State Police Arrest Suspect Involved In Somerset County Homicide
The accused is identified as Rodney Columbus Christopher, also known as "Mookie", 35, of Princess Anne. 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 L. Blake, 26, of 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 this morning, 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 on the parking lot. There were several other people present at the time of the incident.
During the afternoon of December 22, 2016, charges against Jesse L. Copes, 26, of 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 in order 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.