Three people accepted responsibility on Monday for their roles in a mass shooting that killed two and wounded 28 others in the Brooklyn Homes housing project in Baltimore, where hundreds had gathered for an annual celebration the weekend before the Fourth of July in 2023.

A 15-year-old and a 16-year-old, who both fired guns, each pleaded guilty in Baltimore Circuit Court to first-degree assault and possession of a regulated firearm by a person under 21 for a sentence of 25 years in prison, with 20 years suspended, plus five years’ probation.

Mikhi Jackson, 18, who was captured in a video that went viral pulling a gun out of a bag and flashing the weapon before the shooting, pleaded guilty to possession of a regulated firearm by a person under 21 for a sentence of five years in prison, with four years suspended, plus two years’ probation. He must also participate in a program through Roca, a nationally-recognized anti-violence nonprofit organization that works with young men considered to be at high risk of being shot or shooting someone.

Before he accepted the plea agreements, Circuit Judge Jeffrey M. Geller said he recognized that many in the community would applaud him if he rejected the proposals and imposed lengthy periods of incarceration. But he said his role is not to cater to public opinion.

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Instead, Geller said, justice requires a measured approach. He said he believed that the resolutions in the three cases were appropriate for several reasons, noting it spares victims from having to testify at trial and ensures a conviction.

Despite the severity of their actions, Geller said, he was mindful that they are all young. He said be believes in balancing punishment with rehabilitation and redemption and noted that he will continue to hold hearings to check in on their progress.

“I am certain, that everyone in this courtroom, wants you to succeed,” Geller said. “I am an optimist. I am hopeful.”

The shooting happened at about 12:30 a.m. on July 2, 2023, during an annual celebration called Brooklyn Day that featured pony rides, dancing and snowballs.

Aaliyah Gonzalez, 18, an honors student who recently graduated from Glen Burnie High School, and Kylis Fagbemi, 20, a forklift operator who dreamed of becoming a traveling ultrasound technician, were killed. No one has been charged with murder in their deaths.

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Baltimore Police in August released a 173-page report that detailed their ill-fated and hands-off approach in the days and hours leading up to the shooting. Baltimore City Council also held hearings, one of which ground to a halt after Gonzalez’s mother, Krystal, delivered about 12 minutes of raw testimony.

“I can never, ever, ever have the only thing that I want back,” she testified. “Sometimes I have to hug myself to imagine her hugging me back. Sometimes I have to reach my hand out to imagine that I’m holding her hand while I’m walking. This is my life.”

Krystal Gonzalez, who lost her 18-year-old daughter Aaliyah Gonzalez in the Brooklyn Day mass shooting, pauses during remarks at a Baltimore City Council hearing to wipe a tear from her eye on Sept. 13, 2023. (Baltimore City Council)

The plea agreements do not prevent law enforcement from filing additional charges if information comes to light that the three people were involved in the killings, said Michael Dunty, chief of the homicide division in the Baltimore State’s Attorney’s Office.

Dunty read a statement of facts that outlined the evidence in the cases, which included surveillance video, ballistics and jail calls. They will each receive credit for the time that they’ve already spent incarcerated.

Two other men, Tristan Jackson and Aaron Brown, both 19, remain charged with attempted first- and second-degree murder and related offenses. They’re scheduled to appear back in court on June 7.

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Outside the courtroom in the Elijah E. Cummings Courthouse, Warren Brown, the 15-year-old’s attorney, lamented the proliferation of guns in the community and described it as frightening. His client was 14 at the time of the shooting.

“I’ve never seen so many guns in my career as a criminal defense attorney — and that spans over four decades,” Brown said. “And what makes it more dangerous is you’re putting them in the hands of kids who don’t exercise good judgment because of their immaturity.”

Brown said he believed that the judge showed a lot of thought, concern and compassion in the case. Prosecutors, he said, also looked at the facts and circumstances and weighed factors such as public safety and their backgrounds. He said his client was given an opportunity to get himself together.

The 16-year-old’s attorney, John Cox, said, “It was a good compromise that was reached between both parties.” His client was 15 at the time.

Both Brown and Cox said they were pleased that their clients will likely be able to serve the remainder of their sentences in a juvenile detention center.

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Michael Clinkscale, Jackson’s attorney, said he would have preferred to go to trial but respected the choice of his client. He was 17 at the time.

Since his client turned 18, Clinkscale said, he’s been housed in jail where he’s “not learning any appreciable skills.” He’s being held at the Maryland Reception, Diagnostic and Classification Center, according to jail records.

“We would like to have him released as soon as possible,” Clinkscale said. “It’s just time for him to come home.”

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