Kelly Holsey Davis, the wife of Keith Davis Jr. (center, holding single picture of her and her husband) has been a vocal critic of Baltimore police and prosecutors. Photo by Jessica Anderson, Baltimore Sun
Kelly Holsey Davis, the wife of Keith Davis Jr. (center, holding single picture of her and her husband) has been a vocal critic of Baltimore police and prosecutors. Photo by Jessica Anderson, Baltimore Sun (Jessica Anderson / Baltimore Sun)

On the morning of his death, Kevin Jones woke in the dark and put on his uniform, the tan shirt, black tie and work boots of a security guard at Pimlico Race Course.

Before sunrise, he walked through Park Heights toward the racetrack in Northwest Baltimore, a trek he made every workday. That morning in June 2015, however, he was followed by a masked man with a gun.

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Jones was gunned down -- shot 11 times, once in his face -- and his death launched police on a monthslong investigation. It eventually led prosecutors to put on trial three times a 27-year-old man from Howard County for the murder.

On Tuesday, a fourth murder trial began against Keith Davis Jr. That a hardworking security guard was brutally killed was not in dispute, but much else was.

Assistant State’s Attorney Patrick Seidel told the jury of a seemingly random sequence of events that same morning, he said, ending when police chased an armed Davis, shot him and found him with the murder weapon.

“The reason why he got caught was luck, sheer luck,” Seidel said.

Davis was encountered less than a mile from the racetrack where Jones was gunned down, the prosecutor said.

Assistant Public Defender Deborah Levi had another explanation. The city had become a powder keg in the weeks after the death of Freddie Gray, and now police had mistakenly shot and grievously wounded an unarmed man.

“They blew a .40 caliber bullet through his face,” she told the jury. She said two officers planted the handgun on Davis. “When they realized he didn’t have a gun, they planted the evidence because they were afraid.”

Jurors will have to sort through both accounts during the coming days of the trial in Baltimore Circuit Court.

Jones’ distraught mother left the courtroom when prosecutors described how her son was gunned down. Seidel spared no grim detail. One bullet blew out Jones’ teeth.

“If that wasn’t enough, the kill shot to the top of the forehead,” the prosecutor said, “went through his skull, went through his brain.”

Jones died within minutes. Police found no video cameras, no witnesses.

But shell casings around the body would match Davis’ gun, Seidel said.

“Nine tiny, little pieces of brass,” he told the jury. “Smaller than the erasers on your pencils.”

The same morning of Jones’ death, Seidel said, an officer was responding to a car crash nearby when a driver called out that a man had a gun. Police gave chase and cornered Davis in a mechanic’s garage.

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In the courtroom, Levi formed her hands in the shape of a gun. “POW!”

Police fired 33 rounds as Davis tried to hide behind a refrigerator, she said. When the bullets ended, the handgun was on top of the refrigerator. Police put it there, she claimed.

“They charged him over a year later after a woefully poor investigation to cover up a police-involved shooting gone terribly wrong,” she said.

Levi went further, saying Det. Mark Veney failed to submit two of Jones’ cellphones as evidence.

“He held on to the victim’s phones for 11 months before he even put them into evidence,” she said.

Davis’ first murder trial ended in May 2017 with the jury deadlocked. Five months later, he was tried again and found guilty of second-degree murder. But a judge threw out the conviction because information about a key witness was withheld.

Prosecutors tried him a third time in June of last year. Again, the jury was deadlocked.

His wife, Kelly Davis, has emerged as a community activist calling for Baltimore State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby to abandon the case. She and her supporters have confronted Mosby at public events and rallied to a drumbeat of “Free Keith Davis!”

Their efforts helped draw attention to the case from outside Baltimore. National newspapers, magazines and podcasts have explored the case.

Mosby’s political opponents criticized her in the runup to last year’s primary election for continuing to prosecute.

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