Berry had been a target for more than a year in the investigation of the March 2011 shooting that killed Angelo Fitzgerald in Bolton Hill, with gunmen firing 30 bullets at three people sitting on a bench. Detectives had evidence linking Berry to the incident, but prosecutors wanted more, five police sources say.

The case took on great urgency once police learned that Berry might have been involved in another fatal shooting, the sources say.

On Nov. 13 at about 9 p.m., police said, a group of men burst into a home in the 2500 block of W. Lafayette Ave. and shot 19-year-old Darian Horton and his 23-year-old brother, Allen, at close range. Their mother, a 48-year-old woman, was also shot and seriously wounded.

Allen died within an hour at a hospital; Darian hung on until 5 a.m. the next day, when he was also pronounced dead.

According to court records, at 1:48 the next morning, Detective Frank Miller filled out an application for a statement of charges laying out the evidence against Berry in Fitzgerald's March 19, 2011, killing.

Police wrote in charging documents that witnesses had given recorded statements about that shooting, and Berry had been identified by them through photo lineups. The law enforcement sources said the witnesses — the same people police had been in touch with for months — were reinterviewed by prosecutors the day after the Horton brothers were shot.

Police spokesman Anthony Guglielmi said the homicide unit commander, Lt. Col. Garnell Green, "is confident that the case is adequately prepared for trial, and he personally had been working with the assistant state's attorneys to make sure the case was as strong as it could be."

Berry is being held without bond in the killing of Fitzgerald. He waived his right to have an attorney at his bail review, saying he knew he wasn't going to be released either way. He has since retained attorney Russell Neverdon, who said he has not had a chance to discuss the charges in detail with Berry.

The Hortons were buried at a ceremony two weeks ago in North Baltimore, with a heavy police presence because of fears of further attacks on the family. Four marked police cars sat outside the Church of the Redeemed on Old York Road, with another inside the gates of the parking lot and another circling the block. Their mother declined to comment on the situation when reached by a reporter last month.

On Saturday, Angelo Ward, who according to Berry's attorney was his best friend, was fatally shot in Reservoir Hill.

Berry's arrest last month is not the first time he has been in trouble — in 2008, he was charged with the murder of 18-year-old Mark Henson. He was found not guilty in May 2010 after a jury trial. His attorney in that case, John Denholm, said that the jury acquitted him in "20 minutes — the fastest jury verdict I ever had."

Bealefeld said it's important for authorities to get a case right the first time.

"One of the things that has ailed Baltimore for decades is that if you don't fire a silver bullet at these guys, and they come back and go back to the community, they have a status that makes them virtually untouchable," Bealefeld said. "No one in the community will [give police information about them], they will intimidate juries. It's just an infectious process and they become larger than life."

Police can charge using a standard of "probable cause," and Jessamy's office was criticized by police for dropping cases that prosecutors weren't confident in. During Bernstein's tenure, police have not been charging such cases in the first place, critics say.

Last year, veteran homicide commander Maj. Terrence McLarney, who had clashed with Bernstein's office, was removed from his position and reinstated at a lower rank. His interim replacement, then-Lt. Leonard Willis, filed a memo with superiors complaining that prosecutors were "stalling and hindering" cases, listing as an example five that police believed were ready to charge but could not get approved by prosecutors, The Sun reported at the time.

David Simon, the former Sun crime reporter, nonfiction author, and creator of the HBO television show "The Wire," has written on his popular blog that Bernstein has changed the dynamic between police and prosecutors for the worse. He said in an interview that allowing police to bring charges in a weak case can sometimes open the door for crucial supplementary investigative work.

"Once [the suspect] is off the street, people may start talking," said Simon, who spent a year with the police homicide unit for his book "Homicide: A Year on the Killing Streets. "He's not going back to the corner, terrorizing witnesses and neighbors."

For their part, relatives of Fitzgerald, killed in the 2011 shooting, said they are satisfied with the handling of the case.

"[The detective] expressed frustration that people weren't coming forward [with information], and we kept in touch," Sylvester Young, his stepfather, said in an interview. "Detective Miller handled this case beautifully, I think."

jfenton@baltsun.com


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