Prison reform? Former federal prosecutor why suspects in the ambush shooting of a cop weren’t already in prison

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BALTIMORE, MD – The two suspects in the ambush-style shooting of a Baltimore Police Officer have violent histories – so much so that a former city and federal prosecutor is questioning why they were not in prison.

Baltimore Police Officer Keona Holley lays in the Shock Trauma Center fighting for her life after allegedly being shot by 31-year-old Elliott Knox and 32-year-old Travon Shaw. Both suspects have violent histories as noted by Baltimore Police Commissioner Michael Harrison:

“I don’t know that they [Knox and Shaw] were actually on supervised probation at the moment. They both, one more than the other, have a pretty extensive criminal history and in more than one jurisdiction.”

Shaw, who is scheduled to go to court for possession of a firearm by a convicted felon in March, had previously been convicted for armed robbery and assault when he was 17 years old in 2006.

Former city and federal prosecutor Thiru Vignarajah expressed his concern that Shaw was allowed to go free, given his violent history and a gun charge.

Vignarajah said:

“With respect to this individual being out, I think we should be concerned about that. When I was a federal prosecutor there were certain categories of crimes for which there was a presumption that the person was potentially dangerous and therefore couldn’t be released on bail.

Carrying a gun after having a prior felony conviction, by the way, a prior felony conviction for a violent crime, ought to fall into the category. In those circumstances, judges ought to be incredibly reticent to let a person out on their own recognizance.

That does seem strange and it requires a change not only in the legislation but also in the judicial attitude toward these kinds of crimes.”

While Vignarajah specifically is talking about Shaw here, it is important to note that Knox also has a violent history. Knox’s first interaction with the criminal justice system, at least according to news reports, was when he was 16 years old.

Knox was arrested and convicted of using a gun to rob three different convenience stores. Upon his conviction, a judge ordered that Knox serve 15 years in prison, however, up until now, he was free. It is unknown if he is on any type of probation or parole at the time of the shooting.

Vignarajah noted how the case in this incident was solved, by good old-fashioned police work and hitting the ground while searching for leads. Vignarajah points to that aspect of the investigation being crucial and wants all homicide cases treated in the same manner.

Vignarajah said:

“We want all cases to be treated at this high-level where dozens of officers are canvassing the neighborhood, looking for camera footage. That’s what gave ultimately the lead to the car. They followed that car. They were able to do a search.

They interrogated the first suspect. All of those critical steps are possible when you devote resources, and yes there’s a lot of murders, but if we’re going to devote resources to anything at all it should be to these homicides.

“We have one of the lowest clearance rates in the country. That’s nothing to celebrate that we’re a couple percentage points up from last year. Violent crime is now up in every category, from homicides to shooting to carjacking to rapes. It’s higher than it’s ever been. That’s a problem and we ought to realize if we devote the resources to these serious crimes, we actually can bring a measure of justice and comfort to these families.”

Two men arrested and charged with the attempted murder of a Chicago cop after shooting him during a traffic stop

Arrests made in ambush shooting that left Baltimore officer on life-support (silence from Black Lives Matter)

BALTIMORE, MD – In police-defunded Baltimore, two men have been arrested for the ambush shooting of an officer that left her on life support and the homicide of another man early Thursday.

 

Officer Keona Holley, a two-year veteran of the Baltimore Police Department, is on life support after being ambushed inside her patrol car at 1:35 a.m. Thursday in South Baltimore’s Curtis Bay neighborhood.

Commissioner Michael Harrison said the officer was shot when the gunmen approached the patrol car from the rear and fired into the car, striking Officer Holley at least twice.

Officer Holley’s sister, Lawanda Sykes, spoke out following the shooting:

“The person who did this to my sister, you are a coward. She is stronger than you will ever be, and the force behind her is stronger than you will ever be. You didn’t take anything.

You just made us realize how much she’s needed, how much she’s loved, how much she’s appreciated. She left out of her house every day and dug her feet into the dirt to serve this city. She deserves better.”

 

Now police believe they have the “cowards” in custody. Harrison identified the suspects as Elliot Knox, 31, and Travon Shaw, 32. Both are being charged with attempted murder in Holley’s shooting and with murder in the killing of Justin Johnson, 38.

Baltimore Mayor Brandon Scott called the shooting of Holly “brazen,” and said the violence against police must stop:

“These were brazen acts of violence, and it shows how far we have to go to show people and to make sure that folks understand that this cannot continue. You cannot snuff someone out for something so petty. You cannot think that our police officers should be a target for you.”

 Baltimore City State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby, who has been an advocate for judicial reform and has ordered her own office to stop prosecuting “minor crimes” like marijuana possession, said the shootings would not be tolerated:

“In this moment, I cannot overstate how angry and disheartened we all are that we continue to have those in our community who are intent on committing violent acts, especially against law enforcement officers. It is unacceptable and we will not tolerate it.”

Harrison said there was significant evidence linking the two men to the ambush of Officer Holley, including video and license plate reader data. The evidence allowed the Regional Auto Theft Task Force to locate a vehicle linked to the shooting.

Police first located Knox, who confessed to the shooting and pointed police to Shaw, according to media reports.

Harrison said the shooters knew Johnson, who was the father of three children, but said the victim may not have known the suspects:

“While we had extensive interviews, we don’t quite have motive. We don’t know why they did this. We have absolute confessions that they did it, they were there. We don’t have motive as to why.”

Police have not determined if the shooting of Johnson was in any way related to the shooting of Officer Holley.

Officer Holley had volunteered for the midnight shift when the shooting occurred. Shock Trauma’s Physician-in-Chief Dr. Thomas Scalea said Holley was “critically ill” and on “full life support” in t the intensive care unit. He said:

“These are injuries that are going to evolve over some time.”

Officers found Holley in her patrol car after it accelerated after she was shot and crashed into a park fence. A disgusting and depraved moment was caught on video posted on social media showing the immediate aftermath of the shooting.

The Instagram video shows Officer Holley’s patrol car crashed into the playground fence while two people shooting the video discuss whether or not they should help the officer. One person in the video said:

“Don’t call the police.”

A woman nearby tells the man:

“We can’t let them die.”

 

Council President Nick Mosby said he was angered by the ambush shooting and the video:

“There’s been a lot of divisive talk over the past several years around police, around connecting with our community, around violence. But tonight, this is reality. The reality is men and women do their best job to put on Baltimore Police Department uniforms and go to protect our citizens. … We should all take this very personally.

“I ask the citizens of Baltimore, if you do not have information [that could solve the case], to just pray.”

Senate President Bill Ferguson, who represents Curtis Bay, visited the Southern District police station Thursday morning to meet with officers in shock over the ambush of their fellow officer and mother of four. He said:

“It’s a level of depravity that just shakes us to our core. I hope it’s wake-up call that we are on a trajectory that does not work.

“Everyone has to put their ego aside, get around a table and say, ‘This cannot continue.’”

Officer Holley joined the police department in 2019, at the age of 37. During a 2020 interview with Insider, the young officer said she joined the department to improve police/community relations:

“I feel like Baltimore city police officers have a bad name about themselves. And we have to change that — and change it together.”

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