Key witness in Baltimore shooting case killed after club argument

Friday was Avon Ball's first night off "the box," finally finished with court-ordered home monitoring and ready to hit the town. "Who with me?" he posted on Facebook.

But police said he didn't make it home. He and a friend were involved in an argument early Saturday at a downtown club, and detectives believe they were followed to the intersection of Madison Avenue and West Preston Street, where they were shot multiple times.

Ball, 26, died at an area hospital, and his unidentified friend was critically injured. Sgt. Eric Kowalczyk, a police spokesman, said a person of interest was being questioned.

Ball's father, Avon Ball Sr., confirmed that Ball had just come off home monitoring related to an assault conviction and was looking forward to getting his life back on track. He was planning to attend school and had gotten a job, he said.

Also in his rearview mirror was an earlier shooting that had left him seriously injured. On July 6, 2007, he and foster brother George T. Johnson were sharing a car, having dropped off Ball's then-6-year-old daughter on their way to pick up Johnson's tennis shoes. Ball's then-7-month-old son was inside.

They pulled down Payson Street, where a memorial service was being held for a child who had been struck by a car and killed, and a man came at them shouting that Johnson had almost hit his son. An argument ensued.

Johnson left the scene and went to his home, where he was inside getting his shoes when Adrian McFadden, Anthony Davante Miles and at least three others approached and began arguing. McFadden pulled out a revolver and pointed it at Ball's face, threatening to pull the trigger, records show.

Johnson pleaded, "Don't shoot him, shoot me." The gunman obliged, shooting Johnson four times. Ball turned to run, and a bullet went through his abdomen and another grazed his side. He suffered a collapsed lung and had to undergo numerous surgeries. A 17-year-old girl — a bystander — was also struck.

Afflicted with a speech impediment after the shooting, Ball took the witness stand against the men charged and laid out the sequence of events. Other witnesses claimed that the shots had been fired from a darkened playground area far away, and that another person was the shooter. The jury didn't believe it.

They convicted McFadden of first-degree murder, and he was later sentenced to two life terms in prison plus 175 years without parole. Miles was acquitted of murder but convicted of assault counts and received 75 years in prison.

But court records show both men's cases were overturned by the Court of Special Appeals in 2011, after the court found that prosecutors made improper statements, including urging the jury to "infer ... that the defendants know how to work the system."

The new trial is slated for February 2013. And the key witness is no longer alive to testify.

Baltimore Sun reporter John-John Williams IV contributed to this article.

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