Today marks a year since the gun insanity in Baltimore reached the McKemy family. Scott and Angie McKemy received the shocking news about the death of their 27-year-old son, Bryan, in the early afternoon of Aug. 7, 2018. Bryan was employed by a home-improvement contractor, and he was working on the rear of a house on Woodlea Avenue, in northeast Baltimore, when a couple of thugs with guns came into the backyard and started firing at the house. They were there, apparently, to kill the owner of the property, a fellow named Ryan Brunson. The spray of gunfire hit Bryan instead, and Bryan died right there. His father was at work in Laurel when he got “that dreadful call” from his screaming wife and he drove so fast he thinks he got to Woodlea Avenue in 15 minutes. He met homicide detectives and identified his son by the praying hands tattoo on his body. Bryan was the victim of the lunatic shooting that continues in our city, year after heartbreaking year, and while life goes on, while the rest of us move on, the families of the victims never really do — especially parents. “The pain is still strong, the loss very real,” Scott McKemy says. “Bryan will never walk through our door again. I will never see him get married or have a child. And the lack of justice his case has received just adds insult to injury. We want answers. We want justice for Bryan.” No arrests have been made. The lead detective on the case told Scott McKemy he had a suspect, but he did not have enough evidence to connect him directly to Bryan’s death. Hearing that added a layer of frustration to the McKemys’ awful experience. They know the name of the suspect. They know that, according to court records, he is a convicted felon who has had a lot of trouble with the law. As far as we know, he’s locked up in a detention center, awaiting trial on unrelated charges later this year.
People are killed for all kinds of reasons, and every day somewhere in America. Some die because they’re engaged in the city’s violent drug trade. Some are involved in gangs. Some diss the wrong person at the wrong time. Many shootings in Baltimore are retaliatory. Brunson, the owner of the Woodlea Avenue house, was shot to death eight months later in West Baltimore. From that stark fact you could assume that he had been a target for a long time. But even that is speculation. Police give few details to the press about suspects or motives. One thing is clear (because police confirmed it) about Bryan McKemy’s death: It was senseless. It was unnecessary. Someone with a handgun just started shooting, with no concern for who was in the way, no regard for human life. The easy availability of guns, the frequent, the incessant demand for opioids, the use of guns in the commerce of opioids, the mentality that regards homicide as remedy — those are some of the elements of this epoch of violence. It will end someday somehow, and life will go on, and the rest of us will move on, but the pain for hundreds of families like the McKemys, awash in the long wake of these terrible years in Baltimore, will always be there.