MURDER USA: ‘Mookie’ Columbus charged with one fatal shot that killed Tawanda Blake in Legion bar parking lot
PRINCESS ANNE, MD — Sometimes those at a murder scene just lie to the cops. They lie about their own names, they lie about the names of other witnesses and in the case of a murder which took place in the parking lot of the American Legion Hall in Princess Anne, Md., on Dec. 17, 2016, witnesses lied to arriving police officers about who murdered a Pocomoke City woman. They pointed the fickle finger of fate at an innocent man, at least innocent of this crime though maybe not others, and thus that man spent a few days in the pokey sweating murder charges.
Maryland State Police announced on Feb. 21, 2017, the arrest the suspect responsible for the murder of a 26-year-old woman in Somerset County last December.
The accused is identified as Rodney Columbus Christopher, also known as “Mookie,” 35, of 30813 W. Post Office Road, Princess Anne, Md. He is charged with first-degree murder and other related criminal charges. Christopher was arrested in Baltimore at 6:00 a.m. this morning. He was transported to Somerset County Detention Center where he is currently being held without bond. Charges were dropped against one other potential suspect after previously-interviewed witnesses recanted their statements.
The victim, identified as Tawanda Latreisha Blake, 26, of 423 Bank Street, Pocomoke, Md., was pronounced dead shortly after 2:00 a.m. on December 17, 2016, at Peninsula Regional Medical Center. Autopsy results ruled Blake’s death as a homicide by a single gunshot wound.
Early in the morning of Feb. 21, 2017, investigators from the Maryland State Apprehension Team and the United States Marshal’s Service located Christopher in Baltimore City. Throughout the investigation, police learned he was staying at a relative’s apartment, where he was subsequently apprehended without incident.
Just after 1:30 a.m. on Saturday, December 17, 2016, troopers from the Princess Anne Barrack responded to a shooting at the American Legion in the 31000-block of Perryhawkin Road in Princess Anne. Blake was found lying in the parking lot. Emergency medical personnel responded and transported her to the hospital, where she later succumbed to her injuries.
State Police investigators from the Criminal Enforcement Division at the Princess Anne Barrack and the Homicide Unit took the lead in the investigation. Blake was the only victim hit when several shots were fired in the parking lot. There were several other people present at the time of the incident.
During the afternoon of December 22, 2016, murder and manslaughter charges against Jesse L. Copes, 26, of 11297 Greenwood School, Apt. D., Princess Anne, Md., were dropped in Somerset County Circuit Court. This action was taken after State Police investigators contacted the Somerset County State’s Attorney’s Office about information developed during their continuing investigation that indicated Copes was not the person who fired the fatal shot and identified the suspect as the person responsible for fatally wounding the victim.
Copes had been arrested after witnesses at the scene told State Police investigators he was the person responsible for fatally wounding Blake and a review with the Somerset County State’s Attorney’s Office determined probable cause existed to charge him. However, the ongoing investigation by Maryland State Police Homicide Unit investigators developed information this week that led to the identification of another suspect responsible for the shooting.
Additional witnesses were interviewed who identified Christopher as the person responsible. The original witnesses were re-interviewed, and they recanted their previous statements to investigators. Investigators moved quickly to bring the new information to prosecutors to drop the charges against Copes and obtain an arrest warrant for Christopher.
Investigators believe both Copes and Christopher were among those involved in the scuffle on the parking lot of the American Legion in the 31000-block of Perryhawkin Road, Princess Anne, Md., at about 1:30 a.m. on December 17, 2016. During the scuffle, shots were fired, and Blake was struck by the gunfire.
As investigators continue the investigation, anyone with information about this shooting is urged to contact Maryland State Police at the Princess Anne Barrack at 443-260-3700. Callers may remain confidential.
The original witnesses were re-interviewed, and they recanted their previous statements to investigators. Investigators moved quickly to bring the new information to prosecutors to drop the charges against Copes and obtain an arrest warrant for Christopher.
Christopher was charged with Copes and several other people by the Somerset County Drug Task Force ten counts of dealing drugs. On June 3, 2014, Somerset County States Attorney Daniel Powell dropped all the charges against Christopher. One of those charged along with Christopher was Rena Orlando Holbrook Jr., of 8790 Crisfield Highway, Crisfield, Md. On June 23, 2014, Holbrook entered into a plea deal with the Somerset States Attorney Daniel Powell. In exchange for a guilty plea to possession of drugs, and possession with intent to distribute drugs, he was sentenced to six years in prison with none of the jail time suspended.
Copes got the same deal as Christopher on the shared drug charges from the drug task force when all charges against him were dropped by Powell on July 8, 2014. Copes has been around the drug trade for a while as he was charged with dealing drugs on Dec. 8, 2007. The Somerset States Attorney gave Copes a plea deal on July 7, 2014. THE DEAL: On Dec. 20, 2013, Copes entered a guilty plea to drug possession, and the charge of distribution was dropped.