BALTIMORE (WJZ) -- Baltimore prosecutors have defended their office against criticism from the Wicomico County Sheriff and Baltimore City police union following the murder of a deputy.
Austin Davidson, the man accused of shooting and killing Wicomico County deputy Glenn Hilliard, pleaded guilty two years ago to robbing a McDonald's in Northeast Baltimore where he previously worked.
According to a statement released Tuesday, the Baltimore City State's Attorney's Office said it requested jail time for Davidson, who was 17 years old at the time of the incident, after he pleaded guilty to an armed robbery charge.
"After securing a conviction, prosecutors make a sentence recommendation to a judge, who is responsible for imposing a sentence. In this case, the prosecutor secured a conviction and made a sentence recommendation of jail time. The court imposed a sentence of probation before judgment," wrote Zy Richardson, a spokesperson for state's attorney Marilyn Mosby.
In an initial sentencing recommendation provided to WJZ, prosecutors from Mosby's office wrote, "The defendant demonstrates an extreme danger to the community . . . There are no conditions of release that will adequately address the threat he poses to the public."
It follows several comments Wicomico County Sheriff Mike Lewis made at a news conference about the case Monday.
"Had he been incarcerated where he belonged, if we had individuals serving true sentences here in Maryland, our deputy would still be alive," Lewis said.
He added that the law enforcement community "has been ripped apart" by the killing.
The Baltimore City police union also criticized prosecutors in a tweet.
"We're going to get to the bottom of this case. Someone like this should not have been out on the streets," Gov. Larry Hogan said. "You've heard me talk over and over again for eight years about getting tough on these repeat offenders—especially the judges in Baltimore City letting people out. The fact that this guy was out for not serving any jail time for armed robbery is unacceptable."
Judge Melissa Phinn sentenced Davidson to probation before judgment, according to court records.
The Baltimore City State's Attorney's Office released charging documents from the armed robbery at a McDonald's in the 6000-block of Moravia Road.
On June 5, 2019, Davidson drove through the drive-thru lane and, after the woman working the window stepped away for a moment, leaned in, pointed a gun at his former co-worker, and pulled the cash drawer from the register.
There was $1,164 in the drawer, police said, which Davidson stuffed into a black bag.
About two weeks later, Davidson returned to the restaurant.
Even though Davidson tried to conceal his identity by pulling the hood of his hooded sweatshirt tight to his face, the woman recognized him easily, police wrote in charging documents.
The victim then confronted Davidson in the presence of other employees and asked why he pointed a gun at her.
"Because I can," was his reply, according to the charging documents.
The documents state, "Davidson was then corralled by McDonald's employees and prevented from fleeing until officers could arrive."
Investigators later searched Davidson's bedroom in the basement of his foster mother's Frankford home and found a "distinctive black hoodie," black jeans and gloves, and receipts from the same McDonald's he had robbed, indicating he had been there 30 minutes beforehand, police said.
WJZ Investigator Mike Hellgren went to the home Tuesday.
The person who answered the door said she knew Davidson but was unaware of the murder case against him in Wicomico County. She declined an interview.
Hellgren also reached the manager of the McDonald's at the time of the armed robbery according to court records. She also declined to comment.
Davidson, now 20, is accused of shooting and killing Hilliard in the Eastern Shore town of Pittsville.
The shooting happened about 8:30 p.m. Sunday while Hilliard was trying to take a fugitive into custody who was wanted on felony warrants in multiple jurisdictions, authorities said. A chase ensued after Hilliard saw the suspect leaving an apartment complex and at some point the deputy was shot.
"'Because I can!' Those were his words when apprehended for an armed robbery in Baltimore City! And he still somehow got probation before judgment and was on the streets to murder a police officer, but he's wreaked hell all over the Eastern Shore," Lewis said and noted four outstanding warrants against the suspect.
Davidson is being held without bond at the Wicomico County Detention Center while awaiting trial on charges of first and second-degree murder, first and second-degree assault, reckless endangerment and use of a firearm in the commission of a violent crime.
Davidson also faces assault, theft and firearms charges in other cases on the Eastern Shore.
He waived his initial court appearance in the murder case Tuesday.
At a vigil for her slain husband, Tashica Hilliard, the deputy's widow, recounted her last conversation with her husband.
"He said, 'I'll call you after I clear this call,' and he never called me back," she said. "He never called me back, and I knew. I knew when I didn't get that call back that he had given the ultimate sacrifice."
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