Trial continues for teen sought in Catonsville raid where officer died

The Winters Lane neighborhood in Catonsville had been on edge for more than a week. A man was shot in front of a neighborhood bar, and police were asking about Rasheed Stanford, 16, one of a group of kids who hung out at a white clapboard house on the corner of Roberts Avenue.

On Aug. 28, nine days after the shooting, police arrived before dawn at the Roberts Avenue house with a warrant for Stanford's arrest.

Stanford wasn't there, but Baltimore County Officer Jason Schneider became involved in a struggle that would lead to one of the department's worst tragedies in years.

Schneider, 36, a married father of two, was killed, along with 25-year-old resident Tevon Smith, in an exchange of gunfire during that morning raid. Another teen inside the house when police entered, Taquan Barney, now 18, has been charged with firearms violations related to those deaths and is awaiting trial.

This week, as Stanford stands trial on attempted murder charges from the Aug. 19 shooting, prosecutors laid out their most detailed account to date of the convoluted series of events that led Schneider and his fellow officers on that raid.

Attorneys avoided mentioning Schneider, whose name was among those added to the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial in Washington this month. But his death looms over the courtroom, as uniformed tactical officers and others in the department watch from the gallery.

Yet the state's narrative in the Stanford case has been challenged, often by its own witnesses. The man Stanford is accused of shooting has said he does not believe the boy on trial is his assailant, and prosecutors say others have changed testimony from previous interviews.

"Everyone gave conflicting details," said Stanford's attorney, David E. Williams, as he lobbied Wednesday to have the charges dropped after the prosecution rested its case. He said the state has not presented sufficient evidence.

Deputy State's Attorney Robin Coffin told jurors during opening statements Tuesday that the case was about the Winters Lane neighborhood, involving players who don't cooperate with police, settle their differences on the street and try to interfere with the investigation by scaring witnesses.

Stanford's family has said he is being unfairly held responsible for Schneider's death, and his attorneys tried to get his case sent to juvenile court.

Witnesses have said they saw Stanford pull out a gun during an argument with Wayne Johnson outside the Brick House bar on Winters Lane. The two had been arguing, according to court testimony, and Stanford fired several rounds. Johnson then ran to the home of a friend, who called 911.

In a recorded interview with a detective that was played in court, another witness, Allen Harris said, "I know it's got to be one of the boys in that white house on Roberts." He described to the detective seeing a light-skinned man with short hair running from the scene, and said he had seen teens leaving the Roberts Avenue home and piling into a minivan.

In court Tuesday, though, Harris said he didn't see much that night. He had been sitting in a car on nearby Shipley Avenue, arguing with his girlfriend, when they both heard shots and saw Johnson running. He denied that he saw the shooter.

"I never seen anybody shoot anybody," Harris said when Assistant State's Attorney Jennifer Schiffer asked him about his conflicting statements.

Schiffer pressed him, mentioning the description of the shooter he gave to the detective. "I might have said that," Harris responded.

Schiffer said Harris told prosecutors last week he didn't want to testify because he feared for his safety. On the stand, Harris said he wasn't afraid but didn't want to testify because he was getting over the recent death of his mother.

During cross-examination, Williams asked Harris if Stanford was the shooter. He said no.

Johnson also proved to be a challenging witness for the state. He said he didn't know his assailant, and suggested the possibility the shooting might have been an attempted robbery. At one point, Coffin showed him photos of evidence recovered from the scene, including his jewelry on the ground, and Johnson asked when he could get it back.

From the witness box, Johnson later asked Stanford to stand up, then said, "There's no way it was him. The person that shot me was taller."

Two other witnesses on Wednesday described how the two men exchanged words that erupted in gunfire. They said they then saw Johnson run down Shipley Avenue.

One witness who had been outside, and who identified Stanford as the shooter, testified she followed him down the street and overheard him yell outside the house where Johnson took refuge, "I'm going to get you."

She said she had seen another man outside the bar, picking up shells, but didn't initially go to police. "I didn't want nothing to do with it."

A few days later, she said, someone showed up at her home, telling her, "You better watch yourself." Asked on the stand if she took that as a threat, she said, "Yes, of course."

Prosecutors said she was moved from the neighborhood over concerns for her safety.

Closing arguments are expected to begin Thursday morning, and then the jury will begin deliberations.

Copyright © 2018, The Baltimore Sun, a Baltimore Sun Media Group publication | Place an Ad