Second Defendant Pleads Guilty to 2021 Murder of Baltimore Police Officer, Gets Life Sentence for Second Killing

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Defendant Travon Shaw pleaded guilty for his role in the murder of Baltimore Police Officer Keona Holley on March 28, less than an hour after he was sentenced to life without parole for the murder of the second victim, Justin Johnson.

In October 2023, a jury found Shaw guilty of first-degree murder, conspiracy to first-degree murder and several weapons charges for Johnson’s murder on Dec. 16, 2021. The 35-year-old man was facing the same charges for Holley’s murder, but chose to plead guilty during Thursday’s proceeding before Baltimore City Circuit Court Judge Althea M. Handy.

Shaw and his co-defendant, Elliot Marcus Knox, were both charged with Holley and Johnson’s murders that occurred within 90 minutes of each other. Knox was found guilty of both murders on March 6 and is currently scheduled for sentencing on June 4.

On Thursday, Shaw, alongside his defense attorney, Matthew Connell, accepted the prosecution’s plea offer of life, suspending all but 40 years, and five years of supervised probation for the first-degree murder of Holley. The prosecutor informed the court that Holley’s family approved of the offer; however, the offer was contingent upon the outcome of Johnson’s sentencing.

“My sister lived 39 years, seven months, 23 days, 16 hours and 44 minutes,” Holley’s sister said, addressing Shaw during her impact statement. “It took one second to decide not to do this.”

With Holley’s mother in the gallery, her sister told Shaw she wished him no ill will, saying that, “Vengeance is not mine.” Instead, Holley’s sister reflected on the officer’s work both on and off duty, including Holley’s time spent raising her four children as well as feeding the homeless.

“I will take on the work that she started to make Baltimore City a better place,” she said.

Prior to Shaw’s plea agreement for Holley’s murder, Judge Handy heard from Johnson’s mother and aunt, both of whom expressed similar sentiments. Johnson’s mother disputed Shaw’s claims that her son was his best friend given the fact none of Johnson’s family members knew about him.

“We have to go on living not knowing why you chose to do what you did,” she said before asking Judge Handy to “show him the same mercy he showed my son. Show him none.”

According to the prosecution, the double homicide was “a night of terror and execution,” which warranted a life sentence.

Connell noted that his client maintained his innocence at trial. Defense counsel further questioned the prosecution’s life sentence recommendation, suggesting the prosecution was basing the recommendation on Holley’s murder, while maintaining the theory that Knox shot Holley.

“[Shaw] hasn’t been tried for killing Officer Holley,” Connell added.

He then asked the judge to consider sentencing Johnson to life, suspending all but a given amount of time.

Judge Handy sentenced Shaw to life without parole for Johnson’s murder, a concurrent life sentence for conspiracy to first-degree murder, a consecutive 20 years, the first five without parole, for firearm use in a felony or violent crime and a concurrent 15 years, the first five years without parole, for possession a firearm with a felony conviction.

The charges of having a loaded handgun on his person and in a vehicle were merged with the other counts.

On Thursday afternoon, Baltimore City State’s Attorney Ivan J. Bates expressed his sympathy to Holley and Johnson’s families and commended the assistant state’s attorney’s work on the case.

“Today’s sentencing of Travon Shaw ensures that he will never be able to commit another ruthless act of violence in our city ever again,” Bates said in a press release. “Officer Keona Holley and Justin Johnson will never return home to their families, a fact that will remain with their loved ones for the rest of their lives. My heart goes out to them as they continue to grieve and work to heal.”

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