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Baltimore officer Keona Holley taken off life support one week after being shot in ambush

Holley, a 39-year-old mother of four, joined the police department two years ago to make a difference

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Duty Death: Keona Holley - [Baltimore]

End of Service: 23/12/2021

By Justin Fenton
Baltimore Sun

BALTIMORE — Baltimore Police Officer Keona Holley has been taken off life support following a few days of “deteriorating” health, one week after being shot in an ambush while she sat in her patrol car, the police department announced Thursday.

Holley, a 39-year-old mother of four who joined the police department two years ago to make a difference, was shot in the head while working an overtime shift early in the morning of Dec. 16 in Curtis Bay. She had been on life support at the University of Maryland Shock Trauma Center.

The Baltimore Police Department said in a news release Thursday evening that her family, in consultation with doctors, made “the most difficult decision” to remove her from life support.

Commissioner Michael Harrison said his prayers were with Holley’s family and coworkers, adding that he thanks her and the entire police community for their “commitment, service and sacrifice.”

Community residents held a vigil for Holley late Wednesday afternoon, praying for a “miracle.” She was recalled as the “Mom from the West Side,” who made an impression on residents and fellow police officers alike.

Police have charged two men in the shooting, as well as with a second killing, of 38-year-old Justin Johnson, that took place about 90 minutes later in Southwest Baltimore. One of the suspects, Elliott Knox, allegedly admitted to detectives that he was present, and told police where to find the weapons used.

But a motive remains unknown and the police investigation is continuing.

Knox said that Johnson had been killed because he owed money to Travon Shaw, who Knox said carried out both shootings. But detectives wrote in charging documents that shell casings from two different types of firearms were used, and that surveillance video from Curtis Bay showed both men approaching the area where Holley was shot. At least seven people have been killed in Baltimore since Holley and Johnson were shot.

Harrison has said that Holley was “where she was supposed to be, doing what she was supposed to do.”

“I know Officer Holley did not deserve this,” Mayor Brandon Scott said last week.

The police department said in a statement that free, confidential counseling services were available for employees and requested those who wish to make a contribution for Holley’s family to visit and specify her family by writing “In support of Officer Holley.”

Holley’s sister Lawanda Sykes spoke to reporters outside Shock Trauma last week, saying that her sister was beloved and worked hard for the city.

“She left out of that house every day and dug her feet into the dirt to serve this city,” Sykes said.

Holley had previously worked at Clifton T. Perkins Hospital, a state psychiatric facility; friends said she was a nursing assistant, while state health officials said she had a security job. Holley was interviewed by the website Insider as she was going through the police academy in 2020, and explained why she wanted to be a police officer later in life.

“I didn’t want to be a Baltimore police officer before. I feel like Baltimore City police officers have a bad name about themselves,” Holley said. “We have to change that, and change it together. The community needs Baltimore City police officers that’s not just here for a paycheck. They’re here because they care.”

Last Christmas, Holley posted a video on Facebook where she and fellow officers handed out Christmas gifts to a family on the front porch. It appears to be organized by a handful of officers.

“One of my favorite sergeants felt compelled to purchase these three beautiful little girls Christmas, and officers donated,” she wrote in December of last year. The girls had “endured something they probably won’t ever forget.”

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