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Devon Little survived two shootings, an overturned conviction and the tough streets of Baltimore — until last week

Janice Moses tried to protect her sons from the violence outside her West Baltimore home.

She took them to a family member’s house on the city’s east side where they could play safely outside. She enrolled them in the school closest to their home to limit the amount of time they spent outside. She had a home recording studio in her basement where her oldest, Devon Little, liked to record tracks, which she hoped would keep him home and safe.

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But on Wednesday, supported by family and friends, she looked upon her oldest son’s face and held his still, folded hands from the side of his casket.

Moses let out a cry.

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“My baby. This is my son,” she wept as family members gently moved her from the coffin and funeral home employees lowered the top of the casket.

About 40 family members and friends gathered Wednesday at the Calvin B. Scruggs Funeral Home in East Baltimore for Little’s funeral service, where he was remembered as a loving son, brother and father to his young daughter, Malauny.

Little’s aunt tried to console his mother, telling her “you know it’s the flesh. God has his soul. You are going to see him again.”

Little, 30, and another man were shot after 1 a.m. March 25 on Carey Street, near Baltimore Street, in Southwest Baltimore. The other man survived, but Little died of his injuries.

He was killed in the same block where, in 2016, police alleged he shot and killed another man. Later that day, Little himself was struck by a bullet in his right shoulder. Little was convicted but maintained his innocence in the fatal shooting, and would later be acquitted of the charges after being granted a second trial.

Little’s story is unique, but the trauma his family endured is not uncommon in a city with so much violence. He is one of more than 80 people killed in Baltimore so far this year, and the city is on pace to record more than 300 homicides for the seventh straight year.

In addition to the 2016 shooting, Little was injured by gunfire in 2015. According to Baltimore Police, about 15% of homicide victims each year have been shot sometime in their past.

Devon Little, 30, survived two shootings, a wrongful murder conviction and a difficult life in West Baltimore. He was shot and killed last week.
Devon Little, 30, survived two shootings, a wrongful murder conviction and a difficult life in West Baltimore. He was shot and killed last week. (Handout / HANDOUT)

And like so many shootings in Baltimore, those involving Little haven’t been solved.

Little’s story became the subject of an investigation by The Trace/BuzzFeed News published in January 2019, which examined low clearance rates in non-fatal shootings across the country. The report found that a particularly high case load in Baltimore led to overworked detectives, and subsequently lower clearance rates.

“They never solved any of the violence against Devon,” his mother said in an interview this week as she finalized plans for his funeral.

“My son had potential,” Moses said.

She said he graduated from the Excel Academy at Francis M. Wood High School. He worked for Meals on Wheels doing food prep. He loved writing lyrics and recording rap songs at his home studio.

He was a loving father to his only daughter, she said.

The first time Little was shot was on June 7, 2015, as violence surged in Baltimore following the arrest and death of Freddie Gray from injuries suffered in police custody.

Moses said her son had just left a cookout. He was later found unconscious in the parking lot of a Rite Aid in the 2400 block Frederick Road in Southwest Baltimore. He had gunshot wounds to his shoulder and head.

A police report said witnesses heard Little call for help, but did not see the shooting.

Moses said she did not know her son had been shot until several days later. She saw a picture of him lying on the ground, wounded, posted to social media.

Moses said she found out her son had been taken to the University of Maryland Shock Trauma Center. While at the hospital, he underwent two surgeries and took weeks to recover.

A little over a year later, on Sept. 24, 2016, Little and an 8-year-old girl were injured in a shooting in the 600 block of S. Smallwood Street, near Wilkens Avenue. They were among 13 people injured in shootings in the city that weekend.

Little told police he had been walking when he heard gunfire and attempted to run. A bullet struck him in the right shoulder, according to police, and investigators recovered 13 shell casings from the scene.

But police later charged him with a fatal shooting that occurred earlier that day.

Police said witnesses had fingered Little as the gunman who approached Levon Stokes, who was sitting in his car on South Carey Street, just hours before Little was shot. Police said two people later identified Little as the gunman in a police photo array. He was convicted and sentenced to life in prison.

Little maintained his innocence, and in February 2019, the Court of Special Appeals reversed the guilty verdict and ordered a new trial. The court found that the lower court erred in permitting opinion testimony from a police detective to explain conflicting evidence from two people who identified Little in the photo lineup, who both told police they saw the gunman in two different places shortly after the shooting. Additionally, the court noted, there was no physical evidence linking Little to the shooting.

Little was acquitted in November 2019, and was able to return home and spend time with his mother and daughter.

Less than a year and a half later, on the same street corner of the shooting for which Little was identified as a suspect, his own life would end.

Though she lost her son, Little’s mother said she retains her faith.

“God gave me back my son twice,” she said.

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