2 indicted in 2006 killing

Baltimore men charged in fatal shooting of federal witness

November 21, 2007|By Matthew Dolan and Julie Bykowicz | Matthew Dolan and Julie Bykowicz,Sun reporters

Almost a year after a federal witness was gunned down in an East Baltimore bar, prosecutors charged two men in his killing as part of a sweeping investigation into a violent drug organization, according to court documents unsealed yesterday.

A federal grand jury accused Melvin Gilbert, 33, and Darron Goods, 23, both of Baltimore, with fatally shooting John P. Dowery Jr. last Thanksgiving to prevent Dowery's cooperation in the federal investigation of "Special," a Baltimore drug gang.

Dowery, 38, had been shot earlier - but survived - for his assistance to state prosecutors on a related case, authorities have said.

The new charges once again highlight a chronic challenge for law enforcement in Baltimore: the intimidation, if not the outright assassination, of people who cooperate with police. But local and federal officials in Baltimore used the case yesterday to renew their commitment to do all they can to keep witnesses safe.

In the end, said Maryland U.S. Attorney Rod J. Rosenstein, Dowery chose the path to his own fate. Against the advice of federal law enforcement, Dowery left the relative safety of his undisclosed relocation and returned to visit the neighborhood where he grew up, the community where he would later be shot to death.

Still, law enforcement officials said that witnesses to crime should not see Dowery's death as a victory for criminals bent on keeping witnesses silent at any cost. Most witnesses, they said, remain unharmed.

"Anyone who intimidates, attacks or kills a witness moves to the top of our list," Rosenstein said. "After John Dowery was murdered in cold blood last Thanksgiving, we pledged to work tirelessly to identify the killers and bring them to justice."

Gilbert and three other defendants previously had been indicted on federal charges for participating in a drug conspiracy and murdering three victims.

Five victims

The killing of Dowery and another victim identified in the indictment raises the number of homicides allegedly committed by the gang known as "Special" to five. The indictment was returned last week and unsealed yesterday.

State court records show that Goods has been charged with trying to kill someone three times in the past seven years.

Goods was convicted of attempted murder two years ago but after an appeal was acquitted in a retrial last year. Three years earlier, he pleaded guilty to first-degree assault in an attempted-murder case and was sentenced to time served. And an attempted-murder case from when he was age 16 was handled in juvenile court, where no record is publicly available of what happened to him.

Gilbert also has a history of violence, according to state court records. He pleaded guilty in May 2000 to handgun violations in a murder case and was sentenced to time served. He also had been sentenced to 12 years in prison for an armed-robbery conviction in 1993.

Both men could receive the death penalty if convicted in federal court of killing Dowery.

Local authorities, who had been unable to secure a conviction in the first case involving Dowery as a targeted witness, thanked federal law enforcement officials for their help.

"I am very grateful to the U.S. attorney's office, and to our federal partners at the FBI, for their efforts and the countless hours that all the investigators invested in this case that led to today's indictment," said Baltimore State's Attorney Patricia C. Jessamy. "This level of collaboration should not go unnoticed, considering the importance of the many issues that prosecutors and law enforcement face every day in Baltimore."

Killed Nov. 23, 2006

Dowery was shot to death Nov. 23 last year at the Kozy Korner bar in the 700 block of E. Bartlett Ave., a few blocks from where he had grown up and where his relatives still live. He moved away when he was placed into federal witness protection after the first time he was shot, authorities said.

A father of nine, he had come home for Thanksgiving, his relatives said.

The indictment alleges that Gilbert and Goods knew Dowery was cooperating with law enforcement authorities in the federal investigation and prosecution of members of their drug distribution conspiracy.

The two shot him to prevent him from testifying and providing information to federal law enforcement about drug trafficking by the members of "Special," according to the indictment.

The indictment also includes new charges against co-defendant Tamall Parker, who allegedly shot and killed Kevin Harper on Sept. 14, 2003. Gilbert allegedly assisted Parker by disposing of evidence relating to Harper's death.

According to the indictment, Gilbert operated the drug distribution organization "Special," which sold heroin, cocaine and marijuana on the streets of Baltimore between 2002 and this year.

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