URBANA — A Champaign man who shot and killed a man in self-defense during a dice game nine months ago is headed to prison for having the gun he used.
As a convicted felon, Keith L. Baker, 25, whose last known address was in the 2400 block of North Neil Street, is not allowed to possess a weapon. But he pleaded guilty Monday to having one on May 21, 2020, and will be sentenced for that crime alone on April 5.
Charges that Baker had murdered James “Rooster” Coleman, 25, early that day had been dismissed in August by Assistant State’s Attorney Kristin Alferink.
“What we know now is different than what we knew then,” Alferink said of the details surrounding Mr. Coleman’s death, some of which weren’t fully known to police until a few months later.
Judge Roger Webber accepted Baker’s guilty plea, negotiated by Alferink and Baker’s Bloomington attorney, Kevin Sanborn.
Alferink agreed to seek no more than five years in prison for him on the conviction for unlawful use of weapons by a felon. The maximum for the crime is seven years. He’s been locked up since May 27 in connection with the fatal shooting.
Still charged with Mr. Coleman’s murder is London Taylor, 20, a friend of Mr. Coleman’s who authorities think plotted with Mr. Coleman to rob Baker of cash that Baker had won in dice games at the Gramercy Park apartment complex, 205 S. Country Fair Drive, in the hours leading up to the fatal shooting.
Taylor is charged with felony murder alleging that because he was present and conspired to participate in robbing Baker, that makes him liable for Mr. Coleman’s death even though he was not the shooter.
He’s been in jail since Aug. 7 and is due back in court March 9. No trial date has been set.
Champaign police learned that there had been a dice game in a common area of the complex that started May 20, then moved to Mr. Coleman’s apartment, where he lived with his girlfriend.
Witnesses said Baker had been winning big and Mr. Coleman had lost. At some point, Mr. Coleman reportedly pulled a gun on Baker and threatened him. Baker responded by pulling his own gun and shooting Mr. Coleman, who died in the apartment.
Alferink said although the group of dice players — as many as seven — scattered immediately after the shooting, police were able to interview several witnesses.
“It was self-defense,” Alferink said. “We interviewed Baker and what he said was corroborated by other witnesses, but as a convicted felon, he is not allowed to have a gun.”
Baker had other felony convictions in his adult past for obstructing justice, burglary and retail theft.