Prosecutors say the fatal shooting of an East Baltimore man in February was justifiable self-defense, but they're not letting the shooters off the hook completely.
Court records describe Preston Feaster and Jason Ingram barricading themselves inside a home as a group of men armed with handguns shot into the house. Fearing for their lives in a neighborhood where calling the authorities is a last resort for some residents, they shot back from an upstairs window, killing 26-year-old Brandon Washington and injuring Darries Sommerville, who was 17 at the time, police say.
"Given that these two individuals [Ingram and Feaster] were defending the home, prosecutors determined that the facts do not support murder-related charges against them," said Mark Cheshire, a spokesman for Baltimore State's Attorney Gregg L. Bernstein. He declined to answer additional questions, saying the case was pending.
But with that finding, Washington's death was erased this week from Baltimore's homicide count, which stands at 44. Still, authorities say Feaster, 22, and Ingram, 28, used illegal firearms to defend themselves, and they face weapons charges.
Sommerville and a co-defendant named Devin Ocain have been indicted on murder conspiracy charges.
Such justifiable shootings are rare in Baltimore. In 2011, one killing — which came during a domestic incident — was ruled justified, while another was ruled accidental, according to records. Last month, a teenager was charged with shooting at a man who had just shot and killed someone standing next to him, but the charges were later dropped by prosecutors.
The killing of Washington stemmed, police say, from a Feb. 16 argument between Sommerville and a woman inside a home in the 1600 block of N. Bond St. in the Oliver neighborhood.
Sommerville, who lives in the 1100 block of Greenmount Ave., was ordered to leave the home and smashed a window on his way out, police say. A child happened to be near the window, and Ingram confronted Sommerville about having nearly hurt the child, records show.
Sommerville and Ingram fought, and as Sommerville left, he threatened to kill Ingram, police say. The next day, witnesses told police, Sommerville called the home and threatened to break in and shoot the people inside, records show.
Those who received the call didn't dial 911 — they called Ingram and Feaster to tell them about the threats, and Feaster told police he left work and went to the home, picking up Ingram along the way. It was about 9 p.m.
When they got to the home, they pushed a sofa, mattress and refrigerator against the first-floor window and went upstairs, records show.
Feaster stuck his head out a second-floor window and ducked back in after hearing gunshots, records show. He and Ingram then fired toward the group in the street, who shot back. A canvass by police after the shooting turned up shotgun shell and .45-caliber casings throughout the house, and several shell casings in the street.
Washington was struck by a shot from a handgun, ran down Bond Street and collapsed in the 1500 block of E. Federal St. He was taken to Johns Hopkins Hospital, where he died.
Sommerville was struck in the leg and limped away with the help of his brother, according to police.
Sommerville and Ocain are being held without bond and are scheduled to be arraigned May 3; Feaster and Ingram, who posted six-figure bails and were released from jail, have arraignments scheduled May 4.