Brandon Higgs, a 26-year-old white man, has been sentenced to 25 years in prison for shooting Elvis Smith, a 60-year-old Black man, in 2018, a judge decided on Wednesday. Higgs shot Smith in the leg in Reisterstown, Maryland, after a fight broke out.
Higgs was found guilty in January of first-degree assault, attempted voluntary manslaughter, hate crimes and firearms charges.
John Magee of the Baltimore County State’s Attorney’s Office said that the investigation showed that Higgs had ties to a white supremacy group.
Judge Dennis M. Robinson Jr. sentenced Higgs to 40 years but suspended 15 years. Higgs will serve 25 years in prison in addition to a five-year probationary period.
“Those 15 [years] suspended now are essentially hanging over his head,” Magee told NPR. “If he were to violate his probation once he’s released, then the judge could reimpose the remaining 15 years.”
On the day of the incident, Smith was laying concrete in a driveway with two other Black workers at a home close to where Higgs lived. After Higgs’ dog ran through the wet concrete, the two men exchanged words.
Higgs, who was shirtless at the time, left the scene and then returned wearing a jacket, and keeping his hands in his pocket. Magee said Higgs had come “back to finish what he started.”
Smith said Higgs walked across the lawn and approached him, calling him the N-word and telling him to “Go back to Africa.” Smith also said Higgs told him: “You’re not supposed to be here,” and “This neighborhood is ours.” A physical struggle ensued, and Higgs shot Smith in the leg, shattering his tibia.
The other workers held Higgs down until police arrived and took him into custody. He pleaded not guilty and denied two plea deals. He was also convicted for assaulting a second worker, Robert Peete, who joined the fight to help Smith.
“He’s got a long time to think about the sh-t he did,” Elvis Smith said to the Huffington Post after the sentencing.
White supremacist paraphernalia was found in Higgs’ home, along with the flag of the white supremacist group. He has also participated in racist conversations online.
“I decided I’m going to create my own group called Baltimore Animal Control and buy those dog patrol poles with the snare at the end and wrangle n—-rs with it,” Higgs wrote in one post.
Magee said Higgs attacked Smith because of a “hate for African-Americans.”
“This crime would not have happened if the victims were Caucasian workers,” he added.