Charges in a murder case that investigators believe is linked to an explosion of violence last summer were dropped Monday by city prosecutors, who raised questions about whether they had the right person.
Brandon Brown, now 21, has been held since July 2009 on charges that he shot and killed 16-year-old Jerrod Reed. Law enforcement sources have said the gun used to kill Reed was the same one used a week later when 12 people were shot at a cookout a few blocks from where Reed was shot.
Among the victims in that shooting were a pregnant woman, a 2-year-old girl and the suspected leader of a drug organization. Eighteen people were wounded that night in five separate incidents, one of the city's most violent nights in recent memory, all in a span of a few hours on the city's east side.
Brown, however, was never connected to the cookout shooting.
Margaret T. Burns, a spokeswoman for the Baltimore State's Attorney's Office, said that in preparing the case in Reed's killing prosecutors determined there was "insufficient evidence to proceed."
"In the end, we want to see justice served, and in this particular case, the prosecutor raised the question as to whether the right person has been charged for this crime," Burns said. "This is exactly how the process should work to ensure justice and fairness for the citizens of Baltimore."
Police initially said Reed appeared to be an innocent victim hit by a stray bullet, but an investigation suggested he was killed in a dispute over a dirt bike.
But the sole witness' timeline of events did not appear consistent with the evidence, Burns said. The witness said he saw one gun being fired, but police found shell casings from two different weapons at the scene. That witness later became uncooperative, Burns said.
Monday's decision to drop the charges against Brown was not the first time he has been acquitted of a serious crime. In January 2009, a city jury found him not guilty of attempted first-degree murder and handgun charges.