Where do you want to fly?
A judge on Wednesday sentenced a 19-year-old man to 30 years in prison for a 2018 murder, calling the crime “baffling.”
Cody Allen Russ, of Oak Hill Avenue, Hagerstown, pleaded guilty in November to second-degree murder and use of a firearm in a crime of violence for the April 19, 2018, killing of Angelo Dayvon Johnson.
Russ, Johnson and two brothers were standing by a car eating pizza on West Church Street when Russ shot Johnson three times.
Russ told investigators he was upset about Johnson making fun of the driving of one of his friends, Assistant State’s Attorney Leon Debes told Circuit Judge Daniel P. Dwyer.
“Not a very good reason to take someone’s life,” Debes added.
“There was no threat. No argument. No dispute,” Johnson’s mother, Angela Davis, told Dwyer. “Who stands around and just shoots somebody?”
About 18 relatives and friends of Johnson were present for the sentencing. During an emotional 90-minute hearing Davis, Johnson’s sister and his stepfather asked Dwyer to give Russ the maximum sentence of 60 years.
“He’s a coward. He’s vicious. He’s a psychopath,” Johnson’s sister Whitley Davis said. “Thirty years is not enough.”
However, Dwyer bound himself to capping the sentence at 30 years at the time the plea was entered. He sentenced Russ to 60 years with 30 years suspended, plus five years of supervised probation. Russ must serve half of the 30 years before he is eligible for parole, Dwyer said.
Russ did not speak at the sentencing, instead handing a piece of paper to Assistant Public Defender Robert Sheehan, who gave it to Dwyer.
“I have blood on my hands that I cannot wash away,” Dwyer said reading from Russ’s paper. Russ wrote that he prayed every night for forgiveness and “every day, I am reminded I am a monster. A murderer.”
Sheehan asked Dwyer to consider Russ’s childhood of sexual, physical and emotional abuse, as well as placements in foster homes, and to impose a sentence within the guideline of 18 to 30 years.
Gunfighter John Wesley Hardin once “shot a man just for snoring,” said Sheehan. While the shooting of Johnson seemed to make no sense, “from Cody’s perspective, there was more to it than that,” he said.
The day before the shooting, Russ saw Johnson threaten two people with a firearm, Sheehan said. Russ experienced “a mounting sense of fear” before shooting Johnson, although that was not a justification, Sheehan said.
Russ’s mother and grandmother were in court, Sheehan said later. Neither addressed the judge.
Hagerstown police received an 8:05 p.m. report of shots fired in the 200 block of James Street, where Johnson collapsed. He was pronounced dead within an hour at Meritus Medical Center from three gunshot wounds.
One of the brothers present told police he was looking at his phone when he heard the first shot. There had been no argument or altercation before the shooting, he said.
The younger brother, a juvenile, told police they met up earlier that evening with two men they knew as “Blood” and “Drop,” later identified as Russ and Johnson, at Byers Stop-N-Go on North Burhans Boulevard. The juvenile admitted later to police that he intentionally failed to pick Russ for a photo array he was shown.
The older brother later told police they went to James Street to “fix a rift” between Johnson and some of their friends who lived in that area. The shooting “wasn’t planned — it just happened,” the brother told police.
Before the sentencing, Debes told Dwyer that Russ was cited for infractions while at the county jail. Those included being found with a “shank,” or homemade knife, last year, and for “inciting a riot” earlier this year. Johnson was shot a day after Russ was removed from juvenile probation, he said.