A former security guard was found guilty on Thursday of second-degree murder and use of a firearm during the commission of a crime of violence in the fatal shooting of a man during a dispute at a Royal Farms store in Southwest Baltimore.
Kanisha Spence, 44, of Poppleton, was working as a security guard for Maximum Protective Services when she shot Marquise Powell after 3 a.m. on Oct. 30, 2022, during an argument. Powell’s sister was holding him back in a space just outside the front door of the convenience store on Washington Boulevard across from Carroll Park at the time of the shooting. Spence faces a maximum of 60 years in prison — the first five years without the possibility of parole — at sentencing on Dec. 21.
The jury deliberated for about two hours and 15 minutes. Spence was found not guilty of first-degree murder.
The case was one of several high-profile shootings that spurred legislative action regarding security guards.
“This conviction is a clear message from the men and women on the jury that our security guards must be held accountable for their actions when they make drastic and deadly decisions on the job,” Baltimore State’s Attorney Ivan Bates said in a statement.
“Carrying a weapon as part of your employment is an enormous responsibility that cannot be taken lightly,” he added. “In this case, a man’s life was tragically cut short due to Ms. Spence’s deliberate and inexcusable actions.”
During the trial, Assistant State’s Attorney Matthew Galey argued that Spence was the aggressor and that she had been looking for a reason to shoot Powell because she felt disrespected during an earlier encounter inside the store.
Galey repeatedly called the shooting an execution.
“She was mad. She was angry,” Galey said in his closing argument. “This wasn’t fear, ladies and gentlemen. This was wrath.”
The shooting was captured on surveillance video. The footage, he said, spoke for itself.
But Roya Hanna, Spence’s attorney, maintained that her client, a mother of two who was working a double shift that had started at noon, acted in self-defense.
Powell, she said, wanted to stay inside the store and start a fight with Spence. He threatened to take her gun and kill her, Hanna said.
“Words do matter,” Hanna said in her closing argument. “Words do place people in fear.”
“She was allowed to have a gun that day,” Hanna later added, “and she was allowed to defend herself.”
Tonuela Hill, Powell’s sister, and Nikita Shaw, Powell’s significant other, testified that they went to the convenience store to buy gas and get food after a Halloween party and a night out at a bar. Powell, they said, returned to the store to pick up soda and got into an argument with the security guard.
So Spence said she “started fussing back at him.” She said she told him to leave and gestured with her hand.
At one point, Spence testified, Powell said, “I’ll take your gun from you.” That’s when she said she put her hand on her Glock 17.
When Powell remarked, “I ain’t going nowhere,” she testified, she pointed her gun at him.
Powell left and came back. Spence said he told her, “I’m going to kill you.” She said her heart dropped.
“It just happened so fast that day,” Spence testified. “I was scared for my life at that time.”
Spence said she did not intend to kill him.
On cross-examination, Spence insisted that she told Baltimore Police that Powell had threatened to take her gun. Prosecutors then showed her a transcript of her interview with detectives. “They changed it,” Spence said.
Circuit Judge Kendra Y. Ausby told the jury to disregard that statement and called for a recess. During the break, Spence re-watched her statement on a laptop.
Later, Spence remarked over and over again that the encounter unfolded quickly. Prosecutors, though, noted the confrontation stretched over several minutes.
Earlier in the trial, Myles Burden testified as a witness for the defense that he was working as a cashier at the Royal Farms.
Powell, he said, threatened Spence.
Burden testified that he did not see a gun on Powell.
At first, Powell was pleasant. He was slurring his words and seemed intoxicated, Burden said.
“He was provoked, I would say,” Burden testified. “That led to him being angry and upset.”
Following the trial, Spence pleaded guilty in a separate case to perjury and making false statements on an application for a wear and carry permit in exchange for no additional incarceration.
The Maryland State Police issue the licenses. Spence, her attorney said, was charged with those crimes months after the agency approved her wear and carry permit.
Hanna said her client sometimes has difficulty understanding forms and did not intend to lie. She described the charges as an “attempt by the Maryland State Police to cover their actions.”
Spence is incarcerated in the Maryland Reception, Diagnostic and Classification Center, according to jail records.