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‘Come on baby girl!’ As trial begins, Baltimore officer recounts finding 7-year-old Taylor Hayes fatally shot

‘Come on baby girl!’ As trial begins, Baltimore officer recounts finding 7-year-old Taylor Hayes fatally shot
Shanika Robinson, mother of Taylor Hayes, listens during a moment of silence during a recent Peace Walk. On Wednesday, jurors heard riveting accounts of efforts to save the 7-year old girl who was shot and killed last summer. (Barbara Haddock Taylor / Baltimore Sun)

The most trying moments of Sgt. Steven Reed’s career came last summer when a young man rushed up for help in West Baltimore. Someone had been shot, a little girl.

The Baltimore police officer ran to a chaotic scene. A Honda blocked traffic on busy Edmondson Avenue. The driver, a woman, was screaming. One little girl, panicking, jumped out.

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Reed peered inside. A second child slumped across the backseat.

“Oh my God,” the officer said. “Come on baby girl! … Help!”

Jurors watched his body-camera video of the frantic moments at the start of trial Wednesday for a West Baltimore man accused of fatally shooting 7-year-old Taylor Hayes. Keon Gray, 30, faces 32 counts including murder.

In the video, Reed pleads for some sign of life: “Come on, sweetie!”

The officer said he couldn’t detect her faint pulse. A .40 caliber bullet had ripped through the trunk of the Honda and the backseat to hit the girl in her back. Two weeks later, she was dead.

“I had never encountered anything like that in my 12 years,” Reed told the jury.

Prosecutors and defense attorneys told of a ferocious gun battle that left Taylor fatally shot that hot afternoon. The reckless shootout itself was undisputed; investigators found 21 shell casings. At issue, however, was who pulled the trigger.

“She dies because of that man’s actions,” said Assistant State’s Attorney Charles Blomquist, pointing across the courtroom to Gray.

Gray was driving a Mercedes and exchanged gunfire with a passenger in the front seat of the Honda, Blomquist said. The Honda passenger, Malik Edison, faces his own gun charges. Blomquist said Edison fired 19 times; Gray, twice.

The Mercedes drove off and crashed nearby. The car is registered to Daneka McDonald, prosecutors say, and she’s charged as an accessory after the shooting. Blomquist said they found DNA evidence on the airbag that matched Gray.

Anyone in the Honda could have been killed by Gray, the prosecutor said.

“They are all victims of the wanton disregard for life that man possessed,” Blomquist told the jury.

Still, he did not say what caused Gray and Edison to allegedly exchange gunfire. Police haven’t offered a motive either.

Gray’s defense attorney, Ken Ravenell, said the evidence falls short. He said at least three witnesses identified various other people as the Mercedes driver and gunman. Further, he said, prosecutors intend to build their case on the testimony of witnesses who can’t be trusted, such as Edison.

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“They’re going to vilify Mr. Gray. They’re going to talk about him like he has no mother,” Ravenell told the jury. “Bring justice not just for Taylor Hayes, but for Keon Gray.”

Taylor Hayes became one of the city’s youngest victims of gun violence in 2018. City leaders, police and activists decried her killing and the escalation of violence in a city where a little girl can be shot while riding in her godmother’s car. In the days afterward, mourners declared themselves the “Taylor Gang.” They wore white headbands and held a “Pizza Party for Peace.”

She was buried in a casket 4½ feet long.

Two weeks ago, Shanika Robinson led a peace walk in her daughter’s memory and carried a purple banner with “#Justice4Taylor.” Robinson was attending jury selection for the trial on Tuesday when she was arrested on another matter.

In the hallway outside the courtroom, sheriff’s deputies arrested her on a warrant from Frederick County, where she was wanted for allegedly violating probation related to a misdemeanor theft case in Frederick, according to online court records.

On Wednesday morning, more sheriff’s deputies — some in tactical vests — stood guard along the hall outside the courtroom. Ravenell objected.

“It sends a very bad message to the jury,” he told the judge.

The first witnesses included police and paramedics who came upon the scene. EMT Gabriel Meskel said he was driving for a private ambulance company on Edmondson Avenue when a man flagged him down. The medics rushed to help. They eased the small girl onto a stretcher.

They fitted Taylor with a blood pressure cuff and breathing mask. They checked if her pupils would react to light. While they raced to the University of Maryland’s Shock Trauma Center, paramedic James Bagley began chest compression.

“She had a large gunshot wound to the middle of her back,” he told the jury.

Gray was arrested about a month later at a motel in Anne Arundel County.

Police said they also found a loaded handgun and heroin in the glove box of the Honda, which carried Taylor. They arrested the driver, Darnell Holmes — Taylor’s godmother — and her passenger, Edison, charging both with possession of drugs and illegal guns.

In February, charges were dropped against Holmes, who, Ravenell said, agreed to testify against Gray after prosecutors offered her $13,000 to help pay her mortgage.

Ravenell told jurors that prosecutors offered Edison a generous plea deal that would reduce his prison sentence from 14 years to 14 months.

And yet, both Holmes and Edison lied to police, Ravenell told jurors, as he sought to shift the blame onto them.

“At the end of the day,” he said, “the state’s case comes down to do you believe Ms. Holmes and Mr. Edison.”

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