If Harry Johnson III had not flashed his handgun on Calverton Street last April 16, he and his cousin, Ronnie A. Hunt, might be walking the streets today.
But Baltimore police were conducting a drug sweep on the street, and Officer Kenneth Parks happened to see the gun. Within seconds a second police car arrived, and police seized a loaded .40-caliber Glock semiautomatic pistol; a cartridge was in the chamber.
The recovery of that gun helped convince a Baltimore City Circuit Court jury yesterday that Johnson, 20, and Hunt, 23, were guilty of killing Sheldean Simon, a 23-year-old West Baltimore drug dealer slain in an April 10 gunbattle in which at least 77 shots were fired in the first block of North Kossuth Street.
Hunt and Johnson will be sentenced Nov. 2 by Judge Elsbeth Levy Bothe.
Even though police could not find any witnesses, they did build a circumstantial case against the two men by using the gun and a careful analysis of the 77 bullets, casings and cartridges found at the scene.
It took the jury about seven hours to convict the two men of first-degree murder and a handgun violation.
"At first the police really didn't know what they had stumbled on," H. Jerome Briscoe, the prosecutor who handled the case, said after the trial. "It was only because Detective Harry Edgerton called and asked if they had recovered any .40-caliber Glocks during their sweeps."
Mr. Simon was killed by a bullet fired from a Glock. In fact, police determined that the Glock had fired about 44 shots during the firefight on Kossuth Street. In addition, police determined that three other guns were also fired by two rival drug gangs.
A ballistics test matched the gun recovered from Johnson to spent bullets found at the scene. When asked how they came to be in possession of a gun used in Mr. Simon's murder, Johnson and Hunt gave conflicting statements, according to testimony.