While much of the city was focused Thursday morning on the shooting of Baltimore Police Officer Keona Holley, Travon Shaw was visiting with the family of Justin Johnson, a longtime friend who was killed that same morning.
According to Johnson’s sister, Shaw comforted Johnson’s girlfriend and played with Johnson’s young son. He asked questions about the case.
It was a perplexing development for Johnson’s family and friends, who are looking for answers while being bombarded with rumors in the high-profile case and hoping their loved one is not forgotten.
“It’s a lot of shock. It’s still so fresh. We haven’t had time to process that Justin’s gone,” said sister Dionna Agbelese, 23, who has set up a fundraiser for funeral expenses.
Police say a second suspect, Elliott Knox, 31, confessed to taking part in both shootings and identified Shaw for detectives. Knox also told detectives where to recover firearms used in the shootings, police say.
Holley remains on life support at the University of Maryland Shock Trauma Center, while Shaw was ordered held without bail Monday by a District Court judge.
Agbelese said her brother came from a big family — he was the fourth of seven children — and himself was a proud father of five, ages 2 to 18. She said he learned cheers to help one daughter when she wanted to get into cheerleading, and was a great cook.
“He’s not just the other victim or a clue in Officer Keona’s case,” Agbelese said. “He was a great man, loving father, hilarious brother, a kind and protective son.”
Holley, 39, was shot twice in the head while sitting in her patrol cruiser around 1:30 a.m. Dec. 16 in the 4400 block of Pennington Ave. in Curtis Bay. She was not responding to a call at the time, and police think the two suspects ran up behind her in an ambush.
About 90 minutes later, Johnson was sitting in his car as well, in the 600 block of Lucia Ave. in the Yale Heights neighborhood when he was shot. In charging documents, police say the car had bullet holes in the back window and trunk.
Police recovered .40-caliber and .223-caliber rounds, and wrote in court documents that they were able to match the .40-caliber casings to the shooting of Holley. In that case, police said in separate charging documents, investigators had identified a vehicle fleeing the Curtis Bay and identified it through license plate readers as belonging to Knox.
Knox was located and taken in for questioning, where police say he admitted to being involved but denied being the shooter.
“Mr. Knox described that after the shooting on Pennington Avenue he and Mr. Shaw were in the area of Lucia Avenue,” Det. Michael Vodarick wrote. “Mr. Knox described how Mr. Shaw informed him that Mr. Johnson owed him money and that he was going to holler at him.”
Knox said that Shaw carried out the shooting, and that Knox hid the guns at a home in Baltimore County, where they have since been recovered, according to police.
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Shaw declined to speak with investigators, police said, and it was not clear whether he had an attorney Monday. Shaw was awaiting trial for a March 2020 firearms charge in Baltimore County at the time of his arrest.
Knox is scheduled for a bail review hearing Tuesday; his attorney declined to comment.
Over the weekend, rumors spread on social media that Knox may have been related to a man that Holley was involved with arresting last month. The Baltimore Sun looked into the claim, and Holley is indeed listed as an officer witness in the arrest for attempted murder of a man named Eddie Knox.
But public records show Eddie Knox lived in upstate New York and had no apparent ties to Baltimore, and charging documents from his arrest show he was passing through on a Greyhound when he allegedly stabbed another passenger. Holley’s name does not appear in charging documents, indicating a minor role in the arrest.
“There’s a lot of misinformation being spread online,” Agbelese said.
In the meantime, Johnson’s family is trying to cope.
“We’re figuring out how we’re going to guide his kids through life,” Agbelese said. “My mom lost one of her sons, and it’s never going to be the same for her.”