Man sentenced in gunfight death

Victim was caught in crossfire of drug conflict in Belair-Edison neighborhood last year

November 21, 2008|By Melissa Harris | Melissa Harris,

A 24-year-old Baltimore man was sentenced yesterday to 25 years in prison for shooting and killing an innocent bystander, a Patterson High School senior and lacrosse team captain, during a gunfight.

Jerome Whitaker was sentenced along with Brandon Green, 23, who was given a five-year term as an accessory after the fact in the murder of Christopher Clarke in March, 2007. The hearing yesterday in Baltimore Circuit Court lasted only a few minutes, as the judge had agreed to the sentences in October in exchange for guilty pleas.

Clarke's relatives and friends did not attend yesterday's sentencing. Prosecutor Richard Gibson said in court that the family was devastated by the loss. A phone message left for Clarke's mother at her home was not immediately returned yesterday afternoon.

Clarke was in the 3100 block of Cliftmont Ave. near his home in the Belair-Edison neighborhood when he was caught in the crossfire during a turf war over drug sales. Witnesses identified Whitaker and Antonio Santifer as the two men who exchanged gunfire.

Clarke, 18, was also a football player, and a saxophonist, drummer and keyboard player in Patterson's jazz ensemble. He had planned to become a police officer.

Santifer, 20, who also goes by the name Santiful, of the 3100 block of Cliftmont Ave., also was struck in the gunfire but survived. Last week, he was sentenced to three years in prison for illegal possession of a firearm.

Yesterday, Whitaker also received a five-year suspended sentence and three years' probation. If he violates probation, a judge could require him to serve the suspended time.

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