Shooting case dropped

Prosecutors lack evidence to keep Baltimore soldier jailed in Oklahoma

October 19, 2007|By Gus G. Sentementes | Gus G. Sentementes,Sun reporter

Prosecutors dropped attempted-murder charges yesterday against an 18-year-old Baltimore soldier who had been arrested in Oklahoma, saying authorities lacked enough evidence to hold him responsible for a shooting that left five people wounded in the city last month.

Jerrell Hill, 18, who had been detained at Fort Sill and later moved to the Comanche County Detention Center, was expected to be released last night, officials said. An assistant state's attorney appeared in District Court in Baltimore yesterday to formally drop the case and withdraw an extradition warrant.

Emily Kelley, a Fort Sill spokeswoman, said that upon his release Hill is expected to return to duty at the base. She said Army officials turned over information about Hill to Baltimore police to cooperate with their investigation.

Margaret T. Burns, a spokeswoman for city prosecutors, said the case was "legally insufficient" and law enforcement officials were continuing with their investigation. A police spokesman, Sterling Clifford, said Hill remained a "person of interest" in the case and detectives were still investigating his whereabouts on the day of the shooting in East Baltimore, Sept. 20.

Hill's parents, who live in North Baltimore, have said their son could not have committed the shooting because he had been in Oklahoma. They said he boarded a plane from Baltimore-Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport on Sept. 11, but police said he did not check in at Fort Sill until Sept. 21.

Clifford said detectives still have questions about where Hill was between Sept. 11 and Sept. 20. "He's a member of the military," the police spokesman said. "He's not going to flee on us."

The early-morning attack in Baltimore occurred in the Barclay neighborhood. Police said two men approached a group on the street and one fired at least twice with a shotgun loaded with birdshot, tiny metal pellets that, when discharged from a shotgun, can spray a wide area.

None of the victims was seriously wounded. At least three of the five people wounded have ties to the Young Gorilla Family, a gang that claims the Barclay neighborhood, according to police. Law enforcement officials said they think the Young Gorilla Family and Bloods gang members have been responsible for a string of shootings and homicides in Barclay during the past year.

Police have said that they think Hill is a member of a faction of the Bloods gang known as the Pasadena Denver Lanes. Hill's parents have disputed that.

The parents said they took their son to BWI for an 11 a.m. American Airlines flight Sept. 11 and watched him pass through the security checkpoint. "He was supposed to report back to base," Robert Hill said.

This week, Army officials said they could not publicly disclose Hill's whereabouts when he reported to the base. A police spokesman said yesterday that detectives were told by the Army that he had returned to base Sept. 21, a day after the shooting. Police also said they had at least one witness who identified Hill as the suspected shooter.

Hill joined the Army on April 25 and was a private assigned to 1st Battalion, 22nd Field Artillery at Fort Sill, according to military officials. He had been assigned to the artillery unit last month, officials said.

He dropped out of one of the small schools at the former Northern High School in 10th grade but completed a security trades program at Woodstock Job Corps Center, his father told The Sun.

He earned his GED in March and enlisted in April because "he decided he wanted to get off the streets and do something with his life," his father said.

gus.sentementes@baltsun.com

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