kevin Cannady, a 29-year-old who was fatally shot on Sept. 21. The city of Baltimore has one of the highest homicide rates in the nation.

Sun reporter Justin Fenton accompanied detectives on the street, watched them pore over leads and interview suspects, and followed them as they picked up additional cases. The result is a fascinating inside look into a big city homicide investigation. It’s a five-part series and American Police Beat will be posting each part as they are published.

The military has been doing something similar for years with great success—embedding reporters with soldiers on a mission. More agencies should do the same.

Here’s Part I:

Chasing a killer: Inside a Baltimore homicide investigation

 

Police officers escort the skinny young man into the brightly lit interview room. Detective Thomas Jackson, a member of the Baltimore police homicide unit, takes a seat next to him.

 

It’s been two days since the killing of Kevin Cannady. The 29-year-old was gunned down in the middle of the afternoon on a busy street corner in Northwest Baltimore. He was the youngest and last of three brothers lost to the city’s violence.

 

Police believe at least a dozen people saw the shooting, but so far no one has come forward with the information they need to solve the case.

 

Jackson, 41, grew up with Cannady’s oldest brother. He knows his mother. He is investigating a killing in his old neighborhood.

 

He believes the young man in the witness box saw the shooting. Now he’s pleading with him.

 

“You can’t kill your way out of the ’hood,” Jackson says, his voice rising. “It’s not gonna happen!”

 

Jackson has investigated hundreds of shootings in his 17-year career, but he’s never seen anything like 2015. Cannady’s death in September was the city’s 242nd homicide of the year — and there would be scores more to come.

 

When killings surged after the riots of April, officials and observers called it a spike. But the violence didn’t settle back down. By year’s end, the body count would set records.

 

Jackson turns to his young subject.

 

“So when you think it’s gonna stop?” he asks.

 

“It’s never gonna stop,” the young man says.

 

“It has to,” Jackson says.

 

No witnesses

 

Jackson and fellow detective Damon Talley, veterans of the 50-member homicide unit, picked up Cannady’s killing on Sept. 21.

 

When the partners arrived at the crime scene in the 4800 block of Cordelia Avenue in the Langston Hughes neighborhood of Northwest Baltimore, Cannady’s body was gone.

 

So, too, was anyone who might have witnessed his broad-daylight execution. As a light rain fell, the only people who approached the crime scene tape were pedestrians trying to pass through. They seemed irritated at the inconvenience.

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