A leader of an urban campaign to quell gun violence in Baltimore, widely credited with roaming gang-war-prone streets with words of reconciliation, was shot dead on Sunday, authorities said.
Dante Barksdale, an outreach coordinator for the city’s Safe Streets program, was found around 11:17 a.m. with a gunshot wound to the head near Douglass Homes, a public housing complex in the southeastern part of Baltimore, police said.
He was taken to Johns Hopkins Hospital, where he died shortly after, officials said.
Mr. Barksdale, 46, was called Tater and was the nephew of Nathan Barksdale, the now deceased narcotics trafficker known as Bodie, who inspired the character Avon Barksdale in HBO’s crime series “The Wire.” Dante Barksdale drew on his time in prison selling drugs and his experience growing up in projects for his outreach work.
His death rocked community leaders, who recognized Mr Barksdale on Sunday for his work to defuse gang violence.
Mayor Brandon M. Scott of Baltimore called him the “heart and soul” of the Safe Streets program in a statement Sunday.
“While I am devastated by the loss of my brother in the fight to save lives in Baltimore, I will not let those who chose to commit violent suicide in light of his work,” Mr. Scott said. “Dante’s work saved lives. It’s a sobering reminder how dangerous this frontline job is. “
It was not immediately clear whether Mr Barksdale was at work when he was shot or whether he had been targeted. Homicide detectives are investigating the murder, police said.
Michael S. Harrison, the city’s police commissioner, credited Mr. Barksdale with helping defuse crime in Baltimore.
“His work in raising awareness, mediating conflict and reducing gun violence in our city has been invaluable,” Mr. Harrison said, “and he embodied a message of redemption and peace to the many young people in our city.
It was not immediately clear whether Mr. Barksdale had any survivors.
Erricka Bridgeford, co-founder of the Baltimore Ceasefire 365 gun violence prevention group, mourned the death of Mr Barksdale in a Tweeter on Sunday.
“My level of shock and pain at her murder makes my knees sag,” Ms Bridgeford said. In another post, she added, “What I know is Tater’s soul is unleashed to keep doing the job in a miraculous way. We were not left alone. We have just won a mighty warrior in this spiritual warfare.
Mr. Barksdale was the subject of a series of profiles by local and national media on his outreach efforts, including a 2014 article by The Atlantic titled “Walking the Streets of Baltimore With the Other Barksdale.” .
Mr. Barksdale, who grew up in the city projects, wrote about his life in a 2019 book, “Growing Up Barksdale: A True Baltimore Story”.
According to the Baltimore Beat website, he also appeared in the 2018 documentary “Charm City,” which examined violence in Baltimore following the 2015 murder of Freddie Gray, the 25-year-old black man who died of a serious injury. to the spinal cord while in police custody.
Nick J. Mosby, the chairman of Baltimore city council, paid tribute to Mr. Barksdale on Twitter on Sunday.
“Dante Barksdale has used his life to save others by preventing gun violence on our streets,” Mosby said. “He beat a myriad of chances to do it. Dante was my friend and I mourn with countless other people over the murder of this exceptional man.
Nicholas Bogel-Burroughs contributed reporting.