Prosecution focuses on couple who were target of gunfire as Naval Academy mom's murder trial continues
The Capital December 1, 2022
(Tribune News Service) — During the second day of testimony in the murder trial for the 2021 shooting death of a U.S. Naval Academy midshipman's mother, prosecutors homed in on an Annapolis couple targeted by gunfire near The Graduate hotel that they say fatally wounded Michelle Cummings.
The suspected gunman, Angelo Harrod, 31, faces numerous homicide charges after Annapolis Police say he and an unnamed accomplice fired several rounds at the couple, R.J. Atwell and Breonna Barnes, who were parked at the end of Pleasant Street after midnight on June 29 last year. Atwell and Barnes were not injured, but a stray bullet traveled across a fenced, wooded area and struck and killed Cummings, who was on the hotel patio with a group of Naval Academy parents in town for Induction Day.
Harrod is charged with first-degree murder, attempted first-degree murder and conspiracy to commit murder for the gunfire aimed at Atwell and Barnes. He has been held without bail since being arrested in July 2021. The trial before Anne Arundel Circuit Judge Pamela K. Alban began this week with jury selection on Monday and the first round of testimony on Tuesday. It is scheduled to run until Dec. 19.
Cummings, 57, was visiting Annapolis with her husband, Leonard "Truck" Cummings, from their home in Houston. Their son, Navy football player Trey Cummings, is now in his second year at the academy. Family friends testified on Tuesday that they had spent the evening of June 29 together on the patio of The Graduate, as they were in town to drop off their children for Plebe Summer. They heard gunshots and assumed they were firecrackers, but then noticed Cummings had been struck.
She was declared dead at the scene, and investigators soon realized the fatal bullet had come from the shooting on Pleasant Street.
Wednesday's proceedings opened with testimony from Barnes, one of the two people seated in the Chevrolet Trailblazer hit by a barrage of bullets that night.
Barnes said she spent the evening with her nephew and her then-boyfriend, Atwell. After she dropped off her nephew, she and Atwell got ice cream at McDonald's and traveled back to Pleasant Street, parking in front of the fence that separates the street from The Graduate.
Barnes testified that she got out of the car when she got a phone call from her ex-boyfriend. Before she could speak, she heard someone call her name from behind. Prosecutors did not question Barnes on the phone call from her ex-boyfriend, and have not said if he was connected to the shooting in any way.
"I heard one guy say, 'You have five seconds,'" she said. Then, the voice started counting down from five.
She testified that she saw "two guys" behind her and saw one of them reach into his pants and grab something. She got back into the car, she said, and then heard gunshots and glass breaking, and felt the SUV drop as a tire had burst.
Prosecutors played audio from Barnes' call to 911, in which she reported her car had been shot and that neither she nor Atwell had been injured. She told the dispatcher that she didn't know who shot at her.
During cross-examination from defense attorney Howard Cardin, Barnes said she did not know Harrod. She had broken up with her ex-boyfriend about three years before the shooting, but still talked to him regularly and visited him that day.
Assistant State's Attorneys Carolynn Grammas and Andrew Steinhardt also called as witnesses Annapolis Police officers who had responded to the Pleasant Street scene and presented body-worn camera footage from the aftermath of the shooting.
In the footage, Atwell repeatedly said that he didn't know anything about what happened before walking away. Annapolis Officer Edward Cooper, who was at the scene, testified that Atwell said he isn't a "rat," and would not provide any information on what happened. In the footage, Barnes appears perturbed about Atwell's attitude about the shooting.
"He doesn't snitch," Barnes said from the front seat of her vehicle, calling him an expletive. "Get him out of here."
Near the end of Wednesday's proceedings, prosecutors called Michael McDonald, a since-retired Annapolis Police lieutenant, who reviewed footage from surveillance cameras in the area. He testified that he identified a man in a distinct sweatshirt involved in the shooting and traced the man's movements throughout the evening through footage from city, county and private cameras.
Grammas said during opening statements that Harrod and the unnamed accomplice followed Barnes and Atwell around the Clay Street area the night of the shooting.
The prosecutors also called to the stand Annapolis Cpl. Brett Schrak, a crime scene technician who photographed Cummings' body after she was shot. They presented photos of the bullet that hit her, as well as the wound on her body, and several photos of projectiles and shell casings found in the Pleasant Street area.
The prosecution has not yet connected Harrod to the scene, besides brief testimony Tuesday morning in which a family member identified him in a photo from surveillance footage. They have not said why they believe Harrod opened fire on the couple.
The trial will resume Thursday.
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