ANNAPOLIS, MD– In a tragic event, the mother of an incoming Midshipman at the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland was shot and killed by a stray bullet, hours after dropping her son off for his first year at the prestigious institute.
According to reports, 57-year-old Michelle Cummings, and her husband Leonard, were sitting on a hotel patio with another couple shortly after 12:01 a.m. on Tuesday, June 29th when shots were fired nearby, and a stray bullet struck Cummings.
According to police, despite their best efforts, first responders were unable to save her, and she was declared dead at the scene.
BREAKING Annapolis Police tell me 57 y/o Michelle Jordan Cummings & her husband were on a hotel patio this morning.
Stray bullet hit Cummings & she died. She & husband were in town to “see their son off” for the Naval Academy. He is Navy Football Prospecthttps://t.co/5H8WIXjvDl pic.twitter.com/996NUxLj1W
— Shomari Stone (@shomaristone) June 29, 2021
Annapolis Police Chief Edward Jackson told reporters on Tuesday that Cummings was not the intended target of the shooting.
Jackson said the family had come from Houston to get their son, who is also a football prospect, settled in at school. Members of the Naval Academy Class of 2025 took their Oath of Office on Wednesday evening, CNN reported.
Jackson told reporters:
“My heart does go out to the family,”
He went on to say:
“You come here with the expectation to see your son go on a journey in one of the most exciting times of his life only to be met by a reckless shooter.”
Cummings son was identified by the U.S. Naval Academy on social media as Midshipman Candidate Leonard Cummings III.
Earlier today, the @AnnapolisPD identified the woman shot and killed earlier this morning as Michelle Jordan Cummings of Houston. She was the proud mom of Midshipman Candidate Leonard Cummings III, a 2021 NAPS grad & incoming plebe (freshman) for the USNA Class of 2025.
— U.S. Naval Academy (@NavalAcademy) June 30, 2021
Superintendent Vice Adm. Sean Buck said in the statement:
“As members of our Naval Academy family, we will do all that we can to support Leonard, his father and the entire Cummings family during this unfathomable time,”
The statement went on to say:
“My wife, Joanne, and I, on behalf of all of us here in Annapolis, offer our deepest sympathies.”
"As members of our Naval Academy family, we will do all that we can to support Leonard, his father and the entire Cummings family during this unfathomable time. My wife, Joanne, and I, on behalf of all of us here in Annapolis, offer our deepest sympathies." – VADM Buck
— U.S. Naval Academy (@NavalAcademy) June 30, 2021
The Naval Academy’s Public Affairs office told CNN in an email that Midshipman Cummings completed his check-in process Wednesday, and has departed on emergency leave.
Jackson said several shots were fired at a parked car and that the shots “traveled a distance” before Cummings was shot.
Jackson added that detectives were working non-stop, reviewing surveillance video from the area and other evidence, in an effort to find the suspects in this case.
“What I’ll say to the shooter is, ‘Turn yourself in. We’re coming for you,’”
Jackson added that the FBI and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives are assisting in the investigation and authorities are offering a $20,000 reward for information in the case.
Annapolis Mayor Gavin Buckley told reporters that authorities are focusing on getting guns off the streets.
“This city’s heart is broken. Somebody has lost their mom on the proudest day, probably, in her life,”
“There are no circumstances where this can be tolerated.”
— Capital Gazette (@capgaznews) June 30, 2021
Cummings was very active at the school and the community and was president of the football booster club at her son’s school, according to reports.
According to CNN, Cummings talked to KTRK last year when her son and two other Westfield High School teammates committed to play football at the Naval Academy and was beaming with pride at a parade for the players.
Cummings said at the time:
“It melts my heart. I love this kid dearly. He has done everything we’ve asked him to do,”
“We could not ask for a better son.”
Her son Leonard got emotional when talking to KTRK at last year’s parade.
He told KTRK:
“She is probably one of the greatest moms in the world. I’ll always tell her this. I always tell her I love her, I give her a kiss on the cheek,”
“I just love my mom.”
Friends of the family have set up a GoFundMe campaign to help the Cummings family pay for funeral expenses and to transport her body to her hometown of Baton Rouge, Louisiana.
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Police-defunded Baltimore: Suspect charged in Israeli man’s murder was arrested for another crime the same day
June 8, 2021
BALTIMORE, MD – One of three men charged with the murder of Israeli citizen Efraim Gordon on May 3 in Baltimore was arrested for another crime the same day but released from custody.
THREE ARRESTED: Baltimore Charge Three Teens In Murder Of Efraim Gordon Z”L https://t.co/Z50Z9jTwC3
— Bitesize World News (@Bitesizewn) June 6, 2021
18-year-old William Clinton was one of three teens charged in Gordon’s murder in Northwest Baltimore last month. Clinton, 18, and a 16-year-old and a 17-year-old are being held without bail, police said.
Gordon was fatally shot multiple times in what police said appeared to be a robbery. He was taken to a nearby hospital, where he died.
On the same day as the shooting, Clinton was arrested by Baltimore police after being pursued in a stolen 2010 Burgundy Lexus SUV just before 8 p.m. He was arrested and charged with theft and unlawful taking of a motor vehicle.
🇺🇸✡️ — UPDATE: Three suspects have been charged with first-degree murder in the shooting of 31-year-old Israeli Efraim Gordon who was visiting relatives in Baltimore last month. He was tragically shot multiple times in what police said appeared to be a robbery. pic.twitter.com/ccI1RSliaH
— Belaaz (@TheBelaaz) June 6, 2021
Clinton was booked and taken before a “judicial officer,” who released Clinton from custody with conditions.
Police later determined the stolen SUV was used by the trio to flee the scene of Gordon’s murder. It is unclear if investigators had determined Clinton was a suspect in the murder prior to his arrest and release for the stolen vehicle.
When asked if police were aware of Clinton’s involvement in the earlier murder at the time of his arrest for the stolen vehicle, a Baltimore Police spokesperson told media:
“No, MDTA Police Officers attempted to stop the vehicle because it had been reported as stolen.”
'This Is A Step Toward Healing For Us' Family Reacts To Arrest Of Suspects In Murder Of Israeli Tourist, Efraim Gordon https://t.co/00lKberS1h
— Terrence L. Blackwell (@TBlackwe85) June 5, 2021
When asked why a person charged with stealing a vehicle would be released from custody, the spokesperson said:
“MDTA Police Officers transported Clinton to the Baltimore Central Booking & Intake Center, where a judicial officer determined pretrial release conditions.”
Gordon traveled to Baltimore from Israel for a weeklong visit with family and to attend his cousin’s wedding. He was shot as he walked back to his aunt and uncle’s house.
The three suspects, including Clinton, were arrested on June 4, a month after Clinton was released from police custody. Police said video evidence led them to the suspects.
Efraim Gordon, 31, was shot and killed on May 3, in the 3700 block of Fords Lane in northwest Baltimore, police said. Family and friends said Gordon was visiting from Israel to attend his cousin's wedding.
— WBAL NewsRadio 1090 and FM 101.5 (@wbalradio) June 5, 2021
Mayor Brandon Scott issued a statement regarding the murder of Gordon:
“No family should be forced to endure the insufferable pain of losing a loved one to gun violence,” Mayor Brandon Scott said in a statement.
“As this family continues to heal, I remain committed to working with (Police Commissioner Michael Harrison) to build a safer Baltimore and finally put a halt to the long legacy of gun violence that plagues our city.”
Baltimore, like many cities across the country, is facing a surge in violent crime following a year of calls to defund the police and for judicial reforms. As of June 7, the city has suffered 143 homicides this year.
There have been 32 homicides in the last 30 days, and five this week.
After defunding police in 2020, violence-plagued Baltimore looks to huge increase in police budget
May 14, 2021
BALTIMORE, MD – In a reversal of a defunding move last year, Baltimore’s spending board has approved a proposed budget which includes an increase in police spending.
In June of 2020, in the wake of demands from protesters to defund the police, the Baltimore City Council approved a $22.4 million cut to Baltimore’s $550 million police budget, with the approval of then-mayor Jack Young. Cuts included $6 million slashed from police overtime, and $1.8 million cut from police marine and mounted units.
— Jayne Miller (@jemillerwbal) June 16, 2020
On Wednesday, May 12, 2021, however, Baltimore’s spending board gave the nod to a proposed $28 million increase in police spending.
According to the Baltimore Sun, the city’s budget, totaling $4.3 billion, was approved 4-0, with one abstention.
The proposed police budget is now to total $555 million. Line item details will not be available for several days, but the Baltimore Sun reports that:
“City budget officials have said the increase does not fund new programs and is instead needed to pay for employee health insurance and higher obligations for police pensions.”
This is the first budget proposal under new Democratic Baltimore Mayor Brandon Scott, who took office in December of 2020.
Scott has come under fire for the proposed increase in police spending from local residents who have been consistently calling for defunding the police.
Baltimore’s spending board approved a proposed budget with an $28 million increase in police spending Wednesday, setting the stage for City Council to consider the plan.https://t.co/0vqFdLFE4J
— The Baltimore Sun (@baltimoresun) May 12, 2021
The Baltimore Sun reports that at an April Taxpayer’s Meeting, “[a]ngry residents” were decrying the proposed police budget increase, demanding instead that $100 million be cut from the police budget, and for millions to be added to “social programs such as affordable housing, after-school programs, crisis centers and substance abuse treatment.”
At that meeting, the Sun notes, Scott defended the budget, saying it meant that there would be a “‘continuity of services’” as Baltimore continues to deal with the repercussions of the coronavirus pandemic.
Scott added that the budget does not “reflect the direction I want to and we will move in the future.”
Indeed, Scott’s approval of a police budget increase at this time may not indicate his long-term strategy when it comes to dealing with police and crime in Baltimore.
The Sun reports that Scott has advocated for diverting some 911 calls to “crisis counselors,” and “rethinking how much money is spent on police.”
In addition, the Sun notes that he has “advocated in the past for cuts to police spending in favor of community enrichment efforts.”
Scott also announced in April his plans for a Task Force that would look into decreasing the police budget over five years.
But for now, the mayor is dealing with an increase in violent crime in Baltimore, with homicides up 17% over last year at this time.
Baltimore cut police funding, police… crime has risen so much… they needed peacekeeping and justice… AND presto: increased police/funding. Who didn’t see this coming? I did! MN, same thing. https://t.co/datPVwcboI
— CRUZ FOR THE PEOPLE (CA-36) (@RealErinCruz) May 14, 2021
Persistent gun violence in Baltimore, according to crime analyst Jeff Asher, is also deeply concerning, as it has “settled into a long-term trend.”
Shocking violence against children has even made recent headlines in the city, as 5 children under the age of 18 were shot in less than a week in March.
The violent trends have led to pressure on Scott from Maryland’s Republican Governor Larry Hogan, with Hogan “repeatedly lobb[ing] criticism” against Scott over Baltimore crime.
On May 4, Hogan pointed to Baltimore’s violent crime issues and spoke specifically against police defunding, writing on Twitter:
“The increase of violent crime in Baltimore City is unacceptable.
“Rather than defunding our police, we need to invest more in law enforcement, pass better laws to hold violent criminals accountable, and we need prosecutors who will actually prosecute those laws.”
Rather than relying solely on status quo "solutions" and #MAGA talking points, how about actually meeting with me to discuss violent crime, gun trafficking, or restarting the Criminal Justice Coordinating Council — as I've asked before?@GovLarryHogan, I'm ready when you are. https://t.co/yArXJgC76C
— Brandon M. Scott (@MayorBMScott) May 4, 2021
Mayor Scott responded with a tweet of his own, saying:
“Rather than relying solely on status quo “solutions” and #MAGA talking points, how about actually meeting with me to discuss violent crime, gun trafficking, or restarting the Criminal Justice Coordinating Council — as I’ve asked before?
“@GovLarryHogan, I’m ready when you are.”
After this tense exchange, the pair agreed to a closed-door meeting in Annapolis on May 13 to discuss the violent crime situation further. Details are unavailable at this time, but Scott reported the exchange as “very productive” and that he made progress in coordinating with the State.
So at this point, Mayor Scott and Governor Hogan appear to be in agreement that defunding the police in Baltimore is not the proper approach right now.
Given the increasing violence that continues to plague Baltimore, one might wonder whether local residents might consider taking a step back to weigh the current direction of both the Governor and Mayor.
Instead, the push for defunding is expected to continue, even as homicides have increased.
Defund police movement grows in Baltimore, local citizens tell mayor the $28 million budget increase for Baltimore PD is UNNACETABLE. https://t.co/QhVrhlOe0U #defund #police #PoliceReformNow pic.twitter.com/dHFkLSO0mZ
— Michael Owens (@MikeOwensArt) May 8, 2021
An article by The Real News suggests that one explanation for residents’ continued desire to defund police is, in an interesting twist, the increase in crime.
The authors point to an organization called Organizing Black, whose message to residents is that money is “wasted” on policing in Baltimore. They suggest that Organizing Black has implied to residents a correlation between police budget and increasing crime, saying:
“As the police budget grows each year, homicides and nonfatal shootings increase as well.”
The authors also suggest that continued support for police defunding exists because “Baltimore has tried just about everything other than defunding its police.”
For example, they note that the ACLU has sued the city twice over “unconstitutional policing.” In addition, they state that the police department has had 10 commissioners since 2000, and has been under DOJ investigation for civil rights violations.
Whether many Baltimore locals continue to justify defunding as an approach to handling crime, or as something they feel simply needs to be tried, or even simply because they dislike the police, they most certainly will be watching the continued budget process and the actions of Mayor Scott and the City Council closely.
Baltimore’s budget will be in the hands of the City Council beginning Monday, May 17, and the final budget must be approved by June 24.
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