Tyree Moorehead became well known in Baltimore for his anti-violence activism, using spray paint to mark “No Shoot Zones” at shooting and homicide scenes across the city.
During a yearslong effort to quell the pervasive violence plaguing his community, Moorehead often spoke publicly about his personal experiences, including in social media posts and interviews about moving forward after surviving gunshot wounds himself.
But on Sunday afternoon, his life ended in an act of violence.
A Baltimore Police officer opened fire on Moorehead after responding to a 911 call about a woman being attacked near the intersection of Lafayette and North Fulton avenues in West Baltimore. Witnesses reported hearing at least a dozen shots fired.
Moorehead, 46, was pronounced dead at a local hospital shortly after the shooting.
As loved ones processed the tragic news Monday, they described his untimely death against a backdrop of trauma and escalating mental health challenges. They said Moorehead displayed increasingly volatile behavior in recent months, even as he remained dedicated to his anti-violence work.
Baltimore Police Commissioner Michael Harrison said Moorehead was assaulting a woman on the ground, armed with “a very large knife,” when officers arrived on the scene around 3:40 p.m. Sunday.
After police ordered him to drop the knife and get down, Moorehead rolled over on top of the woman, Harrison said. That’s when an officer opened fire. Harrison said Sunday that the officer fired multiple times, but he did not specify how many.
Officials said the woman was not stabbed or shot; medics treated her for minor injuries at the scene. It remains unclear whether she and Moorehead knew each other before the alleged attack.
Two officers were present when the shooting occurred, but only one appeared to have fired his weapon, Baltimore Police Department spokesperson Lindsey Eldridge said. Both were placed on administrative leave.
Demontea Madison, who witnessed the shooting from the median of Fulton Avenue, said the officer kept shooting, telling the man repeatedly to drop the knife, even though he already seemed to be dying.
“That’s what made me upset,” he said. “He didn’t have to shoot him like that.”
Others raised similar questions about the number of shots fired, especially since Moorehead was at close range, not running away.
His father, Carlton Moorehead, also witnessed the deadly encounter, which unfolded near his home. The man said he didn’t understand why police shot his son, who appeared to be complying with their commands.
“The police should not have shot him so many times,” he said.
He declined to discuss the shooting at length Monday, saying he didn’t want to relive those horrific moments. Tyree was his third son lost to violence.
“I don’t want to put my mind on it,” the father said. “I have no sons left.”
Tyree Moorehead, who often identified himself as Tyree Colion, gained a following as a local rapper and launched his anti-violence campaign after being released from prison in 2012 following 20 years behind bars. He was 15 when Baltimore Police arrested him in what they called a drug-related killing in the Lafayette Courts public housing complex.
Over the past decade, Moorehead tagged more than 200 “No Shoot Zones” across Baltimore.
In the hours before his death Sunday afternoon, he posted a lengthy live video on Instagram, telling his followers that “the real God” had given him instructions. He said there were forces working against him, including Satan, gang leaders and “the oppressor.”
“This is how they’ve killed every prophet before me, every rapper,” he said. “The first person that thinks something is going to happen to me, I want y’all to know, the whole world will go boom.”
His partner of almost two years, Angelia McDonald, also appeared in the video.
She said in an interview Monday that she left for work around 3 p.m. Sunday, even though Moorehead begged her to stay. He even told her: “That’ll be the last time you see me.”
“It’s like he knew the police were going to kill him,” she said.
She said his mental health seemed to be deteriorating rapidly.
Earlier in the weekend, Moorehead had chased a stranger while holding a knife. McDonald said she intervened, but when the two men met later at a gas station, Moorehead had no memory of their earlier encounter.
She noticed his behavior was changing Wednesday. He would do or say things and later forget them, she said. Although he sometimes regained his senses, he was increasingly paranoid.
“He was talking and saying he wouldn’t want to live anymore,” she said. “He wasn’t suicidal, but he didn’t want to live anymore.”
McDonald said she considered calling an ambulance to take him to the hospital for mental health treatment, but she believed he wouldn’t agree to go.
His paranoia extended to medical facilities, which was why he walked out of Johns Hopkins Hospital in a gown, with an IV stuck in his arm, after he was shot in August, she said.
“So many times he was crying out for help and nobody would help,” she said.
Moorehead was hospitalized after the August shooting in East Baltimore. In a video posted to his Instagram, a bleeding Moorehead said he was going to the store when he was attacked. That followed a 2017 stabbing that left Moorehead injured. He live-streamed the aftermath of the violence, which police called a domestic incident.
When he was well, Moorehead was compassionate, loved animals and was good with kids, McDonald said. He often would return physically exhausted from painting “No Shoot Zones” in hopes of protecting women and children from violence.
“He loved people so much that he sacrificed that for them,” his partner said.
Charlene Jenkins, a local chaplain who runs a weekly mental health workshop in Baltimore, said she first learned of Moorehead through his advocacy and later got to know him personally.
In recent months, through his social media posts, it became clear that Moorehead’s mental health was suffering, she said. Jenkins invited him to her workshop, hoping to help.
Moorehead was always walking around the city, she said. You might see him downtown, on the east side, the west side. And whenever Jenkins ran into him, she said, he’s say: “How you doin’, queen? You look nice today.”
“I think he did things to make other people happy,” Jenkins said. “I don’t know if he was really happy himself.”
Housing activist Christina Flowers described Moorehead as a friend and fellow radical who supported a protest she recently helped organize at a homeless encampment under Interstate 83. Flowers said she last spoke to him Saturday.
“He was definitely somebody that made his mark on the city,” she said, but he recently had been “going through it” in his personal life.
“He kept saying the police was going to be the ones to kill him,” she said.
Flowers visited the shooting scene Monday afternoon to leave blue, gold and silver balloons that spelled “Tyree.”
Court records suggest Moorehead had a history of tense encounters with law enforcement, including at least two arrests for spray-painting.
In July 2019, Baltimore County officers arrested him for painting on a sidewalk near 54th Street and Eastern Avenue. Officers described Moorehead as “very confrontational,” saying he called them racist.
He also told officers: “You locked up a spray painter. There’s people shooting people out here and you locked me up for spray painting,” according to a police report.
He then told the officers about his “No Shoot Zone” advocacy.
In September 2021, Moorehead was arrested on assault charges in Baltimore County after witnesses reported he was yelling at schoolchildren and making vulgar comments. When neighbors confronted him at his house, he emerged with a knife in his waistband and punched one of them, according to charging documents.
A woman also filed two requests for restraining orders against Moorehead within the past two years, saying he was stalking and threatening her, including with a “large dagger.” Both requests were ultimately denied.
His death marks the second shooting by Baltimore Police this year.
Staff from the Maryland Attorney General’s Office are jointly investigating Sunday’s shooting along with the Baltimore Police Department’s Special Investigation Response Team. Beginning last year, the Independent Investigations Division of the attorney general’s office investigates all deadly uses of force by officers across the state.
At the scene Monday morning, someone had sprayed a “No Shoot Zone” message on the sidewalk in Moorehead’s honor. The black paint was still slightly sticky.
Across the street, his signature phrase adorned the side of a rowhouse: “No Shoot Zone #1″