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Suspected Fifeville shooter appears in Charlottesville court

The man accused of shooting a member of Charlottesville’s anti-gun violence organization appeared in court on Tuesday.

Tadashi Demetrius Keyes, a 38-year-old Charlottesville resident, has been charged with the second-degree murder of Eldridge “Skeeta” Smith near Fifeville Park on the night of Jan. 28. Keyes has also been charged with possession of a firearm by a convicted felon. He had previously been sentenced to life in prison on prior gun and drug charges but had his sentenced reduced.

Smith, a 36-year-old city resident, was a member of the B.U.C.K. Squad, a group dedicated to removing gun violence from Charlottesville’s streets. According to the organization, Smith was driving to work when he was killed. Police at the scene said they found Smith dead in his car, his body riddled with bullets and multiple casings on the ground nearby.

Charlottesville Police Chief Michael Kochis has said he cannot provide any details regarding the shooter’s motives. However, he has said that police believe that Smith not only knew his killer but that the shooter had specifically targeted Smith.

Keyes appeared in Charlottesville General District Court on Tuesday morning, where Judge Andrew Sneathern scheduled a status hearing for April 20, according to court records. At a status hearing, the prosecution and defense typically discuss the progress of the case and the judge determines whether and when to schedule a preliminary hearing.

Keyes is being held without bond in Albemarle-Charlottesville Regional Jail.

Tuesday was not the first time Keyes has appeared in court.

On Sept. 21, 2004, he was sentenced to life imprisonment plus 120 months after he was found guilty for conspiracy to distribute 50 grams or more of cocaine and possession and use of a firearm during and in relation to a drug trafficking crime. He maintained his innocence throughout his trial.

Keyes, who was 18 at the time, was identified by police as an “enforcer” and “second lieutenant” in a narcotics business dubbed “Estes Street Inc.,” named after the area in which it operated.

“Keyes participated in a conspiracy that distributed significant quantities of cocaine in Charlottesville,” according to court records. “He was known as one of the organization’s enforcers, pulling the trigger at least once to cause bodily injury.”

Keyes was arrested, charged and convicted on those counts.

That sentence, however, didn’t stick.

Last year, a judge decided to reduce Keyes’ sentence based on his young age at the time of the original crime, the fact that Keyes had shot but not killed a man as well as the 2010 passing of the Fair Sentencing Act, which “reduced sentencing disparities between cocaine and crack cocaine offenses, which were widely criticized for producing racially disproportionate sentencing outcomes.”

Keyes’ sentence was reduced in March of last year to 280 months. He was released six months later in September.

In his petition to have his sentenced reduced, Keyes told the court that his actions were “not that of a violent agitator who poses a continued risk to public safety,” but “someone simply trying to survive in remarkably dangerous environments.”


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