Attorney for teen accused of killing husband of Baltimore Police captain says shooting was manslaughter, not murder

The 19-year-old man accused of gunning down the husband of a Baltimore Police captain about a year ago did just that, his attorney said at the outset of the teen’s murder trial Tuesday.

“Sahiou Kargbo shot and killed James Blue [III],” Assistant Public Defender Todd Oppenheim told jurors during opening statements. “We’re not here to say he did not. There it is.”


The question for the jury, Oppenheim said, was whether the fatal shooting amounted to murder or manslaughter, a spur-of-the-moment killing that lacks forethought and comes with a shorter punishment.

Oppenheim asked jurors to evaluate the evidence with open minds and find that his client was guilty of the lesser offense, which carries a maximum of 10 years in prison compared to 40 years for second-degree murder and life imprisonment without the possibility of parole for premeditated murder.


The defense’s opening remarks leave no doubt who is responsible for opening fire on Blue, who was married to Baltimore Police Capt. Lekeshia Blue, while he was waiting in his car Jan. 25, 2022, for a refrigerator to be delivered to a property the couple purchased in Northeast Baltimore. Lekeshia Blue was a lieutenant at the time of her husbands killing but has since been promoted.

Eugene Secola, who was doing landscaping that day at the couple’s property in the 1400 block of Walker Avenue, testified that he saw a masked gunman approach Blue’s car around 2:30 p.m. and unload almost an entire magazine of bullets into the black Honda Accord. The shooter moved around the car as he fired, from the back of the vehicle to the front.

“A man opened the door and fell out of the car and the [gunman] ran around and shot him two or three more times,” Secola said Tuesday.

He testified about calling 9-1-1, saying the dispatcher told him to apply pressure to gunshot injuries.

“I said ‘No, I can’t. The individual has multiple wounds,’” Secola said. “There was nothing I could do. ... I just said a prayer.”

Blue, 43, an Amtrak conductor and father of three, died about an hour later at Johns Hopkins Hospital.

Baltimore County Police arrested Kargbo on a warrant for an armed robbery case a day later. When county detectives searched his house with a warrant, they found two handguns, one loaded with an extended magazine that could hold up to 50 rounds. The gun would be a key lead for city police investigating Blue’s death.

Crime scene technicians in Baltimore picked up 14 fired, 9mm cartridge casings recovered from where Blue was shot and a firearms examiner concluded they were fired by one of the handguns county police seized from Kargbo’s home. The defense isn’t challenging that the gun was Kargbo’s or that it was used in the fatal shooting.


Kargbo shot Blue 10 times, Assistant State’s Attorney Tonya LaPolla told jurors Tuesday.

LaPolla said the state also will present cellphone data showing Kargbo near the crime scene at the time of the shooting and footage of the then-18-year-old leaving Mergenthaler Vocational-Technical High School shortly before the homicide in clothing that appeared to match descriptions of the shooter.

“You’ll have a very clear picture that points to this defendant, that he committed first-degree murder,” LaPolla told the jury.

Oppenheim said Kargbo, whose parents emigrated to America from Gambia in West Africa when he was a young child, came to know a woman who lived on the block Blue was killed. He referred to the woman as his aunt, but Oppenheim said the woman was trouble: Her house was shot up twice in the weeks before the homicide. A neighbor testified he suspected drug activity.

Blue, who had a handgun permit, was armed the day of the shooting. His firearm was not shot the day he was killed.

Blue’s family watched the first day of the trial from the gallery of the courtroom in downtown Baltimore. Testimony from his widow punctuated the first morning.


Lekeshia Blue told the jury about purchasing the Walker Avenue property and the process of gutting and renovating it. She said her husband would visit the property several times a week to check up on the contractors working on the house.

The police captain, whose voice cracked with emotion while explaining that her son was on the phone with his father when Blue was shot, steeled herself for questions from Oppenheim.

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In openings, Oppenheim accused prosecutors of overreaching for premeditated murder charges because of “tremendous pressure” derived from Blue’s ties to the police department.

“This is an overcharged case to have you reach the verdict you want,” Oppenheim told jurors. “That is exactly what you should expect when the person who was killed is the husband of a police captain.”

In response to Oppenheim’s questions, Lekeshia Blue, a 25-year city police veteran, said her father retired as a commander with the agency; her cousin, Maj. Nicholas Edwards, oversees the department’s homicide unit; and her brother is a city police sergeant. In addition, Blue testified, her sister-in-law, Shelonda Stokes, is the president of the Downtown Baltimore Partnership.

Blue testified all of her family members within the police department were recused from the case, with their access to documents related to the case blocked. She said she didn’t call in any favors during the investigation of her husband’s killing.


Oppenheim pressed on, asking what Lekeshia Blue talked about with officers at the scene of the shooting, after showing her department identification to go past the crime tape.

She leaned into the microphone, testifying not in her police uniform, but a black pantsuit and dark floral blouse.

“I asked ‘where was my husband,’” Blue recalled, her voice rising in court. “‘Where is my husband? Where is my husband?’”