Dante Barksdale, a prominent and well-liked anti-gun violence activist in Baltimore, was fatally shot on Jan. 17 at a public housing project, according to police.
The 46-year-old community advocate was respected for his work as an outreach coordinator for the city’s Safe Streets campaign. He was shot early Sunday morning at the Douglass Homes in southeastern Baltimore.
He was rushed to a nearby hospital, where he was later pronounced dead, The New York Post reported.
More than 700 people tuned in for a virtual vigil for Barksdale on Jan. 18, The Baltimore Sun reported. Baltimore’s mayor and several local leaders spoke during the vigil.
Barksdale was “a man who saved thousands of lives in our city,” said Mayor Brandon Scott, who ordered the City Hall Dome lighted in the Safe Streets color of orange.
“City Hall is lit orange in honor of Dante Tater Barksdale and the critical work @SafeStreetsBalt does each and every day. We will not allow the light … to be dampened,” Scott tweeted.
Many went to Twitter to express their grief.
“Baltimore!!!!!! The murder of #DanteBarksdale from Safe Streets is taking my breath away… I knew him from his work and from his absolute love and commitment to making Baltimore better and safer,” one person tweeted.
Another posted, “R.I.P. to a brother who tried to make a difference. #dantebarksdale”.
Scott addressed the media about the murder, saying that Barksdale, also known as “Tater,” was the “heart and soul” of the city’s anti-gun violence program, where he worked for nine years.
His death is a major loss to the entire city of Baltimore, Scott said in a statement. “Dante’s work saved lives. This is a sobering reminder of how dangerous this frontline work is.”
A police investigation is ongoing “and we have no further updates to provide at this time,” a police spokeswoman told The New York Post in a statement.
Baltimore Police Commissioner Michael Harrison said Barksdale’s work in outreach, mediating conflicts and reducing gun violence was invaluable. “He embodied a message of redemption and peace to the many young people of our city,” Harrison said.
Barksdale often helped residents of the Douglass Homes. Recently, he delivered winter coats to residents, the Baltimore Sun reported.
The circumstances surrounding his death were not immediately clear.
Safe Streets is a program started in Baltimore to stop gun violence in the most dangerous communities in the city.
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Barksdale, who had served time in prison, was no stranger to the gun violence he wanted to stop. His uncle is Nathan “Bodie” Barksdale, an infamous Baltimore drug kingpin who inspired some of the characters in HBO’s “The Wire,” including Avon Barksdale, The New York Post reported.
Dante Barksdale wrote a memoir, “Growing Up Barksdale,” in 2009 and described spending his youth on the streets. He wrote that once he turned his life around and started to work against violence, his “reputation as a hustler” helped him connect with younger men, The Baltimore Sun reported.
Police have announced a cash reward of up to $7,000 for information leading to an arrest.