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Three teens plead guilty in Baltimore mass shooting case

Investigators look for more evidence as trash is swept up following the shooting of 30 people, including two who died, at a block party at Brooklyn Homes early Sunday, July 2, 2023. (Amy Davis/Baltimore Sun/TNS)

Three teens pleaded guilty Monday to varying charges stemming from the mass shooting at the Brooklyn Homes community last summer.

Two of the defendants, ages 15 and 16, pleaded guilty to first-degree assault and being a prohibited person in possession of a handgun, with prosecutors agreeing to a sentence of 25 years incarceration with all but five years suspended.

Both of them had been charged with attempted murder, a range of firearms offenses and inciting a riot. The Baltimore Sun does not name minors accused of crimes.

An 18-year-old, who was a minor at the time of the chaotic shooting, never faced charges involving violence. He was charged with inciting a riot and firearms offenses. He pleaded guilty to minor in possession of a firearm and got one year in prison.

The agreements conclude three of five prosecutions stemming from the July 2, 2023, shootout that left two dead and 28 others wounded. What began as an annual community celebration that night devolved into disaster, becoming one of the highest casualty shootings in Baltimore’s history.

Tristan Jackson and Aaron Brown, both 19, each face seven counts of attempted murder and conspiracy to commit murder, as well as a range of firearms offenses. Both are also charged with inciting a riot.

Prosecutors have extended plea offers, the terms of which have not been disclosed, to Jackson and Brown.

Plea negotiations intensified after Baltimore Circuit Judge Jeffrey M. Geller in March rejected prosecutors’ request to prosecute all five defendants together. Geller ordered three separate trials, one for the 18-year-old, another for the defendants aged 15 and 16, and a third for Jackson and Brown.

At the hearing preceding Geller’s order, defense attorneys raised doubts about the strength of the state’s case. They said the identifications of their clients were unreliable, and that the state’s sense of the sequence of events that night was murky at best.

Prosecutors had argued all 142 charges against the five defendants related to their “creating terror” either by opening fire or by handling a gun.

Amongst the debris left from a party attended by hundreds, police collected more than 100 cartridge casings fired by at least 12 different guns. But police and prosecutors have not determined who shot which of the 28 people who survived gunshot injuries. For the defendants accused of opening fire, they are charged with the attempted murder of “unknown victims.”

To this day, nobody has been arrested yet for the fatal shootings of 18-year-old Aaliyah Gonzalez and 20-year-old Kylis Fagbemi, whose families intend to sue the city. Their attorneys say the mass casualty event was preventable, citing official reports that indicated Baltimore Police had passed up opportunities to intervene before gunfire erupted.

Video footage showed Jackson and Brown arrived at the party in a gray sedan along with the 15-year-old and 16-year-old, according to a court filing from prosecutors. Detectives apparently identified them from what prosecutors described as distinctive clothing, even though one defense attorney said CCTV footage from the public housing community did not have color.

Investigators followed the group’s movement throughout the crowd by reviewing the video footage, watching as celebration turned to chaos around 12:30 a.m., when “an initial shooting occurred within the large crowd gathered around the stair area of the 800 (block) of Gretna Ct.,” prosecutors wrote in the filing.

Nineteen cartridge casings found in the “stair area” were “consistent with” having been fired by guns police eventually confiscated from Brown, the 15-year-old and 16-year-old.

Ballistics analysis suggested bullets test-fired from the confiscated guns were consistent with casings recovered in various areas of the sprawling crime scene.

The 18-year-old, who was 17 at the time of the shooting, was pictured in a video on social media pulling a gun out of a backpack. He later told his mother he had a toy gun at the party, according to a filing from prosecutors, and his defense attorney has always maintained the gun was a toy.


© 2024 The Baltimore Sun

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