New Year's Eve celebratory discharge gets man five years in prison

Suspect had prior assault convictions

December 07, 2011|By Peter Hermann

Not sure it was timed on purpose, but weeks ahead of New Year's, city prosecutors have secured a five year prison sentence for a man who celebrated 2011 the way cops wish residents would not -- by shooting into the air.

Maybe it's a message for residents to find another way to welcome in 2012.

Keith Taylor, 29, was arrested minutes after midnight on Jan. 1 after police heard gunshots from a house in East Baltimore. The officers said they saw Taylor run inside when they pulled up, and found numerous spent 9mm rounds and shotgun shells.

Police said that inside officers found two guns in an upstairs bedroom -- a short-barreled Mossberg 12-guage shotgun and a 9mm semi-automatic handgun, along with 47 rounds of ammunition and eight shotgun cartridges.

Problem is that Taylor has two previous felony convictions for assault, and is prohibited from possessing a handgun. Prosecutors in State's Attorney Gregg Bernstein's office also said that Taylor tried to get a witness to lie, and that they intercepted text messages as proof.

Police have long waged a campaign to get people to stop firing into air on New Year's. Last year, I rode with Police Commissioner Frederick H. Bealefeld III and Bernstein, and it turned out to be a quiet night.

Still, in the first three hours of the new year, police, including the chief of patrol and the chief of detectives, seized 23 guns and made 29 gun arrests. The previous year, city police made 29 gun arrests and seized 49 guns.

And who can forget New Year's Eve 2009, when top cop Bealefeld chased down two brothers who fired shotgun blasts into the air. Both suspects accepted plea deals that spared them jail time, prompting both the commissioner and the mayor to express their disappointment in the judicial system.

Here's some more information from the past (taken from a column I wrote two years ago):

In 1999, Baltimore's new mayor, Martin O'Malley, publicly complained that in years past, city police had hidden beneath highway overpasses and taken cover to avoid being showered with bullets. He ordered police to confront the gunmen, and on Jan. 1, 2000, he announced that cops had arrested more than 100 people and seized 122 guns the preceding night.

That year - 1999 going into 2000 - 516 Baltimore residents called 911 to report gunfire, 75 of them between 11:55 p.m. and 12:05 a.m. Officers in the Eastern District were hit by remnants of shotgun shells while standing outside their station house. Across town in the Western, police found 300 spent shell casings on a single corner. Someone with a machine gun shot an electrical box and knocked out power to 51 homes. And a bullet crashed through a skylight of a house on North Glover Street.

In 2003, a police officer confronting a holiday reveler was shot in the hip. In 2002, a bullet fired into the air came down and hit a 19-year-old woman in the head as she watched fireworks at the Inner Harbor. One year, a city officer was heard on the radio saying, "In addition to all the gunfire, we have fireworks."

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