BALTIMORE — Authorities say the slaying of a popular Baltimore rapper shows how retaliation killings are helping to drive a historic spike in violence in the city.

The Baltimore Sun reports ( ) that investigators say the shooting of rapper Tyriece “Lor Scoota” Watson last summer was set in motion by a shooting across town a few hours earlier. Authorities say the rapper’s alleged killer, Cortez Mitchell, targeted him because a friend of Watson’s had shot a friend of Mitchell’s.

And Mitchell was shot to death four months later in what authorities believe was more retaliation.

Baltimore had 344 homicides in 2015, its deadliest year per capita. The city had 318 murders in 2016. So far, there have been 152 homicides through Saturday, putting the city on pace to surge past both numbers.

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