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Maryland Prosecutors Treat Veteran's Self-Defense Claim as First Degree Murder

Despite extensive evidence proving his self-defense claims, Maryland continues to prosecute U.S. Army Veteran Alejandro Gonzalez and hold him without trial for more than 14 months.

Maryland Prosecutors Treat Veteran's Self-Defense Claim as First Degree Murder

Maryland Prosecutors Treat Veteran's Self-Defense Claim as First Degree Murder (Bennian/Shutterstock)

Maryland Police Report Alejandro Gonzalez
U.S. Army Veteran Alejandro Gonzalez

“Baltimore Police say [a] dispute between neighbors ended in one killed, and a family member arrested,” The Baltimore Sun reported back in October, 2021. “Alejandro Gonzalez of Georgia is charged with first-degree murder for allegedly fatally shooting Travis Ben-Watkins in the 5000 block of Corley Road in Southwest Baltimore on Sept. 4.”

“Gonzalez had retrieved his mother’s handgun that she kept for security on a bookshelf behind the front door and opened fire, shooting Ben-Watkins multiple times,” the report explains. “Gonzalez then got into his car with his girlfriend and two children and they fled the area, the charging documents said.”

“Fled?” And the story is a year-and-a-half old? Why care? And why bring it up now?

Mostly because there’s a lot more to this story than just another in a seemingly inexhaustible line of Baltimore shootings, as the District Court of Maryland’s Application for Statement of Charges makes clear: Ben-Watkins “went up to his apartment and grabbed a chair, broke it on the ground to use a piece of the leg as a weapon and began moving towards Mr. Gonzalez.”

Gonzalez is still behind bars awaiting trial for what appears to be a compelling case for self-defense, especially when considering that, per the FBI’s Uniform Crime Report, “blunt objects (clubs, hammers, etc.)” are used as weapons in homicides more frequently that rifles of all kinds, with so-called “assault weapons” a subset of that. 

The story takes an even more bizarre turn when considering that, per a GiveSendGo fundraising account set up for Gonzalez (GoFundMe removed a campaign because its “Terms of Service prohibit raising money for the legal defense of an alleged violent crime”), “When his trial date finally arrived and he finally had the opportunity to demonstrate his actual innocence to a jury of his peers, the prosecution dropped the case.”

Click Here contribute to the SSGT Alejandro Gonzalez Legal Defense Fund!

“On November 16th, disgraced Baltimore State's Attorney Marylin Moseby applied for a new warrant for Alejandro's arrest for first degree murder. On December 8th he was picked up by Georgia police at his house in Georgia and returned to jail,” the appeal elaborates. “He's been in jail since, recharged for the same so-called murder. By all appearances, Baltimore State Attorneys are afraid to try the case, but they are happy having Alejandro locked away in jail without trial for as long as possible.”

“What the prosecution appears to have in its favor is that Ben-Watkins was wielding the broken leg of a chair rather than a gun and that Gonzalez left the scene after the shooting,” a Fox News report surmises, ignoring the above-cited FBI stats and that, based on circumstances, police routinely find procedural cause to justify shooting “unarmed” men.

Maryland Police Report Alejandro Gonzalez
Police report photo, notice the chair leg in the bottom left.

“In fear for his life, Gonzalez fired nine rounds rapidly at Ben-Watkins. Six of the 9mm rounds went into his back, which his lawyer said were caused because Ben-Watkins was swinging the club wildly exposing his back like a baseball player,” Lee Williams of the Second Amendment Investigative Journalism Project elaborated. “The swings were more pronounced because his was running at Alejandro downhill,” Williams explained, quoting defense attorney Michael Stark.

Maryland Police Report Alejandro Gonzalez

“Another potential challenge for a self-defense plea is that Maryland is one of 15 ‘duty-to-retreat’ states, which means that failing to retreat from a confrontation will in most cases strip someone of the right to use deadly force for self-defense,” the Fox report continues.

What kind of man would do so and leave his elderly mother, children and girlfriend behind to face the wrath of an armed assailant is left unsaid. And the kind of man Gonzalez is can be inferred from volunteering to teach boxing to at-risk youth, and especially to his military record. Firearms News has been provided with copies of relevant portions of that record, citing “exceptionally meritorious achievement as a combat engineer gunner” in Iraq and “outstanding service while assigned as a squad leader during deployment to Afghanistan.”

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We’re talking about a medically discharged veteran with no prior criminal record who has, in the service of his country, come under small arms fire, been in a vehicle disabled by an IED, helped rescue a child, participated in innumerable route clearance operations, and paid the price in terms of the physical and emotional toll. He’d been close to eight explosions, including a suicide bomber where “the guy in front of him [had] his head taken off by shrapnel.” 

A point police and prosecutors should be aware of (and no doubt are) is that even had Gonzalez been alone, turning one’s back on an armed attacker is not part of any approved professional tactic. Then factor in the so-called “Tueller drill,” an approximation in use-of-force training based on the observation that an attacker on foot can cover 21 feet in a second-and-a-half to use an edged or “any contact weapon.” 

“The truth of the matter,” Imminent Threat Solutions notes, “is the justification of deadly force all comes down to objective reasonableness and the totality of circumstances.

Fine, say the shoot was justified. Why didn’t Gonzalez stick around for the cops to show up?

The answer to that, attorney Stark tells Firearms News, is, having seen Ben-Watkins making a call on his phone right before the attack, and believing backup was being called in, Gonzalez feared for the safety of his children and was determined to get them out of danger. He believed gang retaliation was imminent.

“Gang retaliation?” Per the Fox News report, Stark, who declines naming it for fear of “put[ting] his client in greater danger,” is concerned about “retribution in jail” and that it “has a national reach.” For that reason, he wants to help his client relocate "after the jury finds him not guilty, which I’m certain it will.” 

“After getting his sons home, Gonzalez checked into a Veterans Affairs hospital in DeKalb County for his PTSD and TBI. From there, he called the police and told them where he was,” Stark explained. He had no intention of fleeing.

Gonzalez’s account is backed up by the physical evidence present at the investigation scene with no contradictory evidence or testimony. At the very least “reasonable doubt” makes it look like a federally indicted prosecutor is putting the first-degree murder squeeze on a case of self-defense for reasons that make speculation fair. Yet the target here is a man who appears to have done what any gun owner caught up in a similar terrible and quickly unfolding situation might do. 

For that, Alejandro Gonzalez remains behind bars, away from his family, continuing to endure a nightmare ordeal with no end in sight.

“Alejandro sat in hell - Baltimore's jails - for 14 months eager all the while to establish his innocence,” Stark notes. “The State's Attorney deprived him of that opportunity by dropping all charges when they weren't ready for trial. And then what do they do? They recharge the case and rearrest him and throw him back in jail. Presumable for another 14 months while we wait for a trial. That man has two young sons (14 and 7 - they were 13 and 5 when he was initially locked up). Those are some precious years Alejandro will never get back. And now they are doing it again. And there is only one reason: Baltimore does not respect the right to use a gun in self-defense. And in fact, they are actively hostile to it.”

The outcome here affects all of us. Consider that accordingly when visiting his GiveSendGo campaign page.

Click Here contribute to the SSGT Alejandro Gonzalez Legal Defense Fund!


About the Author

David Codrea is the winner of multiple journalist awards for investigating/defending the RKBA and a long-time gun owner rights advocate who defiantly challenges the folly of citizen disarmament. In addition to being a regular featured contributor for Firearms News  he blogs at “The War on Guns: Notes from the Resistance,” and posts on Twitter: @dcodrea and Facebook. 


If you have any thoughts or comments on this article, we’d love to hear them. Email us at FirearmsNews@Outdoorsg.com.




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