Elliott was a bubbly 3-year-old when she was hit by a stray bullet in a drive-by shooting.
Baltimore Police Commissioner Anthony W. Batts said Tuesday that a man who was jailed and said to be the suspect in the killing of 3-year-old McKenzie Elliott last summer is "not the person" responsible for her death.
Describing for the first time in detail why charges in the case fell apart, Batts said police received information almost immediately from a confidential informant that prompted them to pursue a suspect.
"We were on the hunt for the person almost immediately who we believed was responsible, and we ended up arresting him," Batts told C4 on WBAL radio. "We didn't have enough because we didn't have anybody to come forward to put the charge of homicide on him. We got him on something else to hold him."
The man, a 21-year-old who The Sun is not identifying because he was never charged with the crime, turned himself in and was held without bond on an unrelated probation violation stemming from a prior weapon charge. Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake said at the time that the girl's killer was "in jail, but we can't charge him."
He was held for two months at the Baltimore City Detention Center until the probation violation was dismissed in early October.
Police said at the time only that the investigation had "shifted" and that they were following up on substantial leads.
On Tuesday, Batts said prosecutors had pressed police for more proof of the man's involvement.
He said that was "good checks and balances, because as we went through the investigation, we found out he was not the person," Batts said.
McKenzie was struck by a stray bullet while standing on a porch in Waverly on Aug. 1. Two other people were shot and survived. The incident shook the community, and officials urged people to come forward with tips.
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The C4 Show, where Batts' comments were made this week, has brought up the case on a regular basis, hoping to drum up tips.
Batts said police still believe they have a good idea of who is responsible.
"We know who the group is, but we don't have any people outside that says, 'That's the person,' " he said. "We know what happened, we have information from a confidential informant, we just need someone to come forward to say, 'That's the person.'"
Batts said that witnesses may be reluctant to come forward because those involved in the shooting "are still in that neighborhood, which should be a hue and cry to point them out."
Anyone with information was asked to call homicide detectives at 410-396-2100.