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Baltimore family, reeling from daughter’s killing, struggles to provide funeral in era of coronavirus restrictions

Shannon Barmer had just started a new job and things were going well for the 22-year-old, her family said this week. She’d begun fulfilling the “dreams and goals” she’d had since graduating from Milford Mill High School in 2015, her mother, Shelleye Barmer said.

Then Friday night, as Shannon Barmer sat in a car in the 1900 block of E. Oliver St. waiting for a friend, those dreams ended. Her family said a stray bullet from a firefight struck their daughter; police are keeping mum on any details or motives.

“Everybody is shocked,” Shelleye Barmer said. “I don’t know how I will get over it. Her oldest sister cried for two days since she’s found out.”

The family’s sudden, overwhelming grief has been compounded in recent days as they try to make arrangements and provide the proper “home-going service” she deserves in this time of the coronavirus. Instead of a large group of friends and family mourning the young woman, Shelleye Barmer is navigating new rules that are still being clarified and interpreted, funeral service directors said.

Although funeral homes are considered “essential businesses” under Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan’s recent order, many of them across Baltimore say they are adapting to changes, including how many people are allowed inside the building during operational hours and changes to the way funerals and memorial services are conducted.

Brittany Green, the managing funeral director at Vaughn Greene Funeral Services, said the funeral home is “adhering to the guidelines out in place,” which it recognizes could be affecting families in “many ways.”

One of the most important things businesses can provide right now is guidance, Green said.

“This is fluid and involving,” Green said. “Of course none of us have all the answers, Latest Baltimore News but we are being forced to develop a novel response — which means providing the best guidance we can and to guide families during a difficult time.”

Michelle A. Greer, an attorney and cousin of Barmer’s, said funeral arrangements are still pending with the Joseph H. Brown Jr. Funeral Home. Greer said it has been “taxing” on the whole family already dealing, like many others, with the stress and restrictions resulting from the COVID-19 outbreak.

Some family members will not be able to attend the memorial service, Greer says. Several of Barmer’s old classmates and friends have called to say they may not be able to pay their respects, she said.

Greer says the family now can offer only a viewing with a limited crowd and cremation.

“Aside from the normal process of just grieving and what it would be under normal circumstances, that is taxing enough. But now we are also dealing with the restrictions in place,” Greer said. “Under normal circumstances, there would be a funeral and burial. But now, my aunt and uncle are being forced to do cremation. I know that is something my little cousin would not have wanted.”

Shannon Barmer was born and raised in Randallstown and graduated from Milford Mill High School in 2015, and was most recently living in the Windsor Mill and Woodlawn area. She started working at MTA Mobility this month, her mother said, after previously working in the day care business.

A Facebook post on Barmer’s page says she started work March 14, less than two weeks before she was gunned down.

Her cousin, Brianna Greer, said Barmer often spent holidays with her family and described her as a “beautiful person." Barmer was also the godmother to her son.

Families and funeral directors across Baltimore are adjusting to the new rules, and helping each other get through difficult times, they said.

At Wylie Funeral Homes, only two people are allowed to come in to plan arrangements. Viewings are limited to 10 people in the building at a time, Tinika Coleman, the Wylie funeral director, said.

Coleman said she understands the difficulties all of this is causing families — families are giving her helpful feedback — but nothing can be done.

“It’s just at this time, knowing we are in a state of emergency, we are going based on what the laws are. It is unfortunate during a time of loss that you still have those same regulations, but it is just for their safety and ours,” Coleman said.

The Barmers are learning this new system while realizing that the violence that has shaken Baltimore for so long hasn’t changed.

Shelleye Barmer said she already lost a nephew, Davron Dorsey, 21, after he was shot and killed June 27.

Baltimore City “knows its [gun] violence problem,” Barmer said. The coronavirus, state and local restrictions won’t change that, she added.

Several recent shootings support that. On the same day Shannon Barmer was killed, Corey Augustus, 33, was shot and killed in the 3600 block of 5th St. Press Release Distribution Service On Monday, 18-year-old Riyad Campbell was shot and killed in the 2400 block of Tolley St.

“There are still innocent people and young people getting murdered, but no one seems to know how to approach or handle it,” Shelleye Barmer said.

“I’m lost without my daughter. I can’t replace her. The city needs to step up their crime plan. This happens every day and I’m mad.”

She is now hoping to do “as much as I can” in remembrance of her daughter’s life.

The family started a GoFundMe for donations to Barmer’s funeral services.

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