Christopher Shaw has avoided prosecution three times.
In November, prosecutors dropped a drug-distribution case. Four years ago, they dropped a charge of murder; two years before that, it was an assault charge that was dropped. But this time, prosecutors say, it will be different.
Shaw, 23, was arrested yesterday and charged with first-degree assault and three counts of second-degree assault. He is accused of intimidating Park Heights residents who wanted him to stop selling drugs in their neighborhood. Prosecutors are going to ask that he be held without bail when he appears before a District Court judge Monday, said Margaret T. Burns, a spokeswoman for the city state's attorney's office.
It is an unusually harsh stand for a criminal justice system criticized in recent years for allowing cases to fall apart. But city officials and prosecutors said the case against Shaw reflects their new pledge to work together and find creative ways of targeting the worst of the worst.
"I don't know if I can say this, but this guy is a big fish," Burns said.
"We know in prior cases witnesses disappeared and could not be located, and therefore his prosecutions were not successful. ... Well, let me tell you: We are going to be sure that we prosecute him as aggressively as possible, and we are going to be successful."
Prosecutors said Shaw chose a bad place to make a stand when the three female neighbors were beaten. They live in Park Heights, an area flooded with officers who have lists of people they consider violent repeat offenders.
"Police have been in that area since December and gained intelligence and worked with prosecutors so they could focus on who was driving the violence," said Sheryl Goldstein of the Mayor's Office on Criminal Justice.
Similar police efforts are under way in the Western and Eastern police districts, where homicides have fallen about 50 percent this year compared with last year.
"Chris Shaw has been on the radar screen for a number of years. This is an opportunity to focus our resources and attention on him," Goldstein said.
That opportunity arose early yesterday morning when police were called to the 3500 block of Reisterstown Road by three women who said they had been assaulted, police charging documents say.
One of the women, Paulette V. Cogdell, 42, said she had posted a "no trespassing" sign on her front porch to signal to local drug dealers that they were not welcome. A crew of young men became angry about the signs and asked one woman to take them down.
A man Cogdell knows as "Cam" said to her, " 'Y'all not living long' and then said, 'I'm going to kill you and your mom,' " according to the charging documents.
Shaw and another man, whom police identified as Charles Williams, 21, hit Cogdell with their fists, the police documents say. Shaw also used a lawn chair to beat Cogdell, injuring the left side of her face, her right arm and her ankles, according to police papers.
Nate Walker, 30, another of the women, tried to run into her home, but Shaw and Williams chased her and punched her in the jaw, according to the report.
Meanwhile, Cogdell tried to barricade herself in her house, but Shaw kicked down her front door, made his way into the house and punched Octavia McFadden, 19, a third woman who was inside, police said.
Patrol officers sent a description of Shaw to members of the department's violent crime impact division, who picked him up yesterday.
"You can really see how the district and the patrol officers are working with the VCID," Goldstein said. "You have a patrol officer respond to a call for service, and the VCID found this guy. We have a picture of him circulating, and they are able to pick him up."
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