April 08, 2020

Witness sees Jones scuffle before death> Gunshot sound ignored, Baltimore man testifies

BALTIMORE — A young Baltimore man told a jury Thursday that a Bangor man who was killed here four years ago was involved in a scuffle with an acquaintance 10 minutes before he was shot.

Daniel Smith said he had never met Laurence Jones Jr., but that Jones was an acquaintance of one of his friends.

Smith said he and his friend, Michael Barker, arrived at Barker’s apartment in Jones’ neighborhood during the early morning hours of Nov. 20, 1993, and found Jones knocking on the door.

Smith said Jones was intoxicated and convinced that Barker had taken some music CDs that belonged to Jones. Smith said Barker and Jones got into a scuffle when Jones refused to leave Barker’s apartment.

Barker pushed Jones out the screen door and the two engaged in a minor physical altercation, until Smith broke it up, Smith testified.

Meanwhile, a man approached who identified himself as a police officer, Smith told jurors. He said he did not pay too much attention to the man and did not know what became of him.

Smith and Barker went back inside the apartment and shut the door on Jones, who remained outside on the sidewalk.

About 10 minutes later they heard a noise that someone else in the apartment speculated could have been a gunshot, but they dismissed it.

It was not until the next evening at a local restaurant that they heard that Jones had been shot and killed.

Thursday was the second day of the trial of 24-year-old James Langhorne, who is charged with the first-degree murder of Jones. Prosecutors maintain Jones was robbed and shot by Langhorne, who was looking for money to buy drugs.

Langhorne was arrested in November 1996 after a fellow prison inmate told police that Langhorne had told him that he was involved in the shooting. Another man claims to have seen Langhorne running away from the murder scene.

The defense claims Langhorne was simply on the street looking for drugs that morning and conversing with another “junkie” when Jones walked by. Langhorne’s attorney said his client would testify that the other man, known only as Wink, suddenly pointed a gun at Jones and told him to “give it up” and then shot Jones in the head.

Sam Brave said outside the courtroom that his client was scared and ran away.

On Thursday, a Baltimore police officer testified that at about 3 that morning he got a call to respond to the 1400 block of Bank Street for a man lying on the sidewalk with a head wound. He found Jones lying face up on the sidewalk in a pool of blood. No one else was around, he testified.

One of Jones’ childhood friends, who lived with him at the time of his death in a troubled neighborhood across from a housing project, testified she was awakened in the early morning hours by a police officer knocking on her door.

She said Jones had come home from an evening out at about 1 a.m. and had spoken to her briefly in her bedroom but left a few minutes later.

The officer told her there had been a shooting and wanted to know if she had heard anything.

Tonia Panunci grew up near Jones’ grandparents outside Baltimore and became friendly with him during trips Jones and his family made to his grandparents’ home.

When Jones decided to move to Baltimore in August 1993 to study at The Johns Hopkins University, Panunci offered to let him stay in an extra bedroom at her apartment until he could find his own place.

Panunci testified that something had awakened her after Jones left the apartment but that she was not sure what it was.

She sat on her front stoop with a neighbor after being told of the shooting. Jones’ body had already been rushed to a nearby hospital, where he was declared brain dead. A while later the neighbor questioned where Jones was.

The police officer asked to see a picture of Jones and then advised Panunci to go the hospital.

Jones’ mother, Yong Cha Jones, was calm during testimony Thursday morning. Tuesday and Wednesday her emotional state caused her to leave the courtroom.

Much of her time has been spent in a waiting area inside the office of the Victim-Witness Advocate’s office down the hall from the courtroom.

Dressed in a black suit, she wrapped her arms around herself and clutched a diamond locket with her son’s picture inside. Behind her as she waited was a wall-sized quilt made by other family members who have lost loved ones to the violence of Baltimore streets.

Each square is handmade by a family that has lost someone to a homicide. There are squares with pictures, dates and loving messages. The quilt was made in the early 1990s. It was the first one. Now there are 30 more.

On Thursday, Jones sat in the waiting area and talked fondly of Bangor, a town she now wishes her son never left.

“I love Bangor,” she said. “Ice and all. It’s like a big family there. The community support me so during this. They care and I feel it.”

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