The murder trial began Tuesday for a man accused in a retaliatory gang shooting outside Towson Town Center at the height of the holiday shopping season in 2011.
Tyrone Chester Brown Jr. allegedly shot 19-year-old Rodney Pridget, as part of his initiation into the Black Guerrilla Family gang. But as Brown appeared in Baltimore County Circuit Court two days before his 21st birthday, his lawyers questioned whether the state has any evidence that ties him to the scene.
Pridget had been at the mall shopping for presents with his girlfriend. Prosecutors say Brown and three other men stalked him through the mall before shooting him six times near an entrance to the mall. Brown is accused of pulling the trigger.
His attorney, Lawrence Rosenberg, said in opening statements that the state has a dubious case.
"There will be no one person, nor one shred of evidence that will show that was Tyrone Brown in those videos," he said, referring to the 268 surveillance cameras at the mall, which prosecutors plan to use to show how the four men traced the couple through shopping throngs six days before Christmas.
Rosenberg said other defendants' faces were visible in the footage — following Pridget and getting on their phones — but not his client's. Two co-defendants were convicted last year, and another agreed to a plea deal that requires him to testify in Brown's trial.
He said the state has no physical evidence, nor a murder weapon to tie Brown to the shooting.
Prosecutors said Pridget and his girlfriend were followed by another member, Jermell "Bloody Mel" Monte Brandon, as they wandered through stores at the mall, including Downtown Locker Room. Brandon called Frank Theodore Williams, prompting another man, William Ward III, known as "Unc," to authorize the killing, prosecutors said.
The men had plotted to kill Pridget in retaliation for the non-fatal shooting of Dustin Smith, prosecutors said. Baltimore police did not charge Pridget in that shooting. The men pulled up Pridget's Facebook picture to identify him, prosecutors said.
Ward and Williams were convicted in September and received life sentences. Brandon took a federal plea deal and received a 20-year sentence that is contingent on his cooperation in the trials of his co-defendants.
Rosenberg also argued that one of the state's key witnesses, Brandon, is not credible, citing the plea deal.
During opening statements, prosecutors said mall security footage from Dec. 19 and cell phone records map out how the men — including Brown — followed Pridget before killing him.
At 5:11 p.m., prosecutors said, Pridget and his girlfriend were shown at the Downtown Locker Room, along with Brandon, who is seen in the footage watching them.
From there, police said, a call from Brandon's phone to Ward put the plan into action.
Less than an hour later, the other men arrived in Towson from the Pen Lucy neighborhood in North Baltimore. The shooting was not captured on camera.
Prosecutors say Brown returned to the mall before driving away in a burgundy Lexus.
Brown was later arrested, and prosecutors said they found BGF gang documents after a search of his cell at the Baltimore County Detention Center.