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Annapolis 18-year-old charged in double shooting pleads to misdemeanor offenses. Anne Arundel prosecutors say witnesses refused to participate.

An 18-year-old from Annapolis charged in connection to a double shooting in Eastport accepted a plea Thursday to only a handful of misdemeanor offenses, with prosecutors saying witnesses refused to participate in the proceedings.

Authorities said that Jariq James Downs was caught on video participating in a fist fight that got out of hand in Eastport Terrace on April 8. The fight escalated sometime around 7:45 p.m. and Downs allegedly grabbed a handgun and opened fire, striking two people.

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Detectives relied almost exclusively on security video to make their case. And, when the case reached Circuit Court, prosecutors had a hard time making sense of the footage, a spokesperson for the Anne Arundel County State’s Attorney’s Office said Thursday in response to questions from The Capital.

“One person was a part of the fight and one person was hit in the foot,” Tia Lewis said in an email. “Both witnesses would not come to court and we were left with a video with no context.”

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Once charged with two counts of attempted murder, felony assault and a half a dozen firearms offenses, Downs entered an Alford plea Thursday to three misdemeanors. A judge convicted Downs of second-degree assault, reckless endangerment and being a minor in possession of a firearm, online court records show.

The plea indicates Downs, who reported an address on Juliana Circle, agreed prosecutors had enough evidence to convict him, but maintains his innocence.

Downs faces up to 20 years in prison or up to $17,500 in fines, or both. However, considering that the 18-year-old doesn’t have an adult criminal record, among other factors, it’s unlikely he would serve anywhere close to the maximum penalty.

His attorney, Kathleen Kirchner, declined to comment on his case before sentencing, which is scheduled for Nov. 9.

In the meantime, Downs is being held without bond at the Jennifer Road Detention Center in Annapolis, according to county jail records.

The fact that witnesses refused to come forward is hardly a surprise. Annapolis Police Chief Ed Jackson foreshadowed the issue in an interview around the time of Downs' arrest, during which he highlighted the fact that his investigators relied heavily on video and implored the community to come forward with information.

Jackson said a prosecutable case requires human voices to establish a motive. The police chief has spoken of dismantling a “don’t snitch” attitude that’s permeated some Annapolis communities over decades. Among the programs Jackson has instituted to change the culture is a reentry program for people returning to Annapolis from incarceration.

He hopes that if people get help from the police department when returning home, they’ll begin to build trust and bridge the divide. The reentry program is under the supervision of Annapolis' cold case investigator Stanley Brandford; Jackson believes the trust built through the program will provide leads to crack unsolved cases.

Jackson’s efforts to build trust may have taken a blow this week, when videos of people being interviewed in connection to a 2017 homicide case were leaked and circulated on social media.

Officials believed it to be a witness intimidation tactic, which raised concerns that it could have a chilling effect on people with information about crimes in Annapolis.

Lewis said Thursday the prosecutors' office hadn’t received any witness intimidation complaints.

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