A leader of a city campaign to quell gun violence in Baltimore who was widely recognized for canvassing streets prone to gang wars with words of reconciliation was shot and killed on Sunday, the authorities said.
Dante Barksdale, an outreach coordinator for the city’s Safe Streets program, was found at about 11:17 a.m. with a gunshot wound to his head near the Douglass Homes, a public housing complex in the southeastern part of Baltimore, the police said.
He was taken to Johns Hopkins Hospital, where he died a short time later, officials said.
Mr. Barksdale, 46, went by the nickname Tater and was a nephew of Nathan Barksdale, the now-deceased narcotics trafficker known as Bodie who was an inspiration for the character Avon Barksdale in the HBO crime series “The Wire.” Dante Barksdale drew upon his time in prison for selling drugs and his experience growing up in the projects for his outreach work.
His death jolted 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 on 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 violently take his life dampen the light of his work,” Mr. Scott said. “Dante’s work saved lives. This is a sobering reminder of how dangerous this frontline work is.”
It was not immediately clear if Mr. Barksdale was on the job when he was shot or if he had been targeted. Homicide detectives are investigating the killing, the police said.
Michael S. Harrison, the city’s police commissioner, credited Mr. Barksdale with helping to de-escalate crimes in Baltimore.
“His work in outreach, mediating conflicts and reducing gun violence in our city was invaluable,” Mr. Harrison said, “and he embodied a message of redemption and peace to the many young people of our city.”
It was not immediately clear if Mr. Barksdale had any survivors.
Erricka Bridgeford, a co-founder of the gun violence prevention group Baltimore Ceasefire 365, mourned Mr. Barksdale’s death in a tweet on Sunday.
“My level of shock & pain at his murder make my knees buckle,” Ms. Bridgeford said. In another post, she added: “What I know is that Tater’s soul is unleashed to continue doing the work in ways that will be miraculous. We have not been left alone. We just gained a mighty warrior in this spiritual warfare.”
Mr. Barksdale was the subject of a series of profiles by local and national news media outlets about his outreach efforts, including a 2014 article by The Atlantic that ran with the headline “Walking the Streets of Baltimore With the Other Barksdale.”
Mr. Barksdale, who grew up in the city’s projects, wrote about his life in a 2019 book, “Growing Up Barksdale: A True Baltimore Story.”
According to the website Baltimore Beat, he also appeared in the 2018 documentary “Charm City,” which examined violence in Baltimore after the 2015 killing of Freddie Gray, the 25-year-old Black man who died of a severe spinal cord injury while in police custody.
Nick J. Mosby, the president of the Baltimore City Council, paid tribute to Mr. Barksdale on Twitter on Sunday.
“Dante Barksdale used his life to save others by preventing gun violence on our streets,” Mr. Mosby said. “He beat a myriad of odds to do it. Dante was my friend, and I grieve with countless others at the murder of this exceptional man.”
Nicholas Bogel-Burroughs contributed reporting.