By Jessica Anderson, The Baltimore Sun
9:19 PM EDT, May 22, 2014
Nearly nine months after Baltimore County Police SWAT team member Jason Schneider was shot to death during a raid on a house in Catonsville, the teen whom police were trying to arrest that morning was acquitted of all charges.
Schneider and his fellow county officers were trying to serve a warrant on Rasheed Stanford during the predawn raid in August at his home on Roberts Avenue when gunfire erupted.
Authorities say Schneider was shot by 25-year-old Tevon Smith, a cousin of Stanford, who was himself killed when Schneider and a second officer returned fire.
Stanford had been wanted in connection with a shooting earlier that month outside a bar on nearby Winters Lane in Catonsville. A Circuit Court jury deliberated for less than two hours Thursday before acquitting him of attempted-murder and related charges.
During closing arguments Thursday, prosecutor Robin Coffin tried to link the bar shooting on Aug. 19 to Schneider's death nine days later. He was the first county officer to be killed by gunfire in more than a decade.
"Officer Schneider is dead because of the defendant," Coffin told jurors.
But at least one member of the jury said the panel understood the case had nothing to do with the Schneider tragedy.
Stephanie Quick said it was a "shame" that Schneider lost his life.
"However," the Dundalk woman added, "Rasheed Stanford did not have anything to do with that."
Quick said prosecutors didn't show that Stanford "was guilty of anything."
"I could not send this boy to jail … knowing that the evidence was not proven."
Schneider's name was rarely mentioned over two days of testimony, but his presence was felt when former SWAT team comrades in their green uniforms and others from the department stopped in the courtroom to watch the proceedings.
Stanford's attorney said it was unfair for prosecutors to hold his client responsible for Schneider's death — but he said he understood it.
"When you're a prosecutor, police officers are a part of your team," attorney David E. Williams Jr. said outside the courthouse in Towson. "There is a feeling there was no one alive to pay."
If Schneider had not been killed, Williams said, Stanford's case "would have never gotten to this point."
Ericka Schneider, Jason Schneider's widow, reached by telephone after Stanford was acquitted, said she had not attended the trial and had not heard the verdict. She declined to comment.
A spokesman for the Police Department and the president of the Baltimore County police union also declined to comment.
Stanford, 17, was accused in the nonfatal shooting of 29-year-old Wayne Johnson outside the Brick House bar on Winters Lane.
Nine days after that incident, the Baltimore County tactical team went to Stanford's home in the first block of Roberts Avenue to arrest him.
Stanford was not at home during the raid. He turned himself in the next day.
Another teen, Taquan Barney, was arrested on gun charges. He is awaiting trial.
Tanya Smith, Stanford's mother and Tevon Smith's aunt, criticized police for executing a no-knock warrant, which allows police to enter a home unannounced.
On the day of the raid, she said, she was awakened by two gunshots — which she said prompted her to pull her 13-year-old daughter under the bed — followed by the sound of the officers' footsteps coming up the stairs.
"They were never supposed to come in looking for Rasheed that way," she said outside the courthouse Thursday. "That's how I lost my nephew and also Officer Schneider. Tevon has a son, as well as Officer Schneider had a wife and his kids."
She said prosecutors "cared about somebody paying for Officer Schneider's death."
John Cox, a deputy state's attorney, defended the prosecutors' case against Stanford.
"We certainly believed in what we were presenting; we certainly felt what we were doing was exactly right," he said. "But I'm going to accept the verdict."
Stanford was 16 at the time of the Brick House shooting. Williams tried to have his case moved to juvenile court.
Two witnesses called by prosecutors identified Stanford as the shooter in that case. A police officer and an employee of Sprint testified that cellphone records indicated that Stanford was in the neighborhood the night of the shooting and then went to North Carolina.
Williams argued the state's case was weakened by conflicting details between statements made by witnesses to police and their testimony during the trial.
Prosecutors blamed the discrepancies on witness intimidation. They said some witnesses had to be pressured to testify, and two had to be relocated for their safety.
Johnson — the man who was shot — was uncooperative on the stand. He said Stanford wasn't the gunman.
Quick, the juror, called the trial "draining," and said "there were a few jurors that were saying 'guilty,' until they said 'not guilty.' … Just too many holes in their stories."
"I'm glad we came to a point where we could have this young man back into society," she said. She said she hopes Stanford continues his education and moves on with his life.
Stanford, who wore thick glasses and a gray sweater during the trial, did not take the stand and declined to comment after the verdict.
"He's very happy to be home," his mother said. "He said he's looking forward to having a positive future."
"I'm going to hug my baby," Smith said, and smiled.
Baltimore Sun Media Group reporter Katie V. Jones contributed to this article.
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