Man pleads guilty to killing U.S. Marine in downtown bar

A 20-year-old man has pleaded guilty to first-degree murder and was sentenced to 30 years in prison for fatally shooting a U.S. Marine inside a hookah bar in downtown Baltimore as the sergeant prepared for redeployment to Afghanistan.

The July 2, 2010 killing of 26-year-old Sgt. Chase Love inside the Queens Hookah Bar and Lounge on East Baltimore St., just east of Calvert Street, was one in a string of killings of active-duty servicemen in a six month period.

Love, originally from New Orleans, had been visiting Baltimore with fellow Marine, Staff Sgt. Jamal Queen, who lives in Baltimore. He had been in town just five hours before he was killed. He had served two tours in Afghanistan and one in Iraq. He had entered the Marines after his mother died of breast cancer when he was a senior in high school.

The shooting occurred in the lounge between 3:15 a.m. and 3:30 a.m., and Love was found by a police officer lying outside on the sidewalk in front of a Hallmark store. He died at Maryland Shock Trauma Center, having been shot five times in the chest with a .25 caliber handgun.

“I hope this outcome will help bring a sense of closure to his family, friends and fellow service people,” Baltimore State’s Attorney Gregg L. Bernstein said in a statement.

Johnson’s attorney, Catherine Flynn, said her client pleaded guilty after prosecutors said they had a jailhouse witness who, according to them, heard her client “express quite a bit of remorse.” She said Johnson consulted at length with his own family before “making the difficult decision” to plead guilty.

In the statement from Bernstein, prosecutors said that police found seven .25 caliber shell casings traced to the lounge shooting, along with a box. .25 caliber cartridges, from the basement of Johnson’s home. The statement also says that Johnson told the cellmate that “police secured bullets but no gun.”

Flynn said her client did not make a statement during sentencing and she did not know the nature of the dispute that led to the shooting. “It’s very, very sad for everyone involved,” she said.

Love had lived with his wife and two stepchildren in North Carolina and had bought a house shortly before he was shot. He served as a radio operator in the Marines, and his family recalled laughing at pictures of him in Iraq with lollipops in his pocket.

“That was chase, always a jokester, such a joy to be around,” Kathey Early, a friend from Louisiana, said after his death.

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