Fatal Shooting (copy)

Frederick police look for evidence after two people were shot June 27 in a parking lot on Columbine Drive off Fairview Avenue.

A Frederick man already accused of drug offenses was charged with murder Thursday after police and prosecutors said he was linked to the shooting death of a man who was to testify against him.

Lavonte Darnell Nash, 27, was arrested in September with four other people police identified as members of a drug distribution network, but the murder charge was handed up Jan. 24 by a Frederick County grand jury and announced publicly Thursday in a joint press release from Frederick police and the state’s attorney’s office.

In addition to the drug counts Nash was charged with previously, prosecutors filed charges of first-degree murder and attempted first-degree murder in a shooting that took place June 27 in the parking lot of the Apartments at Sunset in the 1000 block of Columbine Drive, as well as other charges ranging from assault to gang involvement.

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Prosecutors say the shooting happened when Nash, who prosecutors allege is a member of a Frederick-based street gang called “PA-32,” learned that 30-year-old Gregory Allen Bair Knight was going to be called as a witness against him at Nash’s trial in a previous drug case, according to Thursday’s release. Knight was killed and a woman who was with him in his car in the parking lot was injured in the shooting, according to Thursday’s release and previous stories published by The Frederick News-Post.

Knight wasn’t identified as a witness in Nash’s case before the shooting, but police referred to him in court documents as a “confidential informant” who bought $50 worth of crack cocaine from Nash at the direction of police in 2017, according to previous stories. Nash was arrested in connection with that offense on May 4, 2017, but was out of jail on $7,500 bail by the time of the shooting, which was referenced only indirectly at the time of Nash’s arrest on further drug charges in September.

“Obviously we couldn’t make comment back then, we didn’t want to compromise the investigation, but I think as you can see from today’s indictment he was charged with that first-degree murder of Mr. Knight,” said Frederick County State’s Attorney Charlie Smith, speaking of the shooting and subsequent investigation on Thursday.

Despite Knight’s death, Smith maintained that detectives and prosecutors handled Knight’s identity as an informant according to best practices established and followed by law enforcement agencies all over the country.

“We refer to them as confidential informants and, should they be called to testify, at that point in time we have to identify them, but the law allows us to keep them confidential until that point,” Smith said, adding that he did not believe either the police department or his office would change how they handle informants as a result of Knight’s death. “... I’ve never had that occur in the 30 years that I’ve been doing this. We’ve had plenty of incidents of witness intimidation, but we’ve never had a witness that was actually murdered because they were going to testify.”

Nash’s indictment also linked him to two other shootings on Market Street in downtown Frederick in August and September 2019, both of which police believe were gang-related, according to Thursday’s press release.

The first shooting happened just after 1:30 a.m. Aug. 31 in the 600 block of North Market and four people were wounded, according to previous stories. Police recovered a total of 30 shell casings from three different weapons at the scene, indicating that multiple people were involved in the exchange of gunfire, according to charging documents filed this week against 17-year-old Nazir Rashad Wells, who was arrested Wednesday in relation to the shooting.

While Wells and Nash were charged at about the same time in connection with the August shooting, police appear to have developed Wells as a suspect separately.

Along with the shell casings, police also recovered a 9 mm Smith & Wesson handgun that was dropped down a nearby storm drain, according to Wells’ charging documents. An examination of DNA found on the gun was returned as a partial match for Wells in December by the state police’s DNA database, which already had a profile of Wells’ DNA from two criminal convictions in 2017 and 2019, the documents state.

“Once we got information that Mr. Wells was involved in the shooting back in August, we conducted some further investigation that eventually led to us serving that search warrant on his residence yesterday morning,” said Lt. Kirk Henneberry, commander of the Frederick Police Department’s Criminal Investigations Division.

In total, Wells was charged with illegal possession of a regulated firearm, possession of a firearm by a minor, carrying a handgun on his person, having a loaded firearm on his person and discharge of a firearm, according to court records. He was denied bail at an initial hearing before a District Court judge Thursday afternoon.

A third man, 35-year-old Bryant Helon McMillan Jr., was charged previously in relation to the Aug. 31 shooting, making Wells and Nash the second and third suspects to be charged in connection with the crime to date. McMillan was also denied bail at his initial bail review hearing after his arrest in August, court records indicate. He was again denied bail in a second hearing in October, the records state.

While neither Wells nor McMillan was facing any assault charges or other offenses related to the shooting, the investigations of their alleged involvement in the violence remained open as of Thursday, meaning more charges could be filed later, Henneberry said.

As of Thursday, none of the other suspects charged alongside Nash in September was facing any charges in relation to the June 27 homicide or either of the other shootings Nash was linked to, according to Smith, who also indicated that those investigations remained ongoing.

Nash, of the 1400 block of Key Parkway, has remained held without bail in the Frederick County Adult Detention Center since his initial arrest on drug charges in September, according to online court records. Nash waived his bail review hearing Thursday afternoon in Frederick County Circuit Court.

Follow Jeremy Arias on Twitter: @Jarias_Prime.

Jeremy Arias is the Frederick city and government reporter for The Frederick News-Post.

(27) comments

Kelpfarming

Yep, because Stop and Frisk dont work, right. Cheers

gothtype0

So, the gang issue was supposedly being taken care of over 10 years ago. It's great that this POS is currently off the grid.... only because he is linked to murder. Why is there still the allowance of gang activity in Frederick today?

KellyAlzan

As I read this FNP news story I noticed it alleged the suspect is a local gang member.

I vividly recall back when Sherf Jenkins initially campaigned for Sheriff, one of his campaign promises was to "go after the gangs". Not only was this one of his promises, it was one of his top three core promises.

I can hear the responses now "Kelly, this is in the city, not the county, don't you know anything". And my response in anticipation to that is: hey, this was the Sherf's promise. His promise. His campaign. He owns it. And last I checked, the city is in the county and the city residents and property owners pay county taxes and vote in the county elections.

To this day, the sherf has not coordinated with the city to implement any activity to going after the gangs. As I read the story at hand, I can not help buy wonder would this killing, would this drug dealing, have taken place had the sherf fulfilled his promise from his initial campaign?

Note: anyone not aware of the sherf making such a promise, there is video from Frederick Cablevision of the sherf talking about this. Or, feel free to ask the Sherf himself. Feel free to ask the FNP to dig through their files.

[copy made]

MD1756

Thank you legislators for doing away with the death penalty.

ChesapeakeDeadrise

Awesome work City PD!

KellyAlzan

Finally, a positive comment from

You, you must of had some nice company last night 👍🏻

ChesapeakeDeadrise

nice company last night?

Russian

Rewarding Informants encourages criminals i to partake in criminal activity.

dcmetro

I'm not quite sure I understand the reasoning behind why a confidant in a court case is eventually identified to those who may cause harm to that individual. As recently as yesterday I read about a court case in NY where a confidant was murdered after his name was released prior to an MS-13 trial. According to the FNP article this is a practice across the country. It isn't any wonder why people are often reluctant to be a cooperating witness.

mrnatural1

Exactly dcmetro, great point.

Prosecutors seem too focused on winning the case at all costs -- even if it means the death of witnesses.

notconcerned

Great reporting FNP. Sad to learn of this underbelly of our community.

francesca_easa

Thanks police officers. But it is high time Charlie Smith be put out to pasture. He's not tough on criminals.

MrSniper

As long as drugs, prostitution, & gambling are illegal or inconvenient, there will be organized crime associated with these rackets. I get it people don’t want these things in their communities...I don’t either. Guess what? They are already in our community. Plus we get to have the associated violence that comes along with the prohibition policy. We’ve been doing things the same way so long people don’t even remember that there used to be a different, more effective way. Time for a change.

gabrielshorn2013

Plumbum, Terms of Use Rule #5:

Be truthful. Don't knowingly lie about anyone or anything.

The Sheriff never said what you claimed he did. Please link to one article that you claimed was in the FNP where he said that.

KellyAlzan

You are 200% incorrect.

The sheriff based his initial

Campaign on a few different promises. And one of them he was hard and heavy in promising to “go after the gangs”. There is video of him on camera at Frederick Cablevision making this promise.

I am sorry that you do not like me.

We have never met.

I am sorry that my posts make you upset. So much that you troll

My every post. It’s gotten to you very deep.

But, charles a Jenkins certainly made that promise. It was one of his core promises. And I bet someone put here still has one of his campaign pamphlets, with that stated.

The news story mentions “gang”.

And the Sherf’s initial campaign promised, and i quote word from word “to go after the gangs”.

His exact words.

And since my post was deleted (but will be resubmitted because it pertains to the FNP story - yes, I realize this crime was in the city. And yes, the city is in the county. And yes, the city residents vote for county officials, too.

Copy made

gabrielshorn2013

Plumbum, I have nothing against you personally at all, and your posts don't upset me. What I do object to is your constant, clearly personal tirades against the Sheriff. You said that he said that "only illegal immigrants commit these kinds of crimes", which was the lie that I called you on. Unfortunately, your post was deleted, and will be again if you post it again without documentation. If it's in this paper, provide the link. As for trolling, that is exactly what you are doing with such posts. Look up the definition. I am merely responding to you. Don't like responses? Dont post such stuff. Simple right? There are lots of things that I agree with you on, and have given you 👍many times.

KellyAlzan

No way will I read all that.

Bottom line If you don’t like my comments - don’t read them. You’re the only one here who hasn’t figured out that you can’t change me

gabrielshorn2013

Not trying to change you Plumbum. Just don't lie. Simple, right? Apparently the FNP agrees, because they deleted your post containing your lie It's a pity that you are unable to read six lines.

KellyAlzan

I didn’t lie. Trumpkins based his initial campaign on the aforementioned promise. It’s not debatable, because he did.

Look - no one cares what you think. You think people care, but no one does.

No one cares what I think. The differences between you and me is that I know no one cares. You don’t.

You are irrelevant to me. This is cyberspace, not a side by side work place. Not a church. Not a social gathering. Not family. Just cyber space. And that’s it. Do as you want with your time, but understand, you are not relevant.

gabrielshorn2013

That is not what I am calling you on Plumbum, and you know it. Let's try again, you wrote last night that the Sheriff said "only illegal immigrants commit these kinds of crimes", and your post was promptly removed because the FNP saw the lie for what it was...libel. Nobody cares? You apparently have a problem with people that can provide a rational argument, disproving your tirades, and I will keep doing just that. Yes, you care, because you just provided a six line response to my two-line response, and the reason for my post was stated several times here already. If you didn't want others to care about what you write, why do you write it in such a public space after all, for others to read? Send your complaints directly to the Sheriff for consideration. Cognitive dissonance.

shiftless88

But you must admit that the Sheriff generally means "MS-13" when he says gangs. I've never heard him mention this one. But I've heard him mention "MS-13" a lot. It is similar to the way many right-wingers view terrorism; they define it to themselves as "muslims" so any right-wing domestic terrorism doesn't count as terrorism to them.

gabrielshorn2013

Shiftless, oh, absolutely agreed. He uses MS-13 as shorthand for gangs. Fact is, we have several operating gangs in this area, including MS-13, 18th Street, PA-32, and a few others to a lesser extent. See links below. Also agreed about who participates in terrorism. We have many, many domestic terrorists here of all religious, ethnic, and cultural stripe.

https://www.justice.gov/usao-md/gangs

http://www.mcac.maryland.gov/newsroom/Gang%20News

https://www.nationalgangcenter.gov/gang-related-news?st=md

shiftless88

Gabe; I finally figured out your nickname for Kelly! I knew what Pb was but hadn't really paid attention to her avatar. Clever!

gabrielshorn2013

Thanks shiftless. I never could understand why they would choose lead. Gold, silver, bronze, etc. OK. But lead? [wink]

C.D.Reid

Great comments to Kelly Q. gabe, absolutely great! And yeah, lead is very, very dull..... [lol]

mrnatural1

Quote"

""We refer to them as confidential informants and, should they be called to testify, at that point in time we have to identify them, but the law allows us to keep them confidential until that point," Smith said, adding that he did not believe either the police department or his office would change how they handle informants as a result of Knight's death."

~~~

With this murder and the above statement in mind, why would anyone agree to be a CI and/or a witness against someone who is clearly capable of murder?!

The ONLY way I can see a person even considering being a CI is if a) the prosecutor has a lot on them and they are willing to drop it all, and b) they have a signed document confirming that they will be placed into WITSEC immediately.

Outside of that, it's clear that the CI's are just being used. A means to and end. Their lives are put in danger because, hey, why not? They're criminals themselves, so if they are murdered, well, they had it coming, right?

gabrielshorn2013

I have to agree mrnatural. If there is to be a working relationship between law enforcement and the citizenry, citizens must have confidence that law enforcement will be there to protect them, and not be there to clean up a crime scene. This is one of the major reasons for the continued murders in Baltimore. People are afraid to come forward because the police can't, and the justice system won't, protect them.

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