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20 year old Rashard Queen was killed in Baltimore’s Ednor Gardens neighborhood last month, prompting community members to seek answers to the city’s murder epidemic

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JAISAL NOOR: It was a quiet Saturday night on the block. Then the gunshots erupted.

Longtime resident and military veteran Joseph Kane lives across the street from where 20-year-old Rashard Queen was shot by a hail of 25 bullets.

JOSEPH KANE: Shots rang out, and I immediately told Angel, my wife, you know, get down. The kids were upstairs, they ran downstairs. What is that, gunshots? Get down as well. It kind of brought back memories that are not fun, memories of what it looked like or felt like to be in a combat zone, if you will, where just gunshots are going off, or training’s happening. And you don’t expect to hear it outside your home in the middle of the night.

JAISAL NOOR: Queen’s loved ones and community members were devastated by the loss, and held a candlelight vigil to commemorate his life.

SPEAKER: Have a moment of anger, and wanted to do something different. But this is a lifetime journey of changing Baltimore City, making sure things like this never happen to anybody else. So I’m asking you today in honor of Rashard, to not let today just end by you going home and shedding a couple tears, but continue to come out and work. Continue to make a difference. Continue to walk upright and be an example for those people who have not seen an example. I ask you to do that, and I ask you to rejoice. Do not cry, but rejoice that Rashard is in a much better place.

JAISAL NOOR: Democratic state nominee Mary Washington lives a few blocks from the site of the killing.

MARY WASHINGTON: We’re going to have conflicts. People are going to fight. But the thing is what we have right now is access to guns, access to deadly weapons, and then also no real ways for people to choose another path. What supports do these families need? Other housing supports, or other behavioral health supports. Are the children in those communities, in those households that are, seem to be the repeat- either perpetrators or the survivors of this violence, what supports do they need?

JAISAL NOOR: Baltimore is considered one of America’s deadliest cities. Over 170 people have been killed already in 2018.

JOSEPH KANE: But you know, this community, for example, was one that’s been always organized and active in how we push back against that. How do we organize around the systemic issues that cause these separate things? And so you have, like for me and my wife, we’re very active in organizing with education the Baltimore City. I’ve been in the PTO, been on PCAB. So I think this community in general is one that has always been active in how do we get to the systemic- how we get to the root cause of these things so we don’t have these type of issues moving forward.

JAISAL NOOR: It’s unlikely Rashard Queen’s killer will ever be brought to justice. Over the past 10 years, just one in three city homicides have resulted in an arrest, the Washington Post has found. Neill Franklin is a 34-year veteran Maryland State police officer, and former head of training for the Baltimore Police Department.

NEILL FRANKLIN: We’ve got deplorable clearance rates for the homicides of these young black males, and women, here in Baltimore City. And kids, by the way. Primarily because we don’t get- when I say ‘we,’ the police- do not get the information that they need from the citizens. Again, lack of trust. Until we solve the issue of trust between the police and the community, you know, and this rests squarely in the hands of policing, until we solve that your clearance rates are going to remain low.

JAISAL NOOR: Today Franklin opposes the war on drugs, and says it’s fueling violence.

NEILL FRANKLIN: The reason we have this proliferation of guns in Baltimore, in Chicago, you know, in New York City, in these major cities, the foundation of that is the drug trade.

JAISAL NOOR: In response to rising crime rates, Republican Governor Larry Hogan teamed up with centrist Democrats to pass tough-on-crime legislation, something both Mary Washington and Neill Franklin oppose.

MARY WASHINGTON: Mandatory minimums do not work. These crackdowns do not work. And so for us to continue failed practices is not the path we should be going. We should highly invest in the communities that are disproportionately being impacted by gun violence.

NEILL FRANKLIN: And we tend to put our resources and critical thinking, we focus that on police and their job, and their strategies, their tactics, their crime plans. But the real solutions are social issues. The real solutions are, you know, jobs, education, healthcare, mental health, and of course, the failed war on drugs.

JAISAL NOOR: For The Real News, this is Jaisal Noor in Baltimore.

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Jaisal is currently the Democracy Initiative Manager at the Solutions Journalism Network and is a former TRNN host, producer, and reporter. He mainly grew up in the Baltimore area and studied modern history at the University of Maryland, College Park. Before joining TRNN, he contributed print, radio, and TV reports to Free Speech Radio News, Democracy Now! and The Indypendent. Jaisal's mother has taught in the Baltimore City Public School system for the past 25 years. Follow him on Twitter @jaisalnoor.