All pieces of circumstantial evidence against man accused of murdering Baltimore Safe Streets leader Dante Barksdale – his arrest weeks later with the gun used in the deadly shooting, cell phone records place him near the scene crime scene, a video allegedly showing him — be enough for a jury to find him guilty of murder, a prosecutor told the jury on Tuesday.
But three other people were arrested, along with Garrick Powell, after a traffic stop yielded the gun that killed Barksdale, Powell’s lawyer refuted in his opening statement. In addition, the defense attorney said, the cell phone location data was deleted an hour before the shooting, and the video police used to identify Powell was pixelated at best.
Those shortcomings in the evidence amount to reasonable doubts that should dissuade a jury from finding Powell guilty, his attorney said.
Thus began the trial for Powell, 29, who is charged with first degree murder and firearms offenses following the death of Barksdale on January 17, 2021, at the Douglass Homes public housing in the city. It was a murder that shocked Baltimore because Barksdale was known as a leading peacekeeper for the Violence Prevention Group, a man who spent the last ten years of his life trying to convince the town’s young men to lay down their weapons.
Several friends, relatives and former colleagues of Barksdale occupied benches in one of the larger courtrooms in the Baltimore City Circuit Court as Judge Jennifer Schiffer swore in a jury, which was selected Monday, and allowed lawyers to review their interpretations of the evidence that will be presented. presented over the next few days.
By Tuesday afternoon, a Baltimore police officer, two crime scene technicians and a paramedic had entered the witness box to tell the jury what they had seen on a bitterly cold January morning in the heart of Douglas Homes. A chaotic scene of onlookers swearing at the police – “Get out of your .” [expletive] cars,” a bystander yelled—around Barksdale’s dead body played out in footage captured by the officer’s body-worn camera.
Two Anne Arundel County police officers testified at the ensuing traffic stop that produced a Polymer80 9mm, semi-automatic pistol, loaded with one bullet in the chamber and 30 more in an expansive warehouse. That weapon produced the nine shell casings and a single projectile found near the pool of blood on the sidewalk where Barksdale’s body rested, police and prosecutors have said.
FBI Agent Michael Fowler, who specializes in historically analyzing cell phone records, told jurors about the digital trails cell phones leave when they ping near cell towers, confessing their flaws during a sharp cross-examination.
Meanwhile, Baltimore Detective Joseph Brown Jr., the lead homicide investigator in the case, began testifying Tuesday afternoon and is expected to appear again Wednesday morning.
Detective Shane Frasier and Sgt. Brendan McGrath, of the Anne Arundel County Police Department, said that on Feb. 3, 2021, they were under surveillance outside a grocery store and liquor store on the 700-block of Church Street in Anne Arundel’s section of Brooklyn. They said they saw a silver Mercedes SUV parked in the strip mall and two people approaching the passenger side. A woman made an exchange with a passenger before the SUV took off.
Anne Arundel’s agents began following and stopped the Mercedes for speeding. Frasier said he saw people walking around in the tinted car before it came to a stop. They eventually arrested everyone inside on suspicion of gun and drug possession. They found a gun in the armrest of the rear seat, and after the car was towed to the station, the Polymer80 gun was jammed under the front passenger seat. There was Powell.
Jurors have not heard about the gun found in the armrest because it is not relevant to Powell’s murder case. All charges in Anne Arundel County over traffic congestion were dismissed.
“The only way you could get to this gun was if you were in the front seat,” Frasier said of the gun under the seat where Powell sat.
Defense attorney John Cox challenged police officers over that statement.
He stressed that Frasier didn’t even know how many people were in the car until he approached the car, and he got both officers to agree that objects in the car could shift as it moves from the crime scene to the Northern District Station in Brooklyn Park. was towed. During Cox’s questions, McGrath admitted that someone could have caught a foot under the seat, through wires and an air conditioning box.
Anne Arundel’s agents testified that the woman who traded with the Mercedes passenger outside the liquor store had a note with a phone number on her. Frasier said they have received warrants for the two phones seized during Powell’s arrest. One of the phones rang when they called the number from the note.
Powell was released pending trial on charges of gun and drug possession in Anne Arundel. By the time he was arrested for murder in Baltimore in May, he was wanted for hiding from home security.
The FBI’s Fowler mapped Powell’s location history around the time of the shooting.
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Powell’s phone was picked up twice within the radius of a tower near Pimlico Race Course, about three hours before the shooting. Fowler estimated the phone was 750 meters from the nearest cell tower to the scene of the shooting, about an hour before the murder — the technology doesn’t allow investigators to specify an exact location, and he testified he couldn’t be sure. could tell if Powell’s phone was at Douglas Court or was traveling on Route 40, known there as Orleans Street.
The phone gave no signal for the next hour; it was either turned off, switched to airplane mode or the battery was dead. About 40 minutes later, the phone popped up in Northeast Baltimore.
In his opening statement, assistant attorney Jeffrey Maylor said a video showed Barksdale in a liquor store near the 200 block of Douglas Court, where he was killed minutes before the shooting.
“When [Barksdale] entering courts, he was shot at 11 a.m. on a Sunday morning,” Maylor told the jury, adding that the video, which did not capture the shooting, also showed another man. “The person walking around in a white coat — you’ll see his gait, you’ll see his frame, and I’ll tell you it’s Mr. Powell.”
Cox focused on what investigators didn’t do: While they scanned the gun for DNA, “they didn’t fucking do anything with it,” he said. “If the DNA didn’t come back for my client, then they don’t have a case. So why would you do anything about it?”
He told the jury not to give too much weight to the weapon found under his client’s seat in the Mercedes two weeks after the murder.
“Guns are going around like a hot potato in Baltimore City,” Cox said.