License Plate Design, Gun Among Evidence in Fatal NW DC Nightclub Shooting

Judge Frederick Sullivan found that there was substantial evidence Wednesday in the case against 33-year-old Michael A. Smith. Smith is suspected of taking part in a shooting that led to the death of Paul Aime Tanoh Danzo. He is charged with first-degree murder while armed and other related offenses.

Prosecutors allege that Danzo was shot after a fight at a nightclub, and Smith drove the car which allowed Danzo’s shooter to escape.

The case against Smith remains unlisted in court records. A spokesman for the US Attorney’s Office declined to comment and suggested questions about the case be directed to the courthouse.

On March 21, police found Danzo in the driver’s seat of a car parked on the 1000 block of 17th Street Northwest. Danzo was suffering from multiple gunshot wounds to the body and head. He was transported to a local hospital where he was later pronounced dead.

Charging documents in the case say that several hours before the murder, surveillance video captured Smith and another man arriving in a black BMW at the Colonial Parking Garage located near the Balleto nightclub.

Video footage shows Danzo and Smith’s companion get into a verbal argument in the club around 2:30 a.m. on March 21, according to the documents. Then, the documents state that Danzo punches Smith’s companion in the face and leaves the club; Smith and the man he arrived with followed Danzo out of the club.

Charging documents state that around 2:47 a.m. witnesses heard four gunshots coming from 17th Street, and saw a black male turn and rush toward a black BMW that fled the scene. An MPD patrol car pursued the fleeing car but lost the vehicle while traveling north down 15th street, documents state.

Metropolitan Police Detective Ray Shields testified Wednesday that the front licence plate design on the black BMW appeared to match the design of Diamond City Auto in Maryland. Shields told prosecutors that his investigation found that Smith is an employee at Diamond City Auto. Police have not located the black BMW, Shields said.

Shields also said that a firearm was recovered on 15th Street NW less than an hour after the chase. He testified that ballistics testing confirms it was the weapon used in Danzo’s death. The recovered weapon also has been linked to two unknown DNA samples, Shields said.

Shields told prosecutors that the firearm was recovered in a location “consistent” with the path of the fleeing car.

Douglas J. Wood, Smith’s defense attorney, argued that Smith was not adequately linked to Danzo’s shooter.

“No witness told you that Mr. Smith saw this gun prior to the shooting?” Mitchell asked Sheilds.

Sheilds answered, “No.”

Woods further argued that the shooter was not reliably identified, pointing out inconsistencies between eyewitness accounts.

The case is scheduled for a felony status conference on October 1.

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