ELKTON — A man accused of firing gunshots into an Elkton townhouse in May 2020 — seriously wounding a boy in the knee and a man in the lower back — is facing more than 65 years in sentences after a judge found him guilty of several offenses Friday at the conclusion of a three-day bench trial.
Cecil County Circuit Court Judge William W. Davis Jr. convicted the defendant, Robert Eugene Hammond IV, 25, of Elkton, of first-degree assault, which is punishable by up to 25 years in prison.
Davis also found Hammond guilty of use of a handgun in the commission of a felony or violent crime, an offense that carries a maximum 20-year sentence.
In addition, the judge found Hammond guilty of possession of a firearm by a convicted felon, which is punishable by up to 15 years in prison. Hammond is prohibited from possessing a firearm because he was convicted of possession of a narcotic with intent to distribute in September 2019, some eight months before the shooting incident, and he received a 15-day sentence, court records show.
Davis also found Hammond guilty of reckless endangerment and of wearing, carrying and, or, transporting a handgun, which are punishable by up to five years and three years in prison respectively. The judge also found Hammond guilty of possession of methamphetamine and fentanyl and illegal possession of ammunition.
As for the most serious charges against Hammond — attempted first-degree murder and attempted second-degree murder and the conspiracy and gun counts related to those offenses — Davis dismissed them in response to a mid-trial motion made by Hammond’s defense lawyer, Edward A. Richitelli.
After the state rested its case, Richitelli successfully argued that prosecutors had not met their murder of proof regarding attempted first-degree murder and attempted second-degree murder, which are punishable by up to life and 30 years in prison.
Hammond, who had opted not to testify in his own defense, showed no emotion when the judge rendered his guilty verdicts from the bench, moments after Richitelli and Assistant State’s Attorney Harold Scott Lewis had completed their closing arguments.
Sentencing is set for Dec. 3. Hammond remains in the Cecil County Detention Center on no bond.
The shooting incident occurred shortly before 3 p.m. on May 11 outside a townhouse at 122 Huntsman Dr., where Hammond fired a handgun indiscriminately into the home.
A 6-year-old boy inside that dwelling suffered a serious gunshot wound to his knee; a 25-year-old man suffered a wound to his lower back and a 31-year-old woman’s foot was grazed by a bullet. All of them were described as “non-life-threatening” wounds.
Before paramedics arrived, Elkton Police Department Ofc. Thomas Saulsbury applied a tourniquet near the boy’s wound as he and fellow EPD officers provided initial medical treatment to the youngster, based on police body camera footage played in the courtroom during the trial.
The video shows the boy, clearly frightened, crying out in pain as the officers speak soothingly to him while treating him outside the townhouse. The boy was taken to Nemours/Alfred I. duPont Hospital for Children in Wilmington, Del., where the youngster underwent an emergency surgery and a second surgery.
Hammond’s brother, Cody Allen Hammond, then 18; and their half-brother, Jason Tyler “TY” Holland, 25, also allegedly opened fire on the house with him, and they are his co-defendants.
Facing 35 charges, including attempted first-degree murder and attempted second-degree murder, Holland’s jury trial is scheduled to start on Oct. 6 and is expected to last two days, according to court records. Holland has been free since Sept. 22, 2020, when he posted a $100,000 bond, court records show.
Cody Hammond is facing 32 charges, including the same attempted murder counts, according to court records. His jury trial is set to start on Jan. 11, 2022 and is scheduled to last three days, court records show. Cody Hammond has been free since July 7, 2020, when he posted a $75,000, according to court records.
Police did not release a motive for the shooting.
During last week’s trial, Richitelli argued that Hammond and his co-defendants were acting in self-defense, after a man inside that Huntsman Drive townhouse fired a rifle outside from the front door of the dwelling.
A key piece of evidence presented by the prosecution was surveillance camera video that shows Hammond and his co-defendants congregating outside the Huntsman Drive townhouse, toward the side of the dwelling, with their hands in their pockets — moments before running behind a nearby backyard shed and opening fire.
Lewis and EPD investigators who testified maintained that the video shows Hammond pulling a handgun from his pocket before opening fire. “He’s moving the slide back to engage the gun, so it is ready to fire,” contended Lewis, who also used the term “racking the slide” in his description of Hammond’s action in that footage.
The prosecutor alleged that the video then shows Holland as the first one to shoot his gun at the townhouse, before Hammond and Cody Hammond also open fire on it, popping out from behind the shed. Lewis maintained that, on the video, debris falling off the townhouse can be seen when the bullets strike and penetrate it.
Lewis argued that Hammond orchestrated the shooting. He asserted that Hammond “pointed them where to go,” referring to his co-defendants. After noting that Hammond was the last one to arrive and congregate or huddle with his co-defendants, Lewis maintained, “None of the players go into the motion until this individual (Hammond) shows up.”
Investigators documented 13 bullet holes in the targeted Huntsman Drive townhouse, according to testimony from Kelly Sexton, a Maryland State Police crime scene technician.
After ripping through the exterior wall of the townhouse, some of those bullets traveled through one or more interior walls before lodging, Sexton testified.
EPD investigators recovered several spent bullet casings and one live round in the area where Hammond and his co-defendants had been shooting outside the Huntsman Drive townhouse, according to testimony from EPD Det. Sgt. Ronald Odom and EPD Det. Shannon Comley.
The recovered casings were .25 caliber, .380 caliber and 7.62 caliber, according to testimony given by law enforcement investigators.
During a police search of Hammond’s bedroom inside his residence at 103 Cow Ln., which is a short walking distance from the targeted Huntsman Drive townhouse, investigators recovered .25 caliber, .380 caliber and 7.62 caliber ammunition — the same calibers as the evidence collected at the shooting scene, EPD investigators testified.
“He (Hammond) was the supplier of the guns and the ammunition,” Lewis maintained during his closing argument.
Investigators were unable to recover the guns used by Hammond and his co-defendants, according to state testimony.
In addition, while searching Hammond’s house, investigators confiscated small amounts of fentanyl and methamphetamine — less than one gram of each drug, according to Heather Baxivanos, a forensic scientist with the Cecil County State’s Attorney’s Office.
State testimony indicated that Hammond told investigators that he used and sold the drugs.
In rendering his verdicts, Davis explained that Hammond’s statement and the small amount of drugs confiscated was not enough evidence to support the more serious intent-to-distribute charges, only the simple possession counts.
Richitelli did not call any defense witnesses.
During his closing argument, however, Richitelli replayed a portion of the surveillance video that prosecutors had shown. It showed a man at 122 Huntsman Dr. firing a rifle aimed outside from the front door, several moments before Hammond and his co-defendants appear on the video and open fire on the townhouse.
Richitelli argued that his client and his co-defendants had acted in self-defense, after that man allegedly had fired at them.
Neither side called that man as a witness during last week’s trial. That man was not charged.
Evidence and testimony presented by prosecutors indicated that investigators collected six spent .22 caliber casings inside the Huntsman Drive townhouse and that at least three of those fired bullets were recovered after striking objects in that general area, including a house on nearby Pheasant Drive.
“There are puffs of smoke coming out the door. The person who shoots first is (the man inside 122 Huntsman Dr.),” Richitelli told the judge during his closing argument.
Referencing the part of the video showing Hammond and his co-defendants running from the side of 122 Huntsman Dr. to the backyard shed, Ritchitelli opined, “People tend to run whey are getting shot at.”
What happened next was “a gun battle,” according to Richitelli, who asked the judge, “Did they (Hammond and his co-defendants) conspire or did they defend themselves to meet a challenge?”
Richitelli continued, “Keeping it real, a group of tough guys (Hammond and his co-defendants) get a little defiant over what happened — We’re going to stand our ground . . . within seconds after clearly being shot at.”
Lewis countered that Hammond and his co-defendants did not shoot at the Huntsman Drive townhouse until approximately four minutes after the man inexplicably shot the rifle out the front door. The prosecutor maintained that too much time had elapsed to support a self-defense claim.
Along those lines, Lewis emphasized that at least three of those six fired .22 bullets were recovered at places in opposite directions of where Hammond and his co-defendants fired their guns at the townhouse.
Moreover, the prosecutor reviewed that no bullet holes were found on the shed, where Hammond and his co-defendants had fired their guns, or on other nearby objects. That lack of bullet holes in that area suggests that Hammond and his co-defendants were not under fire when they shot their guns, Lewis argued.
Lewis also stressed that Hammond and his co-defendants had not exhausted other remedies before purportedly acting in self-defense.
“There is no evidence before the court that this was self-defense. You must retreat before using self-defense,” Lewis commented.
Regarding Richitelli’s assertion that Hammond and his co-defendants were “going to stand their ground,” Lewis argued, “We don’t have a stand-your-own-ground law in Maryland.”
Lewis summarized, “They shot at will at this house and who paid the price?: The boy, who will have a hole in his knee for the rest of his life.”
Before rendering his verdicts, Davis opined that there are times when people believe that they are acting in self-defense when, based on the legal definition of the term, they actually are committing a criminal act.
“Self-defense and revenge are different,” Davis commented from the bench.