Baltimore police cite rap feud as motive behind recent murder arrest

Baltimore police say they believe a rap feud was behind a gun battle that left one  person dead and four others wounded after charging a 24-year-old associate of the popular rapper Young Moose in the two-year-old case.

Police announced this week that Antonio Melvin had been charged with the May 2015 fatal shooting of Darrell Alston, 26, and police spokesman T.J. Smith said Thursday that Alston was shot during a gun battle involving rival groups spurred by a "rap beef."

Smith declined to specify who was involved in the feud. But Alston rapped under the name "Nazty," and in the months before the shooting, he had attracted attention for releasing a "diss track" against Young Moose.

Moose, whose real name is Kevron Evans, responded with a video of his own, which has garnered 1.7 million views. Melvin is friends with Evans, having appeared in his music videos.

Evans has not been charged in the shooting. His manager, Teron Matthews, told The Baltimore Sun that Evans, Melvin and Alston all grew up together, and said Evans and Alston remained in contact behind the scenes even as a feud was playing out through music.

"I saw them speaking on the phone and in person in passing," Matthews said. "I thought nothing of it other than the fact that they were getting YouTube hits."

Matthews said he thinks police settled on an easy motive, and that Melvin may have been wrongly charged.

"For me, he's innocent," he said. "That would be too obvious. I think there's some other stuff that hasn't been investigated, that they don't know about, that transpired that has nothing to do with whoever they think are the obvious suspects."

Evans has alleged that police have been unfairly targeting him and harassing him, claims that took on increased prominence when a city officer who had written a search warrant for Evans' home, Det. Daniel Hersl, was indicted in February on federal racketeering charges. Hersl has pleaded not guilty to accusations of being involved with robbery and extortion and filing false reports.

Melvin was ordered held without bail Thursday morning in the May 2015 shooting, which occurred in the 2400 block of E. Monument St. In addition to Alston's fatal shooting, four people were shot and wounded. Melvin is charged only with shooting Alston. Homicide Det. Hassan Rasheed wrote in the charging document that police have spoken to witnesses who identified Melvin as the shooter.

Melvin has been on federal home detention since being charged in January in U.S. District Court with a firearms charge. According to documents in the federal case, the ATF and the Baltimore Police Department say Melvin is "known to be associated with a dangerous drug organization located in east and northeast Baltimore city" that has been under investigation.

According to the complaint, the BPD was monitoring social media sites connected to Melvin's alleged drug organization, and found an Instagram video showing him holding a gun at a Middle River firing range. ATF agents obtained records and video of Melvin from the firing range.

Melvin is forbidden to possess a firearm due to a prior conviction, and was charged with possessing a firearm while being a prohibited person.

Melvin's attorney in the federal case, public defender David Walsh-Little, declined to comment on the case. "He's presumed innocent, and he looks forward to litigating the case," Walsh-Little said.

The crime scene stretched nearly a half-mile, and police took two men into custody at the scene. One of them was Shilo Thomas, who is also a rapper; he goes by the name "Shymoney." Police have said Thomas and Alston were with each other when the shooting broke out.



Editor's note: This story has been updated from an earlier version to clarify that Det. Daniel Hersl has pleaded not guilty to accusations of being involved with robbery and extortion and filing false reports. The Sun regrets the error.

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