Murder suspect freed on bail, twice

Murder suspect freed on bail, twice
Mug shot of Brandon Mitchell (Baltimore Police Department)

An 18-year-old Baltimore man has been twice arrested in the past week in a first-degree murder case but released from jail after having bails set by District Court judges, a rare occurrence. 

Brandon Mitchell, of the 2300 block of Herkimer St., was taken into custody on Dec. 6 and charged with first-degree murder in the fatal shooting of 16-year-old Omar Johnson on June 29 in Southwest Baltimore. 

Mitchell was originally ordered held without bond by a District Court Commissioner, but at a bail review the next morning, a District Court judge set a bail for him at $50,000, which he posted that day and walked out of jail, court records.

Such a low bail on a murder charge is incredibly rare; most charged with first-degree murder, and many charged with attempted murder and even handgun charges, are held without bond.

Six days later on Dec. 13, Mitchell was apparently re-arrested on the same charges. Why is unclear. Butn a bail was set again, this time in the amount of $250,000, which is also rare. Today, court records show, Mitchell's supporters posted property bonds in that amount and he was again released.

Johnson's grandmother called The Sun, furious that the suspect in her grandson's killing is walking free. Relatives said Johnson liked to play basketball and X-Box, and he spent afternoons at an after-school mission program at a neighborhood church that once a year takes kids on a camping trip. He had no interaction with the juvenile justice system, a source confirmed.

"I'm very angry. I'm very upset, and I'm very mad," Sheila Anderson told me. "Tell me how he got a bail. No bail means no bail. There's been too many mixups in this case. Something is not right with this case."

It was not clear which judges set the bails, but court officials said Judge Askew Gatewood handled bail reviews on Dec. 7. Judge Devy Russell, who handled bail reviews on Dec. 13, said the case did not come before her.

Mitchell was previously charged in July in connection with an attemtped murder in April, but city prosecutors placed that case on the inactive docket, effectively dropping it. 

In that case, Mitchell was also able to post a bail. Initially held without bond by a District Court commissioner and a District Court judge, he was granted another bail review hearing where a bail was set - in the amount of $50,000. Mitchell's attorney in that case, Howard Cardin, could not immediately be reached for comment.

Below is a video interview I recorded with Anderson at the time of Omar's death.