Baltimore police continue to investigate a shooting early Friday morning that left a gay aspiring photographer dead and a popular Mount Vernon community activist in critical condition.
Officials said that Joseph Alexander “Alex” Ulrich, Jr., 40, and Lawrence R. Peterson, 56, were standing on the front steps of a building near the Belvedere Hotel on East Chase Street just before 4 a.m. on Aug. 10 when shots rang out. Both victims were taken to Johns Hopkins Hospital where Ulrich died several hours later.
Peterson, who purchased Empire House, the historic 1874 brownstone that had once been Gov. William Pinkney Whyte’s private residence, in 1996 and converted it into a bed and breakfast, remains in a coma.
Police took the unusual step of releasing the victims’ photographs in hopes of generating additional leads — investigators have yet to identify any potential suspects, but Det. Jeremy Silbert of the Baltimore Police Department described one of the assailants to the Blade as a black male of average height with a medium build who was wearing dark clothes and a black baseball cap. He described the second person as a short, heavy-set black female who was wearing dark clothing and a skull cap.
Anthony Giuglielmi of the Baltimore Police Department added on Tuesday that it appears the victims’ sexual orientation did not play a role in the shooting.
“There’s no evidence thus far that it has anything to do with a hate crime,” he told the Blade.
Ulrich, who grew up in Smithsburg near Hagerstown in Washington County, attended Salisbury State University on the Eastern Shore where he was active in the school’s theater community. He had been an actor and worked with children with special needs in Gettysburg, Pa., before moving to Baltimore in the spring to start his photography career. He lived on the 900 block of North Calvert Street in Mount Vernon, the heart of the city’s gay community, with best friend Glenn Bennett.
“Knowing him was just like being inside of joy,” Bennett, who met Ulrich 20 years ago when he began studying at Salisbury State, told the Blade. “He was just the most friendly person, so very sweet and kind. He knew how to have a good time and he enjoyed a good laugh. We honestly have spent 20 years laughing hysterically together, which has been quite wonderful.”
Bennett said that a Pennsylvania art gallery had exhibited four of Ulrich’s photographs just before he died.
“He, for a very long time, had been wanting to just be a full-fledged photographer and had started working toward that,” he said. “He had been dreaming for years and years and years of moving to Baltimore and was finally able to do it and actually started to have all those things happen for him. It makes it that much more bittersweet for all of us.”
Ian Finkenbinder, who met Ulrich through Bennett, echoed these sentiments.
“Alex was an amazing funny, spirited individual who enriched and brightened the lives of everyone around him,” he said. “We are all devastated and left poorer for his absence in our lives.”
A vigil for Ulrich and Peterson is scheduled to take place tonight in West Mount Vernon Place in Baltimore at 7 p.m. A second memorial will take place in Smithsburg on Wednesday night.
Ulrich’s wake is scheduled to take place at the Rest Haven Cemetery in Hagerstown on Thursday from 6 – 9 p.m. His funeral is scheduled to take place at St. Ann’s Catholic Church in Hagerstown on Friday at 11 a.m.
Police are asking anyone with information about the shooting to call homicide detectives at (410) 396-2100. All callers will remain anonymous. Metro Crime Stoppers is also offering a reward of up to $2,000 for information leading to the arrest and indictment in this case. Call 1 866-7LOCKUP with any information.
Steve Charing contributed to this report.