A Reisterstown man was sentenced to 25 years in prison Wednesday after being found guilty of shooting a Black man and telling him to “go back to Africa,” which was deemed a hate crime, court records show.
“This was a very heinous case. We believe that 25 years to serve is important, but he will also have an additional 15 years hanging over his head when he gets out, which we think is important to protect the public,” Baltimore County State’s Attorney Scott Shellenberger said.
In addition to the prison sentence, Brandon Troy Higgs, 25, must serve five years probation after getting out, with another 15 years in prison possible if he has a probation violation, Shellenberger said.
Higgs was arrested Dec. 20, 2018, after he shot Elvis Smith, now 60, in the leg while shouting racial slurs as a fight broke out between the two. Higgs was found guilty of first-degree assault, attempted voluntary manslaughter, hate crimes and related firearms charges, Shellenberger said.
Smith and another man, Robert Peete, were laying a concrete driveway two houses down from Higgs' house, according to court records. After Higgs' dog ran through the wet concrete, he came outside to get it, according to the state’s attorneys office.
Then Higgs, Peete and Smith began exchanging heated words.
Higgs asked Peete and Smith to come to his home if they “had a problem.” Smith and Peete went back to fixing the concrete and Higgs walked back inside of his home. About 10 to 15 minutes later, Higgs came back with a jacket on and a loaded handgun in one pocket and an extra magazine in the other, according to the State’s attorneys office.
Another confrontation ensued and Higgs began yelling racial and derogatory statements towards Peete and Smith. In court, Smith testified that Higgs called him the n-word and told him to “go back to Africa.”
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Higgs then got in Smith’s face and pushed him. Smith testified in court that he did not physically react until Higgs pushed him in the chest, at which point Smith said he struck Higgs in the head with a rake used for spreading concrete.
A struggle began and Higgs reached to pull out his gun. Peete and Smith tried to disarm him and the fight began to move towards Higgs' home. As Higgs and Smith were fighting he began to point the gun towards Peete but his arm was swatted away.
Smith then was shot shot in the leg by Higgs while the two wrestled. Smith was permanently injured by the shooting, according to court records. A metal rod had to be surgically implanted in his leg.
Smith and Peete eventually disarmed Higgs and held him until police arrived.
Baltimore County Assistant State’s Attorney John Magee argued that Higgs attacked and confronted Smith specifically because he was a Black man. Higgs' defense attorney, Jim Crawford, argued Higgs was acting in self defense and was trying to leave the scene of a fight before losing control of a semiautomatic pistol.
Higgs was found guilty of the charges in January. He was originally charged with attempted first-degree murder.
“We appreciate the hard work from the jury in this case,” Shellenberger said.