Man goes on trial in fatal shooting of Pimlico security guard

As Keith Davis Jr. goes on trial for the fatal shooting of a Pimlico Race Course security guard in June 2015, a bloody handprint on a gun is again the state's key evidence, with much else in dispute.

Davis, 25, was shot in the face by police two years ago, after being chased by officers who believed he was a robbery suspect. At trial last year, Davis was acquitted by a jury on 14 of the 15 counts he faced, but convicted of unlawful possession of a handgun that was found inside a garage where he had fled.

A week after that verdict, authorities charged Davis with first-degree murder in the fatal shooting of Kevin Jones, a crime that occurred five hours before Davis' run-in with police. Prosecutors say tests show the same gun recovered at the scene where Davis was shot was used to kill Jones, a 22-year-old security guard.

"Five hours later, a few blocks away, recovered from the defendant," Assistant State's Attorney Andrea Mason told jurors Tuesday afternoon.

Davis was shot by police just weeks after the death of Freddie Gray, and his cases have taken on a high profile, with his fiancee, Kelly Holsey, and the activist group Baltimore Bloc arguing that he is wrongly accused. They have used several public events to confront Baltimore State's Attorney Marilyn Mosby over the case.

Jones was a young security guard at Pimlico Race Course, which will be on national display less than two weeks from now for the 142nd Preakness. It also sits in a disadvantaged neighborhood that continues to suffer from gun violence.

Jones was shot nine times outside the track while walking to work in the pre-dawn darkness of June 6, 2015. Another worker reported seeing the gunman standing over Jones, with Jones pleading, "I don't know what you're talking about, man!"

In addition to the handprints on the gun, prosecutors say Davis' cellphone was connecting to towers in the area of Pimlico when the killing occurred. Davis' defense attorney, Latoya Francis-Williams, said she plans to put Davis on the stand, where she said he will tell jurors that he was in the area after attending a cookout the night before, but had nothing to do with Jones' killing.

She also questioned why police did not obtain surveillance footage from a nearby camera, and said a witness to the shooting described the suspect as being in his "late 30s or early 40s." She asked Davis to stand up in the courtroom, and said he "does not look late 30s in anyone's book."

Francis-Williams, who represented Davis at his first trial, said the officers who pursued Davis into the garage and shot him will also be called to testify.

Chief Judge Alfred Nance, however, said that the court "will not endure a retrial of the other trial."

According to prosecutors, officers had been flagged down by an unlicensed cabdriver who said a passenger with a gun had tried to rob him. Police saw a man running away, and pursued him into a garage. They said he was holding a gun and talking on the phone.

Davis hid behind a refrigerator and surrendered after being shot twice, Mason said Tuesday. The gun was found on the refrigerator, he said.

Davis has maintained that he was walking in Northwest Baltimore holding his phone when police yelled "gun" and began chasing him.

The cabdriver who flagged down officers testified at Davis' first trial that Davis didn't look like the man who tried to rob him.

But on the strength of the handprint, Davis was convicted of possession of a firearm as a prohibited person, a charge that brought a mandatory five-year sentence. He is appealing that conviction.

Francis-Williams said that the lead investigator in Jones' killing, Detective Mark Veney, cut corners and "decided it would be more expedient and more convenient to blame this person who was shot," referring to Davis.

jfenton@baltsun.com

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