The Baltimore man acquitted last year in the fatal shooting of Safe Streets leader Dante Barksdale was indicted by a federal grand jury Wednesday after city police said they found him with a “ghost” machine gun in East Baltimore.

Charging documents show Baltimore Police and the ATF had been monitoring Garrick Powell, 30, since February. On April 19, city police officers in the Eastern District intelligence center claimed they saw Powell gripping his waistband and holding an object.

After he got into a vehicle, he was pulled over in the 400 block of North Milton Avenue. and officers said they recovered a Polymer 80 9mm handgun with an extended magazine that contained 30 live rounds, according to charging documents. The gun was equipped with a switch that converted it to a fully automatic weapon, and they also found an additional magazine containing 33 rounds of ammunition, police said.

Powell was the victim of a shooting in August in East Baltimore, police noted.

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Powell has a long history with the criminal justice system, including being tried and acquitted of two murders and an attempted murder plus having other cases thrown out or overturned on appeal.

Barksdale, a beloved leader of the Safe Streets anti-violence program, was gunned down in January 2021 at the Douglass Homes housing project. City leaders announced Powell’s arrest in May of that year.

The Banner explored the police investigative file for the case in a January story marking the two-year anniversary of Barksdale’s killing.

Police had received tips that Powell, nicknamed “Whammy,” was responsible for the shooting, but when the case went to trial in May 2022, authorities were only able to present jurors with a circumstantial case: a surveillance video in which it was difficult to discern anyone’s identity, cellphone location data showing Powell in the general area but not at the time of the shooting, and a gun linked to the killing that Powell was arrested with in Anne Arundel County. That gun was also a Polymer 80 with an extended magazine.

There were two men with Barksdale at the time of the shooting; they did not testify, and there was no possible motive provided. Jurors deliberated for only two hours before acquitting Powell.

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Gun charges in Anne Arundel County were thrown out because his trial date was set one day beyond the 180-day statutory requirement for a speedy trial.

Defense attorney John Cox, who has successfully defended Powell in several cases, said in a January interview that Powell maintained his innocence from the start. Though the gun was a key piece of evidence, he said that guns trade hands in Baltimore City and that it could have belonged to other people who were in the car when Anne Arundel County Police arrested Powell. DNA was recovered from the weapon but inexplicably not tested, he said.

“Part of me thought that was a case that shouldn’t have even been brought before the court in the state it was in,” Cox said.

Reached Wednesday night, Cox said he was not retained for Powell’s new case and could not comment.

Court records show Powell was being held without bail since the April 19 arrest. The two-count federal indictment charges him with possession of ammunition by a prohibited person and unlawful possession of a machine gun. Each count carries a maximum possible penalty of 15 years in prison and three years of supervised release.

Justin Fenton is an investigative reporter for the Baltimore Banner. He previously spent 17 years at the Baltimore Sun, covering the criminal justice system. His book, "We Own This City: A True Story of Crime, Cops and Corruption," was released by Random House in 2021 and became an HBO miniseries. 

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