18-year-old's fatal shooting by Baltimore police becomes flash point in debate over repeat offenders

How did 18-year-old Curtis Deal land back on the street before his fatal shooting by Baltimore police?

For the third time in a month, 18-year-old Curtis Deal had been arrested on gun or drug charges. Judge Nicole Taylor wanted to be sure the young man understood what was expected if she released him to wait for trial.

"You're not going out at night, you're not going to get food, you're not going to meet your girlfriend. You're in your house," Taylor told him at Monday's bail review hearing, raising her voice.

"I'm giving you an opportunity to go to school and not be in jail pending this trial. The curfew is 1 p.m., 7 days a week."

Deal said he understood. Taylor wished him luck.

The next day about 3 p.m., Deal was fatally shot by a Baltimore police detective after allegedly jumping out of a vehicle being tailed by officers and fleeing through the same neighborhood where he'd been arrested the week before. Police said the detective chasing Deal shot him because he feared for his own life. The officer's body camera captured Deal pointing his gun at the detective just before the shooting.

Almost immediately, the circumstances of Deal's release became a flash point in the growing debate in Baltimore over perceived leniency for repeat gun offenders.

"It shows dysfunction, I believe, in our criminal justice system," said Mayor Catherine Pugh. "People who have those many gun charges probably should not be on our streets."

Maryland U.S. Attorney Rod Rosenstein said authorities need to "make sure people carrying guns in the community are held accountable." He said that Deal's death was "tragic" but that the detective was "put in a situation maybe he shouldn't have been in."

An aunt said Thursday that the family was not prepared to make a statement. Deal's attorney, Jerome Bivens, also declined to comment Thursday.

Pugh and Rosenstein emphasized the context for their comments: a city reeling from gun violence, with more than a killing a day so far in 2017.

Police released body camera footage of the shooting Thursday, identifying Detective David Kincaid Jr. as the officer who fired and struck Deal four times in the abdomen, hip and finger. Police Commissioner Kevin Davis said that the shooting was justified and that he was proud of Kincaid for his brave work.

"I expect police officers to chase people who bail out of cars with guns," Davis said.

Davis also criticized Judge Taylor's decision not to keep Deal in custody Monday, saying his department "could very well be planning a police funeral right now."

Taylor declined to comment through a court spokesman. A recording of Deal's 20-minute bail review hearing the day before his death. along with court records from his prior arrests, provides insight into the judge's decision.

Deal, who turned 18 in November, was first arrested as an adult in the city just a month ago. On Jan. 4, he was charged with four handgun counts. According to court records, plainclothes officers were in an unmarked vehicle in the 1100 block of S. Carey St. that day when they observed Deal, whom they recognized, standing on a corner. Upon seeing the officers, Deal looked startled, "put his hands up in the air and shouted 'I'm leaving,'" police wrote.

As he did, an officer saw a bulge in his waistline, which the officer believed to be a gun, the records say. One of the officers got out of the vehicle and Deal ran, thus beginning an extended foot chase.

Eventually Deal was caught. The officer chasing him said he'd heard Deal throw the gun in an alley, and it was recovered, the records say. At the time, Deal was already prohibited from possessing a firearm after a previous juvenile arrest.

Deal was taken to the hospital because "he was complaining that he couldn't breathe," and later was charged. He posted $100,000 bail the next day and was released.

On Jan. 30, Deal was arrested a second time — again by plainclothes officers, again after an extended pursuit. According to court records, he'd been spotted approaching a vehicle, seeing officers, then taking off with a clenched fist, court records say.

Deal allegedly tossed a bag of suspected heroin under a car before he was caught, court records say. He was released on his own recognizance the next day.

At Deal's bail review hearing Monday, Taylor began considering his third arrest, from last week, in which he was charged with nine new gun and drug counts.

Police alleged that Deal had been involved in a large-scale drug operation in several vacant homes in the 1900 block of Frederick Ave., according to court records. Raiding the homes, officers netted a gun, ammunition, hundreds of gel caps of suspected heroin, and thousands of dollars in cash, records show. Deal had run from the location with a co-defendant in the case and both had been arrested, police said. Officers had pinned the entire haul on the pair.

In court, Taylor pressed prosecutors about the charges against Deal. She acknowledged that drug transactions were occurring at the home and that Deal and his co-defendant were in the area and had wanted to escape when police rushed in. But she noted a difference between Deal and the co-defendant.

"They want to get out of that yard, and in the yard there's a lot of money, and on his co-defendant there's a lot of money and there's lots of gel caps. But on Mr. Deal there's no money, no drugs, no gun?" Taylor asked.

"He's an active participant in a large-scale sale of drugs," said Assistant State's Attorney David Chiu, arguing for the state. "This isn't someone who just happened to be there."

Chiu pointed out that Deal was already out on $100,000 bail from his previous gun case at the time of this arrest.

"Given the connection of violence and drugs and guns and the enormous amount of drugs that were being sold here, while he's out on bail for guns, the state thinks he poses a continuing and extreme risk to public safety," Chiu said.

Taylor asked Bivens, Deal's attorney, what he thought.

"Judge, this was a lot of confusion, a whole lot of people, and this is the standard scenario: We see two black guys running, we're going to lock them up," Bivens said.

Bivens said Deal was in his last year at Digital Harbor High School. His family attended church, he played basketball. "He tells me that his intention is to go into the Army and to study engineering," Bivens said.

Taylor said she understood all the facts in the case weren't clear, but noted Deal's pending gun and drug charges.

"And now here he is running allegedly from an area where there's lots of guns and drugs," Taylor said.

She then released Deal on a $250,000 unsecured bond — meaning he put no money down — under the conditions that he follow his curfew and provide proof of his attending school to the court.

"Best of luck to you, Mr. Deal," Taylor said as the hearing concluded.

Baltimore Sun reporter Justin Fenton contributed to this article.

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