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Civilian Review Board says Baltimore Police officers used excessive force in shooting suspect

An independent city agency that reviews complaints against police has found that four Baltimore officers used excessive force in the 2015 shooting of a suspect, Keith Davis Jr., and his attorneys are now calling for his charges to be dismissed.

At a news conference Tuesday, Davis’ attorneys, Latoya Francis-Williams and Natalie Finegar, presented the findings of the city’s Civilian Review Board in asserting their client’s innocence.

Davis, now 26, is scheduled to be tried a third time in June on what his attorneys described as a “weak case” based on circumstantial evidence.

Davis is charged with murdering Kevin Jones, a security guard at Pimlico Race Course. Davis has maintained his innocence, and said the murder weapon was planted on him after he was shot by police just hours after Jones was killed.

Davis ran from police in Northwest Baltimore after authorities said he got into a hack, or unlicensed cab, and pulled a gun on the driver. A police officer chased Davis, cornering him inside a garage. More than 40 shots were fired, and Davis was struck several times. Police recovered a handgun from the top of a refrigerator behind which Davis was said to be hiding.

Davis was found not guilty by a jury on 14 of the 15 counts related to that incident, but was convicted of unlawful possession of the handgun.

A week after that verdict, he was charged in Jones’ death after ballistics linked it to that shooting.

Davis remains incarcerated at the the Jessup Correction Institution, serving a sentence for the gun charge.

“This was an extremely trying set of circumstances as Mr. Davis was shot by the police unjustly,” Francis-Williams. “These charges should have and shall be dismissed.”

The attorneys said the report by the Civilian Review Board found the officers used excessive force and also raised doubt about their credibility. The report said the city’s crime lab determined the gun recovered from the scene was never fired at the officers.

The review board’s report found “inconsistent testimonies” between the officers as to whether Davis had a gun, and found “serious discrepancies” between what the officers said in court and what was reported to internal affairs. The board recommended two officers be terminated and two others receive a 30-day suspension.

The board can only make recommendations to Police Commissioner Darryl De Sousa.

“We hope that the new commissioner will take a serious look at this and abide by the Civilian Review Board’s request,” Finegar said.

A Baltimore police spokesman said Tuesday the department is reviewing the matter, and that all of the officers involved in the arrest remain employed with the department.

A spokeswoman for the state’s attorney’s office said the findings of the Civilian Review Board on the officers’ actions does not affect the criminal trial against Davis.

The board’s “findings are separate and apart from the criminal proceedings currently pending against the defendant, for which we cannot comment,” spokeswoman Melba E. Saunders said in a statement. The criminal investigation of Davis, she said, “has no correlation with the use of force applied by the police in the apprehension of him.”

During Davis’ first murder trial last May, the state’s attorney’s office presented evidence that Davis was in possession of the murder weapon, and phone records showed him in the area of the killing when it happened. Davis’ attorneys presented an alibi witness who testified that Davis was at her home with her and her then-boyfriend at the time the murder occurred. The trial ended in a mistrial when jurors were deadlocked.

At Davis’ second trial in October, jurors found him guilty of second-degree murder. At that trial, prosecutors called David Gutierrez, who testified that he was Davis cellmate in Jessup, and that Davis had confessed to the killing, saying it was the result of a “neighborhood beef.”

After Davis’ conviction, Francis-Williams filed a motion for a new trial because key information had been withheld about Gutierrez.

Circuit Judge Lynn Stewart Mays granted Davis a new trial in December because, she said, there was a significant possibility that undisclosed information about Gutierrez’s role in a Texas gang murder could have changed the outcome of the trial.

At the same December hearing, Francis-Williams presented testimony from a former cellmate of Gutierrez who disputed his account.

Davis’ next court date for the murder case is scheduled for June 8.

Davis’ wife, Kelly Holsey Davis, said she visits her husband twice a week and that he continues to struggle with his injuries from the shooting.

“He did nothing wrong” on the day of the shooting but “we know something went horribly wrong,” she said. “We will get adequate justice for Keith.”

jkanderson@baltsun.com

twitter.com/janders5

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