Prince George’s County, Md., police on April 13 charged a 23-year-old Baltimore man with first-degree murder for the March 14 stabbing death of gay former D.C. Advisory Neighborhood Commissioner Antonio Barnes, 27, outside Barnes’s apartment in Beltsville, Md.
A police statement says the suspect, Canaan Peterson, was being held without bond for the murder and other related charges. Court records show police also charged Peterson with first-degree assault, possession of a dangerous weapon with intent to injure, and reckless endangerment.
The statement says police have listed the death as a “domestic related homicide.” It adds that “the suspect and victim were in a relationship.”
In 2014, Barnes, who was gay, won election to a seat on D.C.’s Advisory Neighborhood Commission 6E, which represents the city’s Sursum Corda and Shaw neighborhoods. Barnes’ single member district represented Sursum Corda.
Barnes gave up the ANC seat before running for re-election in 2016 when he moved to P.G. County.
Fellow gay ANC member Alex Padro called Barnes a dedicated community advocate who worked diligently to represent his constituents on the ANC. Padro said Barnes was “gay and out” to his fellow commissioners and to the people who knew him in the neighborhood.
People who knew Barnes said he was an active member of the D.C. chapter of the Service Employees International Union during his employment as a custodian at a downtown D.C. office building.
At the time of the murder, police said they responded to a call to check on Barnes’ welfare by going to his residence on the 11200 block of Evans Trail in Beltsville about 10:30 p.m. on March 14.
“When they arrived, the officers discovered the victim outside lying on a sidewalk suffering from trauma to the lower body,” a police statement said. The statement says he was taken to a hospital where he died a short time later.
“The preliminary investigation reveals the suspect stabbed the victim during an argument,” according to the April 13 police statement announcing the arrest of Peterson.
Maryland court records show that six months prior to Barnes’ murder, Baltimore City police on Aug. 24, 2017, arrested Peterson on nine felony assault related charges. They 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, malicious destruction of property, and “intoxicated endanger.”
In a development likely to raise concern among Barnes’ family members and friends, the court records show that the Baltimore City State’s Attorney Office, which acts as the prosecutor in criminal cases in Baltimore, dropped all nine charges against Peterson on Sept. 19, 2017. The online court records do not show why prosecutors dropped the charges using the designation “Nolle Prosequi,” a Latin term used for discontinuing prosecution.
The court records also do not identify the victim in the assault or say what, if any, relationship the victim had with Peterson.
The Washington Blade has made inquiries with both the Baltimore City State’s Attorney’s Office and with the District Court for Baltimore City, where Peterson’s case was brought and later dropped, to determine why the charges were dropped.
Barnes’ murder and the subsequent arrest of the man that people who knew him said was his former boyfriend will likely renew attention to the ongoing problem of domestic violence in the LGBT community. Experts with the New York City-based National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs, which monitors anti-LGBT violence, have said domestic or “relationship” violence is as prevalent among same-sex couples as it is among their heterosexual counterparts.
Members of the D.C. police LGBT Liaison Unit have said domestic violence calls are among the most frequent calls for help the unit receives.