Maryland man charged with hate crimes in parking dispute killings

Jul 24, 2023, 8:40 AM

Crime scene...

FILE - Crime scene. (Paul W. Gillespie/Via AP)

(Paul W. Gillespie/Via AP)

ANNAPOLIS, Md. (AP) — Maryland prosecutors have filed hate crime charges against a man accused of killing three people and wounding three more in a dispute over parking.

The three people shot to death were Latino; the man accused of shooting them is white. Their families have lived on the same street for years and have had a history of disputes, including allegations of racial slurs against one of the victims.

Charles Robert Smith, 43, had been charged with second-degree murder. Now he faces first-degree murder and hate-crime charges in the killings of Mario Mireles, his father Nicholas Mireles, and Christian Segovia, under an indictment returned by an Anne Arundel County grand jury on Friday, according to online court records.

The 42-count indictment also includes six charges of attempted first-degree murder. Smith’s initial court appearance was scheduled for next Monday. His initial lawyer is no longer representing him, and another attorney did not immediately respond Monday to a request for comment.

Maryland’s hate crime law applies to crimes that are motivated either in whole or in substantial part to another person’s race, color, religious beliefs, sexual orientation, gender, gender identity, disability or national origin. It enables prosecutors to add years to a sentence, and financial penalties. Smith faces up to life in prison without possibility of parole if convicted of first-degree murder.

According to the police charging documents, the six people who were shot were attending a large party when a dispute broke out over a parking issue. Mireles went to Smith’s home to talk about it and was arguing with Shirley Smith when her son Charles Smith returned home and confronted him. The verbal argument became physical.

Smith pulled out a gun and Mireles tried to grab it before Smith shot Mireles and Segovia. Smith “then stood over Mario Mireles and shot him several more times,” the document says. Smith then went into his house, got a rifle and began firing through a window at people who had come trying to help the mortally wounded men. Smith fatally shot Nicolas Mireles, and wounded Rosalina Segovia, Paul Johnnson and Enner Canales-Hernandez, police said.

Smith surrendered when the police arrived, telling officers he shot the victims because they shot at his house. However, none of the witnesses interviewed saw any of the victims with a firearm, according to the charging documents.

The Smith and Mireles families have had disputes for years, even going to court for help at one point. Mario Mireles sought a peace order petition in September 2016, accusing Shirley Smith of harassing him and their neighbors since he was a child. He accused her of directing racial slurs at him and his family, as well as other neighbors who are Black.

He wrote that he was washing his car in front of his house when Shirley Smith drove fast by him about an “arm length away,” saying he believed she was “targeting” him with her car.

Shirley Smith also sought a peace order at the same time, accusing Mireles of hitting her car with a large wet towel or blanket. She also accused him of throwing rocks at street signs and hitting vehicles.

Peace orders are civil orders asking a person to refrain from committing certain acts. The judge denied both their petitions.

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Maryland man charged with hate crimes in parking dispute killings