One of four men charged with the December 2011 shooting death of 19-year-old Rodney Pridget at Towson Town Center testified on Thursday against two of his alleged conspirators, telling the jury that one of them "ordered the hit" on Pridget.
Jermell Brandon, 35 of Baltimore, testifying as part of a federal plea agreement, said in Baltimore County Circuit Court that Pridget was targeted by Frank Williams, 32, of Lansdowne — another defendant in the case — and that the shooting was part of the alleged gunman's effort to build a resume to enter a gang.
Brandon, Williams, and two other men — William Ward III, 45, of Baltimore, and Tyrone Brown, 19, of Baltimore —all have been charged with first-degree murder in the case. Williams and Ward are on trial this week.
Police believe Brown was the man who pulled the trigger, and his trial is scheduled for Sept. 11.
In his testimony, Brandon told the jury he grew up with Williams, and met Ward through Williams.
Though he said he did not know Pridget personally, Brandon said he became aware of him after Pridget was thought to be connected to a nonfatal shooting of Dustin Smith, Williams' cousin.
Brandon spoke of meeting with Williams, Ward and the accused shooter, Tyrone Brown, 19, of Baltimore, at Williams' mother's house, where he said Williams brought up Pridget's photo on his phone "so we'd know who to go after."
Brandon told the jury that Williams "ordered the hit."
On Dec. 19, 2011, Brandon and his cousin, Crystal Harris, were at Towson Town Center and saw Pridget in the Downtown Locker Room, he said.
He said he called Williams to report the sighting and, moments later, Williams called to say he was on his way with Ward, Brown, and Lionel Goode, a fourth man who has not been charged.
Brandon waited for Williams and Ward to arrive, then followed Pridget and his girlfriend, Nautica Reynolds, 17, through the mall for nearly 20 minutes.
Police allege that as Pridget and Reynolds exited the mall, Brown followed them around the outside of Nordstrom and shot Pridget eight times.
Brandon told the jury that Williams and Ward were members of a national gang, BGF — Black Guerrilla Family — and that Brown, the accused shooter, was seeking entry in the gang and was "putting in work" to advance his position, he said.
Brandon contended that he wasn't a member of the gang. However, during a cross examination of county police detective Chris Hodnicki, who was presented as an expert in criminal gangs, Hodnicki said he had authenticated Brandon as a member of BGF.
On the stand, Brandon said his plea deal for testimony would result in him receiving 20 years with no parole; the others could face life with a guilty verdict.
Later on Thursday, Det. Charles Gruss, an phone record analyst, presented cell phone records of Ward, Williams, Brandon and Brown that night, using a map of the York Road corridor to show where calls were made and cell tower information to show the movement of the men.
The evidence showed the first call between Brandon's phone and Williams' phone was placed at 5:19 p.m., one minute after investigators said Brandon first laid eyes on Pridget in Downtown Locker Room. From then on, calls were made primarily between phones investigators connected to Williams, Brown and Brandon.
Before the Thursday's testimony concluded, county homicide detective Jim Lambert returned to the stand to recount the final days before the four men were arrested.
He said that after a meeting with an informant who provided information about the crime and possible motive on Jan. 31, arrest warrants were issued for Williams, Brandon, and Brown. At that point, Lambert still only knew Ward by his nickname, "Unc," but was given Ward's address by the informant.
Three arrest warrants were served the following day, and during his fourth interview with Lambert, Williams confirmed that a photo Lambert showed him was "Unc." Brown later provided Ward's identity, and a day later, Ward was arrested at his North Baltimore home.
On Friday morning in court, video of Lambert's interview following Ward's arrest is expected to be shown to the jury. Lambert is the state's final witness.