Renowned defense attorney C. Justin Brown, legal counsel to jailed local legend Adnan Syed – whose case regarding a 1999 homicide became an international sensation after the 2015 podcast debut of Serial – is now looking to free another convicted Baltimore man, who was shot numerous times by Baltimore City police in a case that raises doubt and a ton of suspicion.
Charles Atkins, a 26-year old African American resident of Charm City, was walking down a street to meet a friend in April of 2008, when unbeknownst to him, he became the sudden subject of law enforcement targeting. After hopping into the passenger seat of his friend’s vehicle, two plain-clothes officers, affectionately known in Baltimore as “knockers” or “jump-out boys”, claiming that after witnessing Atkins’ walk being associated with a manner that suggested to them that he was carrying a weapon, decided to confront Atkins and his friend driving the vehicle.
The officers pulled their unmarked car in front of the vehicle, cutting it off. The first officer – wearing jeans and a t-shirt – exited the unmarked police car with his gun drawn. Unsure of what was going on and in a state of panic, Atkins’ friend threw the car in reverse and attempted to drive away backwards. The unmarked police vehicle followed in pursuit, and when the suspect’s car stalled in the intersection, the first officer approached the passenger side of the vehicle – where Atkins was seated – and attempted to break the window with what appeared to be a gun.
Fearing for his life, Atkins opened the passenger door to flee, a struggle ensued, and at some point, a gun went off. Atkins proceeded to run towards his house, just up the block, but as he did the officers opened fire at him, and he was allegedly shot back. The evidence showed that one officer emptied his 14-round magazine, and the other fired nine rounds. Four cartridges were found near where Atkins had been standing. One officer was shot in the leg, in a downward trajectory, suggesting he may have shot himself; meanwhile Atkins was shot in the back and shoulder. As Atkins limped home, he allegedly tossed a gun into the grassy area on the west side of his house.
Backup units responded and surrounded the home. Two officers entered and, as Atkins retreated out the opposite door, he held his hands high to surrender. The officers, waiting for Atkins near the door, responded by opening fire, riddling Atkins’ body with bullets. Officers later claimed that Atkins had a gun; however, this was not true, as the only gun associated with Atkins was recovered in the grassy area on the other side of the house, where he had allegedly tossed it earlier (no additional weapon was recovered).
During this second round of police shooting – in what appeared to be an effort to kill Atkins – police fired a total of 11 shots at the unarmed man. Atkins crumbled to the ground, face down. When officers demanded he show his hands, he was unsurprisingly unresponsive after having been shot in the chest, abdomen, both legs, arm, shoulder and lower back. The officers then decided to taze him as he laid limp on the ground.
Atkins was so badly injured that the police thought he was dead, and instead of giving him immediate medical attention, they covered his body with a white sheet only later did an ambulance arrive and transport Atkins to Shock Trauma, where he miraculously survived.
Atkins was subsequently charged with attempted first-degree murder of both officers, and other related charges. No action was taken against the police officers involved. After a trial – in which the judge refused to issue a self-defense instruction to the jury – Atkins was found not-guilty of attempted murder but guilty of assault and a handgun violation. A Baltimore City Circuit Court judge sentenced him to 75 years in prison.
So now Mr. Brown, and the Brown Law Group, is attempting to win post-conviction relief for Mr. Charles Atkins – either by vacating his conviction or reducing his sentence. They have filed their petition and are currently awaiting a hearing. The facts in this case, reflective in this article, have been drawn from the petition filed by attorney Brown. To read the petition in its entirety, click on the this link.