April 25, 2018 at 12:18 pm EDT | by Lou Chibbaro Jr.
ANC commissioner stopped prosecution of boyfriend 6 months before his murder
Antonio Barnes, gay news, Washington Blade

Gay former D.C. Advisory Neighborhood Commissioner Antonio Barnes was stabbed to death in March. (Photo via Linkedin)

A gay former Advisory Neighborhood Commissioner in D.C. that Prince George’s County police say was stabbed to death last month in Beltsville, Md., allegedly by his former boyfriend, prevented authorities in Baltimore from prosecuting his then boyfriend for attempting to slash him with a knife six months before the fatal stabbing, according to court documents obtained by the Washington Blade.

Prince George’s County police announced on April 13 that they had charged 23-year-old Baltimore resident Canaan Peterson with first-degree murder for the March 2018 stabbing death of Antonio Barnes, 27. A police statement says Peterson and Barnes had been in a domestic relationship.

P.G. County Police said Barnes was found unconscious on March 14 on a sidewalk outside his Beltsville apartment building suffering from a stab wound. He died a short time later in a nearby hospital.

In a development that experts on domestic violence say is not uncommon, Barnes declined to cooperate with prosecutors in Baltimore last September after Peterson was arrested for attacking him with a knife. As a result of the lack of cooperation multiple assault charges were dropped against Peterson. Six months later, P.G. County police charged Peterson with fatally stabbing Barnes in an act of domestic violence.

According to charging documents filed in Baltimore City District Court, Baltimore police arrested Peterson on nine assault related charges in August 2017 for allegedly attacking Barnes, his then boyfriend, and Canaan’s own mother in a fit of rage.

The Baltimore court documents show the incident took place both outside and inside the house where Peterson lived with his mother and where Barnes stayed when visiting Peterson on the 1200 block of Luzerne Avenue in Baltimore on Aug. 23, 2017.

“Mr. Barnes and the defendant are in a domestic relationship,” one of the charging documents prepared by a Baltimore police officer who was on the scene states. “Mr. Barnes advised that defendant was upset about a text message that was sent stating that he (Barnes) was going back home to D.C.,” the document, listed as a statement of probable cause, says.

“When Mr. Barnes pulled up in front of 1229 N. Luzerne Ave. with Sharron Peterson (mother of defendant) the defendant approached the vehicle and pulled Barnes out of the car and attempted to hit him with a piece of wood but missed and did not make contact with his body,” the charging document states.

The document says Peterson followed Barnes into the basement of the house where an argument between the two escalated, with “defendant Peterson destroying property and ransacking the house on all three floors.”

The document adds, “The defendant retrieved a small knife and attempted to cut Barnes by slashing at him several times. Barnes restrained the defendant and was able to disarm him but the defendant did bite him on the left chest and both arms during this assault, causing small welt marks and Barnes sustained a small cut to his right pinky finger from the knife as well.”

At one point during his rampage Peterson stated to his mother “I’ll fuck you up too,” according to the charging document. It says he then charged at his mother “and struck her several times with a closed fist in the face and body, threw her down to the ground, and bit her on the stomach.”

Barnes pulled Peterson off of his mother, who is identified in the document as Sharron Peterson, after which Canaan Peterson “retrieved the knife again and this time attempted to stab his mother,” the charging document says. It says she sustained a small cut on her left hand.

The document says Peterson fled the scene when police arrived and appeared to have hid in the backyard of the house next door before police found him and placed him under arrest. The charging document says that Peterson’s sister was present during the entire incident and witnessed her brother’s actions against Barnes and his mother.

Despite what appeared to be a strong case against Peterson, court records show that all nine charges filed against him were dismissed during a court hearing on Sept. 19, 2017. The dismissed charges included two counts of first-degree assault, two counts of second-degree assault, two counts of possession of a dangerous weapon with intent to injure someone, and malicious destruction of property.

The court documents obtained by the Washington Blade do not show why the charges were dropped by the Baltimore City State’s Attorney’s Office. But when contacted by the Blade, Melba Saunders, a spokesperson for the State’s Attorney’s office, gave this explanation:

“The criminal justice system relies heavily on victims and witnesses to participate in the proceedings, especially when the alleged crime is domestic related,” Saunders said in a statement. “Unfortunately the victim and witnesses, related to this case, were unwilling to cooperate and without their participation the office could not proceed with the charges against Mr. Peterson,” Saunders said.

Friends of Barnes in D.C. say they believe he broke off his relationship with his boyfriend but they did not know when that happened.

“The preliminary investigation reveals the suspect stabbed the victim during an argument,” according to a statement released by P.G. County police at the time of Peterson’s arrest for Barnes’ murder.

Upon learning of Barnes’ death, community activists in D.C. who knew him through his tenure on Advisory Neighborhood Commission 6E, which represents the city’s Sursum Corda and Shaw neighborhoods, praised him for him for what they said was his dedication to improve the neighborhood he represented.

Fellow gay ANC member Alex Padro said Barnes was “gay and out” to his fellow commissioners and many of the people within his ANC district.

Lou Chibbaro Jr. has reported on the LGBT civil rights movement and the LGBT community for more than 30 years, beginning as a freelance writer and later as a staff reporter and currently as Senior News Reporter for the Washington Blade. He has chronicled LGBT-related developments as they have touched on a wide range of social, religious, and governmental institutions, including the White House, Congress, the U.S. Supreme Court, the military, local and national law enforcement agencies and the Catholic Church. Chibbaro has reported on LGBT issues and LGBT participation in local and national elections since 1976. He has covered the AIDS epidemic since it first surfaced in the early 1980s. Follow Lou

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