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Crime

19-year-old testifies altercation preceded his fatal shooting of Baltimore Police captain’s husband

Sahiou Kargbo had just finished a pair of SAT tests at Mergenthaler Vocational-Technical High School last January when a woman he considered his aunt called him, upset.

Kargbo, then 18, left school around 2 p.m. in a stolen car and drove to the woman’s house in Northeast Baltimore, he told a Baltimore jury Friday. While he was on the way, the woman called twice more, sounding more frightened. Her home in the 1400 block of Walker Avenue was shot up weeks earlier, and when Kargbo arrived, a car neither of them recognized was parked in front of the residence.

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Inside the Honda Accord was James Blue III, the husband of then-Baltimore Police Lt. Lekeshia Blue, waiting for a refrigerator to be delivered to a house the couple were renovating.

Still wearing his Mervo school uniform, Kargbo walked over to Blue’s car and spoke to him through the cracked passenger’s window, he testified Friday. He said he pressed Blue about why he was parked in front of his aunt’s house, and that Blue, who was on the phone with his son, cursed him away. But Kargbo insisted.

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“At that point, he reached for his gun, which was on his right hip,” testified Kargbo, saying he retreated toward the back of Blue’s car before pulling a handgun from his waistband.

“I didn’t take aim; I just quickly fired,” Kargbo added.

Of the 14 rounds Kargbo fired, 10 hit Blue, wounding his head, neck and spine.

Blue, a 43-year-old Amtrak conductor and father of three, died at Johns Hopkins Hospital about an hour after the shooting. Kargbo, who emigrated with his mother from Gambia as a young child, was arrested and charged with murder in the following days.

Kargbo’s public defender, Todd Oppenheim, opened the trial Tuesday by admitting his client fatally shot Blue. The question, he told jurors, was whether the shooting amounted to murder or manslaughter, a spur-of-the-moment killing that lacks forethought and comes with a shorter punishment.

On Wednesday, Oppenheim told Circuit Judge Jennifer Schiffer he planned to argue that Kargbo acted in self defense. He urged Schiffer to allow a neuropsychologist to testify for the defense that Kargbo’s low intellectual capability could skew to his perception of threats.

Kargbo’s testimony Friday was the only evidence throughout the trial of an altercation preceding the Jan. 25, 2021, homicide, for which police and prosecutors have never disclosed a motive.

Earlier in the week, a landscaper Blue hired to clean up the yard that day testified that he looked up from his lawnmower to see a masked man approaching Blue’s car from behind, holding a handgun with his arm extended. Eugene Secola said in court he didn’t witness an altercation before gunfire erupted.

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A firearms examiner testified the 9mm handgun found in Kargbo’s house fired the cartridge casings recovered by Blue’s car. An FBI special agent testified that Kargbo’s phone records showed him leaving school shortly before the shooting, getting calls from the woman he considered his aunt, moving in her direction and then leaving the neighborhood shortly after the homicide.

Assistant State’s Attorney Tonya LaPolla grilled Kargbo, 19, during cross examination Friday. She challenged him about his recalling only squeezing the trigger twice, despite there being 14 casings recovered.

“The gun seemed to be in automatic. Once you fire, multiple shots come out, ma’am,” Kargbo replied.

LaPolla noted Secola’s testimony that the gunman stood over Blue, who collapsed out of his car, and fired several more rounds. Kargbo claimed he already had been running away, heard the car door open, and fired a few more rounds blindly.

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“I feared him coming after me to shoot me,” Kargbo testified.

Kargbo said he got rid of the car, hitched a ride home and reported for his overnight shift boxing orders for Amazon. He found out Blue died while looking at an Instagram account about Baltimore crime that night.

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“When I saw that news, I sat there really emotional, upset,” he said. “I had to leave work early. I couldn’t sleep.”

Dr. Vincent Culotta, a neuropsychologist, told the jury about a range of psychological tests he performed on Kargbo and how he obtained additional information from Kargbo’s mentor at school, Earl Young.

He said Kargbo tested between the second and third percentile in IQ, meeting the criteria for mild intellectual disability. Kargbo read, wrote and did math at a fourth or fifth grade level.

His “executive function,” which is “very important in how we navigate the world and respond to things,” was in the 0.02 percentile, Culotta testified.

The trial resumes Monday.


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