Dante Barksdale, an anti-gun violence activist who worked as the director of Baltimore's Safe Streets program, is dead after being shot in the head.
According to the Baltimore Sun, Safe Streets outreach workers "mediate disputes in the hopes of de-escalating conflicts."
"They also lead public education campaigns and work closely with faith-based organizers and community members — and explicitly not with police — to steer young people away from violence," the paper reports "The program has been hailed as one of the city's most effective crime-fighting tools."
According to a Monday report from the New York Post, Barksdale was visiting a local public housing project when an as-yet unidentified gunman opened fire and struck him in the head.
Barksdale, who worked as the director for the city's Safe Streets campaign for more than a decade, was rushed to nearby Johns Hopkins Hospital early Sunday morning, where officials pronounced him dead.
The Baltimore Sun also reported that Barksdale a few weeks earlier had delivered winter coats to families at the very same housing project where he lost his life.
A police spokesperson told the Post, "The investigation is ongoing and we have no further updates to provide at this time."
In a statement, Baltimore Mayor Brandon Scott said that Barksdale was the "heart and soul" of the Safe Streets program and that the tragic news broke his heart.
"[Barksdale's] death is a major loss to Safe Streets, the communities they serve, and the entire city of Baltimore," he said. "Dante's work saved lives. This is a sobering reminder of how dangerous this frontline work is."
He added, "I will not let those who chose to violently take his life dampen the light of his work."
James Timpson, a former program leader, said, "His life was dedicated to preventing this type of stuff from happening. Nobody can believe that this happened."
Any people with information on the shooting are encouraged to call police at (410) 396-2100.
Michael Harrison, Baltimore's police commissioner, said that Barksdale's work was instrumental to spreading a message of hope in the community.
“His work in outreach, mediating conflicts and reducing gun violence in our city was invaluable and he embodied a message of redemption and peace to the many young people of our city," Harrison said.
City Council President Nick J. Mosby said that Barksdale — an "exceptional man" — was a personal friend.
"For the last decade, Dante Barksdale used his life to save others by preventing gun violence on our streets and confronting Baltimore's horrendous cycle of violence that traumatizes families and entire communities," Mosby said. "And he beat a myriad of odds to do it. ... He had an outsized impact on Safe Streets through his masterful conflict mediation skills, the passion he demonstrated in his commitment to peace and his steady presence in reducing crime on behalf of this city he absolutely loved."
You can watch a
video report on Barksdale's untimely death below.
[embedded content] Safe Streets director killed in Baltimore shooting www.youtube.com