Investigators believe a recent case involving shots fired in the Sagner community â"" a neighborhood near the Frederick Fairgrounds â"" may be gang-related, according to the Frederick County State's Attorneys Office.
Frederick police arrested Izaiah Montrel Smothers, 21, of Frederick, on Saturday in connection with the shots, which were fired at about 8:20 p.m. Friday in the 400 block of Vermont Circle.
No one was injured, but a car parked nearby was hit and damaged by one of the rounds.
Smothers, who attended Gov. Thomas Johnson High School, plays semi-professional football for the Baltimore Hurricanes, a defense attorney said during a bail hearing Monday.
Smothers remains at the Frederick County Adult Detention Center in lieu of $135,000 bail. He appeared before Judge Oliver John Cejka for a bail review hearing.
Assistant State's Attorney Ann Koshy told Cejka that Smothers is believed to be a gang member, and that investigators believe the shots were an attempt at gang-related retaliation.
Additionally, Koshy said witnesses have been threatened in the case. She said a chair on the porch of the home of one of the witnesses was recently found covered in feces.
One witness saw three men walking from Hope Circle to the south side of Pennsylvania Avenue before emerging between two buildings on Vermont Circle, according to charging documents filed in Frederick County District Court. The witness recognized Smothers and another man in the group, and told investigators one of the men fired three shots and ran away, charging documents state.
A second witness identified Smothers as the shooter, telling detectives that one of the three men pointed to a group of people walking on Vermont Circle, according to court papers. The witness said Smothers pulled a gun and fired in the direction he was pointing. A third witness saw three men running next to the Sagner Community Center and saw one of the men throw something in the bushes.
Police searched the bushes and found a black elastic band containing a Springfield Model 1911 .45-caliber handgun. A thermal imaging device indicated the weapon was warmer than the surrounding environment, suggesting that it had recently been fired.
The gun was reported stolen by a Middletown resident in April 2009. Frederick Police Department spokesman Lt. Clark Pennington said investigators are looking at all the shootings in Frederick involving a .45-caliber weapon reported since that date â"" including one Aug. 21, where a man was shot in the leg in Gaither Alley during an argument.
"We're looking at this case, and whether it's tied to a number of other cases throughout the city," Pennington said.
Pennington declined to comment about the specific allegations of gang activity, citing a department policy of not publicly identifying people believed to be gang members. Detective Rob Marker, a crime analyst and the department's gang specialist, is helping with the investigation, Pennington said.
"We're obviously looking into whether or not it involved gang activity," Pennington said.
Pennington said detectives are looking into the allegations of witness intimidation.
"Obviously whenever we are dealing with witnesses we do the best we can to protect them," he said.
Susan Puhala, Smothers' attorney in the case, said Monday's bail review hearing was the first time she had heard the allegations about Smothers being in a gang. Those allegations are not contained in the charging documents.
Puhala said Smothers recently started a business with his father and plays football for the Baltimore Hurricanes with hopes of playing professionally. She said she came away with several questions after looking at the charges in the case.
She said only one of the three witnesses identified Smothers as having the gun, despite the claim by the State's Attorney's Office that the charges stem from the testimony of multiple witnesses.
"I think there is going to be a lot more coming out as this is investigated," Puhala said. "I'm eager to see just how the investigation unfolds."
In court Monday, Puhala also questioned the decision to charge Smothers with first-degree assault when no victim has been identified.
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