A man was found guilty on Monday of first-degree murder and related crimes for shooting and killing a student at Mergenthaler Vocational Technical High School as classes let out for Labor Day weekend in 2022.

Nizah Daniels, 18, of Southeast Baltimore, fatally shot Jeremiah Brogden, a junior at Mervo and a running back on the Mustangs varsity football team, on Sept. 2, 2022. Brogden was pronounced dead at Johns Hopkins Hospital.

Family members and friends described him as a devoted father and older brother, loving son and talented football player. He was 17.

The jury was out in Baltimore Circuit Court for about 3 1/2 hours, though that period included lunch.

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When the verdict was announced, Daniels opened his mouth and shook his head. Correctional officers later handcuffed and shackled him.

“Today, justice has been served as we secured a first-degree murder conviction for the tragic loss of Jeremiah Brogden’s young life,” State’s Attorney Ivan Bates said in a statement. “While this outcome offers a measure of closure to the victim’s family, it also serves as a stark reminder of the devastating consequences of youth violence.”

“Two young, promising lives were cut short that day, and countless lives were impacted,” he added.

Bates said his office not only has a duty to prosecute, but to tirelessly work to prevent these tragedies. He called for investment in communities, education and mentorship programs to direct young people away from a “path of violence.”

In her closing argument, Assistant State’s Attorney Megan Gallo walked members of the jury through the evidence in the case, which included surveillance video of the shooting, ballistics, DNA, text messages and a photo array identification.

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“Ladies and gentlemen: This is brazen. This is bold. And this is reckless,” Gallo said. “The defendant had no other goal in mind that day except to shoot and kill Jeremiah Brogden.”

Law enforcement chased after Daniels and arrested him a few blocks away from the school. They also found a Polymer80 — a ghost gun — with a laser attachment inside a bin in a nearby alley, Gallo said.

A firearms examiner, she said, concluded that three cartridge casings recovered at the crime scene were consistent with being fired from that handgun. And Daniels’ DNA was on the weapon, Gallo said.

Daniels was wearing a black hoodie and gray jogging pants and “stuck out like a sore thumb,” Gallo said. That’s because students generally wore uniforms that were different colors, she said.

Baltimore Police forensically analyzed his cellphone. Daniels had texted about being at Mervo that afternoon, and there was a photo of him on the device wearing the same clothes and displaying the gun, Gallo said. He was a sophomore at the time at Achievement Academy at Harbor City High School.

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Gallo said that following the shooting, Daniels texted that he was caught and asked a friend to call his mother. Daniels was 17 at the time.

Meanwhile, Roland Harris, Daniels’ attorney, criticized the investigation in his closing argument.

He said there was no evidence that Daniels knew Brogden. The absence of motive can suggest innocence, Harris said.

“This right here is a straight-up game. It doesn’t make any sense,” Harris said. “He’s innocent.”

Speaking to reporters at the crime scene, Mayor Brandon Scott, a 2002 graduate of Mervo, called the killing “a tragedy that almost has me at a loss for words.”

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Scott was already set to be at the school that afternoon for the football season opener against Edmondson-Westside High School. He lamented the loss and urged people to get involved in the lives of young people.

“We have an entire community of children, of faculty, of staff, of this community, of a city, that is now seeing another young life lost,” Scott said. “And it doesn’t have to be that way. We don’t have to be that way. We can be better.”

Circuit Judge Dana M. Middleton scheduled sentencing for March 11, 2024. Daniels is currently incarcerated in the Metropolitan Transition Center, according to jail records.

dylan.segelbaum@thebaltimorebanner.com

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