When you can’t trust the police…

Prologue: In a city where the tally of unsolved murders reach the triple digits each year, it is still surprising when a homicide detective’s murder becomes a cold case in Baltimore City.

The November 2017 broad daylight shooting death of detective Sean Suiter in a residential neighborhood has reached its third anniversary. The one sketchy suspect description was quickly recanted by the one eyewitness (also a detective).

With each passing year, it looks more probable (and not just possible) that Suiter was lured to Bennett Place, trapped in the alley, put down like a dog in the street, and the crime scene (held by police for an abnormally extended time period) was staged to look like a suicide.

A bombshell press conference by Suiter’s grieving family broke through the typical blue wall of silence in May 2019 when they claimed that the 39-year old’s murder was an inside job. This occurred on the heels of the department pledging to investigate itself when it brought in a panel called the “Independent Review Board” (IRB) to review their casefiles and in their 2018 report arrived at a manner of death different that the coroner (suicide versus homicide).

To be clear, the Suiter family believes Baltimore police was involved in the murder of one of their own, and they are not alone.

Cops controlled the narrative and the neighborhood

Controlling the narrative about the possibility of Suiter being shot with his own service weapon that allegedly was found under his body was equally as important as controlling movement in and around the crime scene around the clock for days on end.

A sober look at the case reveals much of what local media outlets have “reported” is merely a regurgitation of Baltimore Police spin. Consider the source: maybe, just maybe, the department could be frantically covering up a murder, making it prudent for professional journalists to take what law enforcement said (and probably more important what they haven’t said) with a healthy dose of skepticism.

Coverage of the Sean Suiter homicide began with widely reported misinformation that he was shot as he knocked on doors following up on a year old triple murder in the west Baltimore community of Harlem Park. The public later learned that he was likely confronted in the alley (and not the lot) and that he was assisting another junior homicide detective (David Bomenka) with his murder case that happened just weeks prior.

Unfounded Accusation #1: Suiter was shot with his own gun.

Truth: That is pure speculation on four crucial fronts:

  1. BPD (poorly) reenacted the “discovery” of the bullet that they said killed him. This happened in front of cameras by members of the homicide unit after the crime scene unit had released the area coming up empty after digging in the exact same spot looking for other missing bullets. NOTE: The “evidence” was too damaged to run ballistics tests to try and determine if Suiter’s gun fired that bullet. All that can be proven is that the bullet dramatically “discovered” at the scene is the same type that is used by BPD. It is not hyperbole to state that Baltimore Police have made an artform out of planting evidence.
Screengrab of a local television station’s cameras that captured BPD “discovery” of the bullet that killed Det. Sean Suiter just after ending the weeklong lockdown “securing the crime scene” ie media blackout – only to have reporters camera’s booted out again.

2. Suiter’s gun has a serial number. The public has have not been shown if the weapon tested has the same serial number as the Glock service weapon that was assigned to him.

3. The public should be comfortable assuming only that the bullet that killed Suiter likely came from one of the thousands of similar weapons issued by the Baltimore Police department.

4. Suiter may not have ever fired a gun that day. His hand were wiped clean by an overzealous (unidentified) hospital employee, police said. While the report spends an inordinate amount of time discussing the blood on his sleeve, no mention was made of whether gunshot residue (GSR) tests were performed on his shirt or his jacket. Also curious is that BPD originally reported that blood was recovered on his suit jacket and was later changed to his sleeve for no apparent reason once the suicide theory took hold. No explanation is provided for the absence of any photographs on either Suiter’s jacket or his shirt before the IRB became involved a whole year after the shooting.

Unfounded Accusation #2 : Suiter fell on his gun.

Truth: No one has come forward saying they saw Suiter fall or can definitively say where his gun was before he was moved into the patrol car:

At best, the detective with Suiter is an unreliable witness (also a tradition at BPD) and at worse he saw who killed the detective, manipulated the crime scene and/or took part in the cover up. Only photos grabbed from body worn cameras (BWC) of responding officers were provided to the press and there have been no statements attributed to any specific individual saying he or she saw the gun under his body.

It’s not out of the realm of possibility that BPD planted a gun at the scene, removed it and submitted one into evidence and claimed it to be Suiter’s. Ironically, Suiter was scheduled to testify about how multiple Baltimore police officers conspired to hide an illegal fatal car chase by planting evidence that sent two innocent Black men to prison rather than admit they were merely speeding.

NOTE: BPD was reprimanded by the IRB for the contaminated crime scene and “recovery” of a service weapon from the trunk of a patrol car belonging to an unidentified officer at some unspecified time that was logged into evidence as Suiter’s gun.

Baltimore Police’s “Independent Review Board Report. Page 37
  1. In his official interviews, according to the IRB report, homicide detective David Bomenka changed his version of what he saw: included seeing a. Suiter in the act of falling, b. having just collapsed to the ground and c. having had already fallen. But he was was steadfast that he didn’t see a gun in his hand; he only said that he saw gun smoke near Suiter.
  2. Most surprisingly, we don’t know if Bomenka saw or heard Suiter on his departmental radio. There was a transmission of Suiter sounding like he was in distress just as he was shot, according to officials. That would be a question worth knowing the answer to.
  3. When back up officers arrived once Bomenka (or someone) called 911 (the public has not heard the recording either), the photo from the BWC and presented in the IRB report is out of focus and unclear. The peculiar wording indicates the officers “could see” the gun, not that they did see or even that said that they saw the gun. It’s a crucial distinction.

The newspaper of record in March 2018 reported as fact that Suiter’s gun, “freshly fired” was underneath his body when responding officers arrived. It’s important for responsible journalists to distinguish what police said and attribute their claims to the source as opposed to offering up speculation as factual information to a trusting public that journalists have not independently verified or obtained similar statements from multiple sources on the record.

Out of many, the most absurd claim is IRB’s determination that Suiter’s weapon undisputedly fired the fatal shot as it defies logic. First, they tested the blood on the gun BPD found in the patrol car of an unnamed officer who presented it as the same gun that was “freshly fired” that no one saw under his body. Voila, the blood tested on the gun gift wrapped to them matched Suiter’s DNA. Mind you Suiter was transported in a patrol car to the hospital bleeding from a head wound. Whoever removed the gun from the crime scene had ample opportunity to place blood on a service weapon – either a random service weapon or actually the one that belonged to Suiter.

IRB’s suicide theory would have been a more convincing claim had the IRB report included:

  • the serial numbers of Suiter’s assigned weapon showing they matched the gun tested
  • the gun tested was the exact same one was recovered at the crime scene (instead of a car trunk), but there are no crime scene photographs of where the gun was found making this impossible
  • BWC that clearly captured arriving officer’s discovery of the gun under his body as he was rolled over that may or may not be available
  • crime scene photos of the location of the gun and the bullet that no one thought to take
  • whether or not Suiter’s DNA was found on the “recovered” bullet
  • if bullets and casings didn’t just magically disappear from the scene after Suiter died

Confusingly, IRB depicts in a photo the bullet that was not tested for ballistics, have no DNA on them (presumably), and have zero evidentiary value. What should be pictured is Suiter’s firearm circling where the blood splatter was located that actually tested positive for his DNA. Page 42 of IRB report.

Missing from the report is exact amount of blood splatter reportedly on the gun that IRB tested for DNA recovered and tested from the barrel and gun surface. An assessment should be made about whether Suiter’s blood found on the weapon is consistent with someone adding blood to it, or if it is likely that the blood was from a single shot being fired at close range near someone’s head. The IRB made a similar splatter determination with blood photographed on the sleeve, but did not do so with the “smoking gun.”

The problems with a complicit media

So many questions remain unanswered about the investigation, despite the IRB. Last year, a second review of the case by Maryland State Police (MSP) was conducted, but to date no report was released to the public. Unlike the IRB, MSP did not conduct a press conference leaving media outlets to get the finding from Commissioner Michael Harrison. Without any scrutiny from the public, MSP concluded that Suiter shot himself in the head after firing three or more shots into the air before shooting himself.

Neither panel brought in by Baltimore Police department to “investigate” their investigation reported on the lockdown of Harlem Park and BPD certainly didn’t request that either group look into whether it was possible that anyone manipulated the crime scene as part of a wider cover up.

As long as the case remains open, public access to documents remain shielded. Harrison, the fourth commissioner since the shooting, had called the investigation closed after MSP’s findings, only walk it back once the State’s Attorney’s office countered him by calling it an open and pending matter last year as the second anniversary of Suiter’s death approached.

Even with what little is known, it should be at least clear that beyond statements attributed to David Bomenka, nothing reliable has been presented that 1. Suiter was shot with his own service weapon or 2. that his body fell on a smoking gun. Such reporting is far from fact and closer to fable. What is discernable from the reporting is that members of the media were not able to view BWC, did not hear the 911 call for help, have not spoken with any investigators on the record, or even been given witness statements to read.

In advance of the August 2018 IRB report the Baltimore Sun used unnamed and anonymous sources to float out the idea that Suiter shot himself in the head and then fell on his “freshly fired” gun as “new details”.

More from Baltimore Sun’s story by Justin Fenton from March 2018 just before the announcement that an IRB panel would be reviewing the methods BPD used to investigate the homicide.

Residents in the community heard between four and five gunshots according to news reports. Miraculously, after occupying the neighborhood for a week, the crime scene unit was unable to recover a single bullet, although they did retrieve three casings near where he lay dying in the lot. There’s no definitive proof offered that the recovered casings in any way matched Suiter’s weapon, yet the IRB said without hesitancy that they came from his gun, presumably because they were recovered near his body. The leaps in this reasoning might not be judged as too far fetched- had they found the other missing bullets that went into the air but didn’t come down where they could be easily found even after a week of looking for them.

Regrettably, mainstream media in real time shrugged at the occupation of West Baltimore during this entire process, arguably because of the nature of the crime makes them sympathetic to the dangers of law enforcement and more subtlety because the color of the skin of the people complaining about overreach made their claims less newsworthy. Although in November 2019 the ACLU heard the complaints and filed a lawsuit against BPD which did gain media attention.

To any casual observer, the unprecedented 24/7 lockdown of the neighborhood had nothing to do with looking for a shooter, or finding bullets (since they came up empty on both fronts) but served to manipulate the scene and make sure any concocted story would match witness accounts prompting a social media hashtag #FreeWestBaltimore.

Baltimore Sun Cowers in the Shadows of Fear as Abolishing Police Effort Sees Daylight

BALTIMORE – A defund police movement is kicking up dust across the country and an argument can certainly be made that the Baltimore Sun is feverishly busy sweeping the efforts under the rug.

This indeed is that argument.

What you call a thing matters. Journalists of any consequence know that. Some see an uprising that could lead to a revolt as a pathway to freedom. Others may see a riot that could result in a rebellion as a gateway to regime change – their regime.

defund the police street art
Artist @drew_koritzer posted on Twitter by @OrganizingBlack and supported by @DMVBlackLives, @byp100

A lot depends on one’s views on oppression. Regrettably, in a June 8, 2020 commentary, the Sun’s editorial stance reveals itself again to be on the wrong side of history with Black Baltimore and it is done at a time when it matters the most to all of the city’s citizens.

Baltimore’s deeply rooted racism

Baltimore City has a long history with what some today might call  “both sidesism.” Back in the mid 1800s  when the nation was struggling with how to proceed with demands to abolish slavery, the City’s economic and political leaders instead aligned itself with plantation owners of the south.  However, the Governor assured President Abraham Lincoln of Maryland’s allegiance to the Union’s cause.

Predictably heavily pro Confederate members of the Maryland State Assembly were arrested to thwart an insurrection.  This move merely forced southern sympathizers into hiding.  Is recent as May 2020, pamphlets and recruitment into Ku Klux Klan (KKK) espousing white supremacy are still commonplace in Maryland.

lincoln cropped

If Baltimore’s elite class had its way, there wouldn’t even had been a president Lincoln.  A thwarted plot to assassinate the president-elect as he traveled through the state on his way to his first inauguration is a story of legend.

Fast forward 160 years. Again we have a climbing crescendo of calls for local politicians to see an immoral institution as antiquated.  States are choosing to re-imagine public safety and policing in way that excludes the existence of the Baltimore Police department.

Where the Sun stands

Staying with the devil they know, The Sun has decided that there are indeed good people on both sides of #AbolishPolice efforts.  It returns to surface the old axiom that the “bad apples” within the department are resistant to submersion.

Are the police really that irredeemable, or are there just some bad apples that need to be sorted out? Maybe, maybe not. But at its heart, the defund movement isn’t really about getting rid of police entirely.” – Baltimore Sun Editorial May 8, 2020

 

It may help to think of the editorial board as the restaurant managers who decide on the décor, select the vendors, approve the menu, set work schedules. And then think of the reporters as the cooks in the kitchen. This perhaps helps to place its editorial in perspective.

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Two weeks after the George Floyd video that shocked the consciousness of most Americans went viral, the Sun’s editorial staff gave us a glimpse into whether it was shaping up to be a fine dining or an earnest family style establishment.

What we got was neither. With the Sun, we were forced fed the predictable greasy spoon diner fare commonly served up for the regulars who show up for the paper since segregation was legal and are known by name.

Since May 25th when 46 year old Floyd gasped his last breath under the weight of a knee to the back of his neck by an officer on a Minneapolis city sidewalk – up  until the editorial was published on June 8th, Baltimore had 11 straight days of protests in the street.

Proof corporations are not people

While organizers were busy lobbing tear gas canisters back at police, the owners of the Sun (and the Chicago Tribune) were reinforcing its blockade. Owners of both papers, Tribune Publishing, have called for more policing while reducing the demands to #AbolishPolice to be “ardent police critics, those who see the roots of modern policing in the practice of hunting down escaped slaves,” write the Sun editorial staff.

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In a June 10th editorial, the Chicago Tribune referenced its own Freddie Gray policing nightmare, the shooting death of 17 year old Laquan McDonald in 2014.  After an alleged  years-long cover up Chicago’s entered into its own federal Consent Decree in 2017  dictating ways to reform.

If only the Tribune Co’s editorial staff objectively read its own papers, they would see evidence of systemic racism in its very midst.

Resting on the idea that police are able to reform itself as the magic elixir is extremely unnerving especially to the over-policed communities they cover. Corporate ownership of news outlets has permitted business interests to usurp public accountability and shape a narrative that’s out of sync with the nation’s consciousness.

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A local paper in Minneapolis, MN warned caution against the defund police movement as well. The Star Tribune, owned by local businessman Glen Taylor echoed his city’s business leaders in saying getting rid of crime fighters will not eliminate crime. There’s not enough space in the entire cyber-sphere to adequately respond to that reasoning.  Suffice it to say – if only police were crime fighters, then it would be a discussion worth having.

This national moment of reckoning about police practices is rightly giving new momentum to overdue reform efforts. George Floyd’s death moved Americans to say “enough” and demand change. It should come soon. – Star Tribune Editorial June 10, 2020

Predictably, the Sun is waiting to see if the blue coats or if the grey coats capture the flag of this country’s moral future.  If Black lives are ever to matter in Baltimore, we can’t wait for  editorial staff sit on the sideline to see how another state fares.  “We would like to see how Minneapolis and other cities fare with their approaches,” wrote the Editorial staff.

The editorial team of all three papers are prepared to take a wait and see approach. They rest comfortably while their cooks/reporters and photographers scurry back and forth attempting to make palatable what the public can no longer digest.

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Consent decrees bridge activists and police to a road to nowhere

Be wary of those who grasp desperately onto the promise of police reform because it will create yet another black hole where exorbitant consultant fees and federal funds quickly disappear.

In May of this year, Seattle, WA asked to be removed from the constraints of its 2012 consent decree claiming it to be in full compliance with reform mandates.  The mission accomplished banner seems to be tarnished in wake of the national #disbandPolice movement.

Seattle protesters against police abuses created a law enforcement free “autonomous zone” called either CHAZ or CHOP after commandeering a local precinct building. The federal judge was expected to rule in August on the city’s request to come up from under its consent decree.

The recent events of Seattle show that “police reform” should no longer be on the menu. Nevertheless, the Sun editorial state reveals its stance that “There’s an urgency to addressing police misconduct and criminal justice disparities … but not necessarily to fundamentally changing course [emphasis added].” 

Resort to gaslighting when reason fails

Reform advocates are on one end of the spectrum while those who view defunding as an essential first step towards abolishing police is on another. Anybody who tells you differently is gaslighting you.

Baltimore Sun seems adamant in explaining that both people in reality are asking for the same thing.

A head chef/crime reporter, Justin Fenton, shocked the world in a June 19th article, when he wrote” The calls [to defund] mean different things to different people. Some organizations pushing for police reform want fewer resources for police and more money for the community.” He recognized a leader in the abolitionist movement is the People’s Power Assembly, something the editorial left out.

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A day after the City’s largest march, lead by Baltimore’s youth on June 1, it was made clear what the unifying demands were for the thousands who canvassed Baltimore’s streets.

“We are not calling for police reform. We are calling for police abolition. We understand that the police establishment as a whole is too corrupt for reform, therefore we are calling for a complete restructuring of the system.” – from The Youth June 2, 2020

Is the corporate media giant, respective editorial staff, and select reporters each taking turns gaslighting the rest of the nation? No.

Many of journalism’s stalwarts, much like most police departments, are institutional relics fervently resistant to change.  Both entrepreneur David Troy (in a 2016  editorial)  and Maryland Delegate Bilal Ali (in a 2018 letter to then Mayor Catherine Pugh) proposed disbanding the department.

They did so in the wake of very public corruption scandals proposing that reforming a culture of covering up criminality isn’t in the best interest of those victimized by BPD.

“I propose that this 150-year experiment be swiftly ended. Let’s shut down the Baltimore Police Department as it exists in its current form and create a new agency that is empowered and properly constituted to meet all constitutional and legal requirements as set forth by the DOJ from its inception. ” – David Troy, 2016 Baltimore Sun

In a supreme act of gaslighting, the Sun’s editorial sought to shove down our throats the mightiest of comfort food when it wrote: “Frankly, police departments were already headed toward defunding.”  Surely the Sun isn’t suggesting that without the direct action of burning down precincts – we would have gotten here eventually anyways? Riiiight.

The Sun’s editorial brain trust didn’t mention the years of work and ideas put forth by the likes of Troy, Ali, PPA, The Youth, or ACLU.  Instead it awarded a defacto defunding of Law Enforcement to (wait for it) the resume of President Donald Trump.   The Sun viewed his mishandling of the COVID19 pandemic as akin to an unintended consequence that pushed municipalities toward “lean times” that will affect police budgets – thus defund them.

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The degree of mental gymnastics the board performed to arrive at thank Trump for defunding police is a marvel yet to be paralleled.

One can only surmise that the Sun is trying to tell its readership that the thing that they see (a demand to upend Baltimore Police)  isn’t  the thing that they fear – an effort to dismantle White Supremacy.

An unexamined editorial position is not one worth having. Whether this argument stands that the Sun is cowering from the light that oppressive policing is no longer palatable will be known soon enough.

Soon the recently racially diverse editorial staff will likely to take a stance on upcoming issues ripe for gaslighting: the city’s budget priorities, the presidential debates, the ongoing failures of the consent decree and the leadership of  Commissioner Michael Harrison.  I’ll be right here waiting, sort of.

Lincoln had it right.  Maybe the way to challenge the system is to put on a disguise, and make only clandestine  trips through Baltimore.

 

Don’t Blame The Messenger: A Case for Defending TMZ

Law enforcement in Los Angeles County has drawn first blood against online celebrity news organization TMZ. The Los Angeles Sheriff’s department admonished the online news organization for reporting that Kobe Bryant died in a helicopter crash on Sunday, January 26th before its members could officially notify the victims’ next of kin.

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Screengrab capture Twitter @TMZ

Bearer of Bad News

Being on the receiving end of hearing that a loved one has died is never easy, no matter who the messenger is. If the death is unexpected, let alone violent, only makes the news more unbearable.

No “good way” exists for the family of the victims of a helicopter crash to hear that no survivors were recovered from a fiery ball high above the hills surrounding Malibu, California. The healing will never be complete for those who loved: Kobe Bryant, Gianna “Gigi” Bryant, Alyssa Atobelli, John Atobelli, Keri Altobelli, Christina Mauser, Payton Chester, Sarah Chester, and the pilot, Ara Zobayan.

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Screengrab Twitter @LASDMurakami

The space shuttle Challenger exploded on live television in 1986 killing everyone on board. Surely family and friends were taken aback at the horror that unfolded before their eyes. Among others, family members of Cantor Fitzgerald’s employees who were working when an airplane flew into the World Trade Center, would have benefit from preparing, but instead all were shocked as the towers imploded in New York City on September 11, 2001.

Accidents happen.  Notification of the sudden death of Kobe Bryant was big news. Peoples’ horrified reaction upon learning that family members (who were aware that people they loved were also in the helicopter) were notified of the accident via TMZ is understandable.  This happened simply because the news worthiness of the celebrity on board of the downed helicopter and it is indeed regrettable. It’s a sad, sad story.

Let’s make this clear:  TMZ reporting on the facts as they knew them, as soon as they felt certain of it, did nothing wrong.

Hero Worshiping

Hearing that a celebrity died evokes similar feelings as it was a family member. No one wants to learn from a Tweet that someone close to them died in an accident. Our country’s most revered heroes aren’t (as they are in some cultures) teachers, scientists, revolutionaries, writers, or statesmen; we make gods out of professional athletes.

We cannot escape celebrity culture. Helicopters fly over “private” weddings and disrupt solemn funerals. The tabloids, gossip columns fueled by paparazzi of yesteryear have been replaced by anyone with a working cell phone and camera. Law enforcement released photos of superstar musician Prince’s last known healthy moments before falling fatally ill, as reported by TMZ.

So, it’s not a lost point that people want to blame the media for being the bearer of bad news.

What Journalism Is and Isn’t

It bears watching how long law enforcement and public sentiment stay married as unlikely bedfellows in this instance.  Emotions are raw, making TMZ, owned by Warner Brothers, an easy target.

As one of the largest and most successful purveyors of “checkbook journalism”, TMZ, isn’t free of criticism.

No reputable news agency will admit to paying for stories. Those that do are admonished and labeled tabloids or gossip rags.  It is unknown how much TMZ pays and if it goes so far as to pay corrupt public servants receiving taxpayer dollars to act as snitches for sale.

Getting to the story first is one of the last badges of honor those working in the industry has remaining.

TMZ, which debuted in 2005, has quickly and rightfully earned its place high upon the pantheon for getting celebrity scoops. It gained notoriety with the actor Mel Gibson’s DUI arrest and earned Newsweek’s “Breakout Blog of 2007.” By 2009, it earned its place in pop history and media bonafides by being the first to report the death of global superstar Michael Jackson.

Getting the news fast and accurate is what most outlets strive to do. Most of what gets to the masses from law enforce through a public information officer (PIO) has been scrubbed to remove any chances to taint the criminal justice process.

Media does not have the same obligation as law enforcement officers.

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Screengrab Twitter @TMZ

Money most assuredly corrupts most things that it touches. If paying for a story casts doubt in the mind of the public of people’s motives for selling it, or evokes suspicion about the accuracy or authenticity of the information, that’s sound enough reasons to not do it.

In the case of TMZ, that doesn’t seem not to be the issue with its highly publicized and one the money scoops. It has avoided being duped with a forged document or a fooled by a tampered video.

Timing in the news business has always been of the essence.

From the other side of the lens, celebrities themselves have been part of greasing the wheel of exploitation and aiding the race of media giants to get the story first. Reportedly the photos of the twin babies of Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt was sold in 2008 to People Magazine for $14 million. The famous couple has not confirmed that amount, but did disclose that their photos from their daughter Shiloh two year prior was sold for a $2 million donation to charity.

In a New Yorker interview, TMZ’s managing editor Harvey Levin said nominal amounts are paid to sources for tips. Money is handed out for a list of clients for a limo service, photographs, and reportedly $250,000 for the elevator video of Solange Knowles altercation with JayZ in an elevator with Beyonce (TMZ has said it paid $5,000).

Policing the Free Press

The LA Sheriff’s department is riled up in wake of this tragedy because a news agency did not bow down and wait for them as the last and authoritative word in reporting the facts. TMZ had other reliable sources.

A nation’s hero died.

TMZ did what any responsible corporate outlet would do. It  kept to it’s business plan.  It answered to Warner Brothers’ stockholders. It scooped the mainstream outlets. TMZ bypassed the authorities who sanitize and eek out information on the justice system’s timetable. We all should expect blowback.

I’ve been thinking about my RT last night (see below), mere hours after the story broke that family members learned of a loved ones’ death via a news outlet instead of law enforcement authorities.Screenshot (3361)

 

We should applaud TMZ for not simply becoming an amplifier for government agencies repeating sanitized versions for the masses.  Too many times in my hometown of Baltimore, reporters rely only on law enforcement. Entire stories are single sourced, ie “police say” and through only one “authorized” channel.

More corporate media types should work to cultivate independent and reliable sources outside of the public relations offices of law enforcement.

A free and unencumbered press is essential to a working democracy.

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Protect and Serve? When Protectors Become Predators

Baltimore police officers have shown themselves to be pretty darn petty.

And vindictive.

Two cases that recently came before the Civilian Review Board (CRB) exemplify the real risk citizens face when after they “see something” they actually “say something”.

The scenarios couldn’t have been more different.  One happened in the summer of 2017, when a woman was arrested in front of her home on her way from work.  CRB reported on the results of its two-month investigation and sustained her claims of harassment, false arrest and false imprisonment.

“This is the sort of policing you don’t want to see… I thought it was awful,”

—     Dr. Mel Currie CRB’s southwestern district representative.

The other is from summer 2019, when a 28-year old man while walking by officers who were engaged in a stop, was chased, knocked to the ground and arrested himself. At its regular monthly meeting on September 19, the CRB agreed to initiate an investigation into his harassment complaint, separate from the department’s internal investigation, which may take a year.

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It’s no anomaly when Baltimore City Police Department (BPD) officials retaliate against citizens who challenge their authority, speak negatively about the department or in this one case illuminate someone’s shortcomings.

In Baltimore, the “snitches get stitches” mentality also applies to those who dare complain about excessive force or police intimidation tactics.

What happened to the claimant could have easily happened to anyone in Baltimore at a four way stop sign – blindsided when a car blows through. She avoided certain catastrophe by mere seconds at no fault of her own.

The woman did what most prudent people do, she glared at the reckless driver and kept it moving.

Things should have ended there, but it didn’t.  The other car, just so happens, was a BPD squad car.  It was driven by a veteran patrol officer of over 27 years.  The CRB without access to personnel records is unable to determine if this was his first or fiftieth complaint, a constant irritant as the members struggle with recommending a suitable discipline.

“[The police officer] escalated the confrontation by … following her, going to her house and then towing her husband’s car,” said Betty Robinson, CRB northeastern district representative.

CRB Members Experiences Bring Unique Perspectives

Insight into the mindset of the officer was offered by CRB member Fred Jackson, retired from the Baltimore Sheriff’s department.  He enumerated the series of the department’s problematic decisions in the traffic stop.

First, the officer was likely upset about the “near miss” at the intersection and likely put off by the woman’s perturbed response.

Second, the “stop” required he put both his lights and sirens and he had to have a reason to stop her.  She was not given a ticket for any traffic violation. (He didn’t show up for court, thusly dismissing the case).

Finally, BPD towed the car that legally parked at her home:

“That was spiteful,” said Jackson, northwestern district representative.

In a perfect example of justice delayed is justice denied, the CRB sustained the woman’s allegations against the officer, using relying upon evidence just recently provided by BPD in violation of state statute.

BPD is required to turn over IAD files on complaints within 90 days.  The internal affairs department held this case for over a year. CRB has done little to push back against the departments habitual nose thumbing of their obligation in the citizen review process.

Once investigators got the file, BWC footage shows the subject officer being “very agitated, very confrontational” said Bridal Pearson, northern district.  The former CRB chair cited IAD’s reprimand of the veteran officer for “conduct unbecoming an officer” in his rationale for sustaining the woman’s complaint.

Although the woman and her husband have moved fearing BPD retaliation, this is the kind of case that keeps city solicitor Andre Davis working overtime. Davis, a mayoral appointee, has succeeded in both thwarting investigations into BPD misconduct, as well as silencing its critics.

However, now that the CRB has validated the woman’s claims, it opens the door for civil litigation.

Already victims have difficulty recovering seized property and reimbursement of costs wrongfully incurred (in this case towing), said board member Amy Cruice representing the ACLU.  The victim could have used the board’s finding to assist in being made whole financially, but the year deadline for tort claim remedy also expired, she said.

Ultimately both BPD’s internal investigation and the one conducted independently by the CRB arrived at the very same conclusion: the cop was all kinds of wrong.

The officer said he had his lights and sirens on when he went through the stop signs (He didn’t).  The charge against her was eluding an officer (She wasn’t).

Once she arrived and parked at her house, the victim herself had to request the officer to activate his Body Worn Camera (BWC), CRB found in its investigation.   The internal investigators dinged him for that as well.

City Solicitor Abandons Citizens To Favor Shielding Bad Cops

Even though CRB was unanimous in its decision to sustain the allegation, they could not move to the next phase of recommending discipline because the case had expired by the time BPD handed over its file that permitted CRB to review evidence.

CRB has been criticized for being a paper tiger, with no real authority to implement its recommended discipline (which is reserved for the police commissioner).  Seeking independence, the board rankled the law department sufficiently enough that solicitor Andre Davis backed down from ordering BPD to withhold all case files for four months as a lawsuit pended.

Allowing life-altering citizen complaints to expire is a known practice by the internal affairs division (IAD) renamed this summer Public Integrity Bureau (PIB). Major Stephanie Lansey-Delgado sent an email in April 2018 to supervisors that the department had “not been aggressive” getting cases investigated before the one year expiration date, as continuing story from Kevin Rector, reporter for Baltimore Sun.

In its public meetings, officers’ names are confidential per departmental policy regarding personnel matters and CRB does not disclose complainants’ identification.

As for the complaint CRB accepted regarding an independent investigation into the retaliatory arrest, the 28-year old man who was arrested after he commented to an officer,  was arrested again- mere hours after his release. His CRB complaint claims the retaliatory arrest was harassment for bringing to light abusive behavior.

Although the parties’ identities were not disclosed at the meeting, it is pretty safe to presume the case involved 24-year veteran Sgt Ethan Newberg who told Lee Dotson to “take his charges like a man” when Newberg arrested Dotson for commenting on police activity as he passed by.

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Police Commissioner Michael Harrison in a late night June 2019 presser along with State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby announced the officer’s arrest on second degree assault charges. He also released BWC footage showing officers chasing and tackling Dotson.

Newberg was released from custoday and is awaiting trial.

BPD and the Art of Planting Evidence: Sean Suiter and the GTTF

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BWC video discovered by a defense attorney captured BPD officer Richard Pinheiro Jr in January 2017 fabricating evidence, a judged found him guilty in a Nov 2018 trial. Staging crime scenes turns out is not a fire-able offense. ScreenGrab CBS Evening News

Pinpointing when the culture of deceit took hold within the halls of the Baltimore Police Department (BPD) is not a puzzle worth solving.   Somewhere along the way the department lost all credibility, any moral authority and, at times, even its legitimacy.

No clearer example of BPD’s downfall was when Det Sean Suiter, barely hanging on to life, was transported from the intersection of Bennett Place and Schroeder Street the afternoon of November 15, 2017.  It was that day that the ugliness the city shied away from was thrust squarely in peoples’ faces so no one could continue to ignore the obvious.

Part II : Sean Suiter was accused of unknowingly planting evidence with GTTF; BPD’s coordinated a suppression of liberty and freedoms with aid of a complicit media in the week-long lockdown of Harlem Park.

Rewind the clock back eight months from Suiter’s death to the arrest of seven dirty BPD officers linked to the Gun Trace Task Force (GTTF). From March 1, 2017 a series of unfortunate events lead Suiter to Bennett Place reliving a single city block’s horrid history of violence, condemnation, and isolation.

Spring 2017

While in a county holding facility awaiting trial, unit supervisor and ex U.S. Marine Sgt Wayne Jenkins encouraged all members of his unit arrested to maintain their silence.  All had plead not guilty to a variety of RICO charges.

It would be a waiting game of who would crack first. Spoiler: Jenkins was sentenced to 25 years and did not testify.

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Former PC Kevin Davis awarded Wayne Jenkins in 2016 for his heroic efforts during the 2015 uprising – yep the same time he was cashing in on looted pharmaceutical drugs.

July 6, 2017

Additional robbery charges  were levied in a superseding indictment against Jenkins along with Danny Hersl and Marcus Taylor.

July 21, 2017

The blue line of silence snapped when two GTTF officers, Evodio Hendrix and Maurice Ward, plead guilty and agreed to be government witnesses.  Ultimately their sentences of seven years would be the lightest.

Note: Hendrix’s testimony was the most credible. Ward, the first to testify, came across highly intelligent, yet extremely manipulative and opportunistic.

August 22, 2017

On the 900 block of Bennett Place, a 15-year old boy was shot numerous times and died from his injuries.  Police made an arrest in the murder of the teen, Jeffrey Quick but charges were dropped as Baltimore State’s Attorney’s office was crippled by discredited officers and tainted evidence.

August 30, 2017

The eighth GTTF member is indicted, Sgt Thomas Allers.

It was clear to anyone watching that Hendrix, Ward, Rayam and Gondo were cooperating.  Panic had to be setting in for not just the corrupt officers, but those who were protecting them. Allers was sentenced to 15 years.

Escape Routes for Jenkins and His Protectors Closed

Jenkins was known to tell officers who worked in his crew some parts while telling other people in the unit different aspects of his criminal activity.  Hendrix and Ward were in the dirt of GTTF up to their chins, but they didn’t know where the bodies were buried. Feds picked the lowest hanging fruit first.

As long as Gondo and Rayam kept quiet, then Jenkins stood a chance. Hersl and Taylor taking a shot at a jury, proved their checkers game was no match with such high stakes.

September 2017

BPD’s Western District Action Team raided two Heritage Crossing residences, a five minute walk from 900 block of Bennett Place and made two arrests with great fanfare. Officer Zachary Novak, infamous for being with the officers who arrested Freddie Gray, was listed as one of the arresting officers in the raids near Bennett Place just before Sean Suiter was murdered.

Novak seemed to be everywhere and no where as Freddie Gray’s limp body finally arrived at Western District HQ in April 2015, along with another passenger who would give varied accounts of what he heard and saw riding with Gray.

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As of this writing, Damien Cook, is still a housed in the Maryland Department of Correction.  Byron Harris was released the week of his arrest.

October 5, 2017

Kenneth Maddox, 45, was arrested and charged with the shooting death of the teenager Jeffrey Quick by a long list of BPD homicide detectives, including David Bomenka.

October 11, 2017

GTTF officer Momodu  Gondo plead guilty to protecting a heroin ring operated in Baltimore along with criminal conspiracy charges that involved Wayne Jenkins.  Two days prior, on Tuesday October 9, GTTFer Jemell Rayam plead guilty to similar racketeering charges.  Both greed to cooperate and expose crimes within BPD.  Gondo received a 10 year sentence to Rayam got 2.

Only a few chess pieces remained on the board.  Sgts Wayne Jenkins and Thomas Allers had maintained their innocence, along with Daniel Hersl and Marcus Taylor and the feds prepared for trial.

Suiter Lawyers Up to Cooperate With the Feds

October 24, 2017

Suiter declined the FBI’s request for an interview on the GTTF.  This would lead them to issue a subpoena for him to testify on November 16, 2017.

It’s likely Sean Suiter took whatever he knew about the corruption within BPD to his grave. He was likely going to implicate those involved in framing two men in the death of 86 year old Elbert Davis in April 2010.

Umar Bradley went to prison on the word of members of the GTTF unit who claimed Sean Suiter found drugs in the car he was driving at the end of a high speed chase in Park Heights. He was also convicted of manslaughter because while Jenkins was chasing him, Bradley crashed into a car driven by an elderly couple (the parents of BPD officers no less).

The wrongful conviction of Bradley and his passenger Brent Mathews threatened to expose a higher echelon of criminals working within BPD. Both Sgt. Ryan Guinn and Sgt Keith Gladstone were implicated in the cover up.

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Keith Gladstone outside federal courthouse in May 2019 after pleading guilty to bringing the gun and drugs to the scene used to set up Bradley and Mathews.

Tuesday November 14, 2017

Sean Suiter and Bomenka spent the day investigating leads on Suiter’s the triple murder cold case from December 2016. It was unusual for Suiter to pair up with Bomenka.

Wednesday November 15, 2017

Bomenka and Suiter again spent the entire day together and as their shift was coming to a close, Suiter was fatally shot. His body was recovered on a vacant lot off the 900 block of Bennett Place close to Schroeder St. Witnesses heard about four total shots.

Patrol officers arrived and loaded Suiter into a car.  Leaving the scene, they backed into another patrol car for that day’s first accident.  En route to the hospital the car with Suiter was in an accident with yet another patrol car at the intersection of Martin Luther King Blvd and Baltimore St.

Suiter is moved again to an ambulance that was at the intersection. Bomenka stayed at the scene on Bennett Place.

Countless and undocumented law enforcement officers and notable political figures converged on the scene that night and over the course of the days that followed. The scene was a free-for-all, except media was excluded.

Thursday November 16, 2017

Sean Suiter’s name was released to the public and his death announced. Police gave Bomenka’s description of a person of interest: a black man wearing a black jacket with a white stripe.  PC Kevin Davis said the suspect could be injured as Suiter was shot after a brief struggle.

The narrative was shaped that he was shot with his own gun, which has never been proven.

Baltimore police expanded the perimeter of the crime scene from the block where Suiter’s body was recovered to include an indeterminate number of city square blocks clear up to Gilmor Homes where Freddie Gray was chased and arrested.

Media was also barred from the scene. The shield of secrecy would extend into the daylight hours.

November 17, 2017

The media black out continued and cops took to writing and handing out passes that allowed Harlem Park residents to get into their homes after working or running errands.

WANTED: Eyes and Ears On The Ground

The corner store owner filed a lawsuit against BPD claiming that the department took and destroyed his cameras. The stalwart known for posting wanted signs and cooperating with BPD to halt criminal activity around Bennett Place no longer had footage that included the Suiter.

BPD has never addressed what, if anything, was captured on the store’s cameras that covered Fremont Ave and the community of Heritage Crossing.

Also shielded from public view and scrutiny were the body worn cameras (BWC) of officers involved in locking down the expanded perimeter of Harlem Park for over a week. IRB provided still photos of BWC captured by officers as patrol cars arrived in response to a 911 call, which was also not made public.

The day after the ACLU complained of violations by cordoning off large city blocks and required residents to show ID in order to enter and exit their neighborhoods, BPD relented and pulled back its expansive perimeter, but maintained security around the vacant lot.

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November 22, 2017

Not unlike Pinheiro’s “discovery” of drugs earlier in the year (in a Barney Fife imitation), BPD’s homicide unit also got into the act. The perimeter was pulled back just long enough for  WBAL to film the “discovery” of the kill bullet, buried in dirt – seven full days after a slew of investigators combed the area.  Surprisingly no other bullets were found. It’s like the casings fell out of thin air.

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Lambasted by the IRB report that a crime scene tech wasn’t searching for the errant bullet, a homicide detective acts out the discovery in the few hours that the cordon was removed before it was reinstated. ScreenGrab David Collins WBAL TV Twitter

Frustrations grew over the lockdown.  Police stopped asking people for help finding  the black man wearing the black jacket. Restricted movement remained in the occupied territory of Harlem Park. 

Late afternoon on the day before Thanksgiving, PC Kevin Davis called a press conference and announced Suiter was shot the day before he was scheduled to testify in the highly publicized GTTF case.

The city gasped. Finally a potential motive.

No one had publicly connected Suiter to Jenkins’ crew until this bombshell news. A motive for BPD’s lockdown might have been to pre-emptively thwart rising public discontent over the extent of BPD corruption still not addressed from Freddie Gray’s murder investigation. While the Consent Decree monitoring team and the ACLU both have called for one, no investigation into the police state created in Harlem Park has occurred.

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Up Next

Part III: Whispers of suicide in BPD’s bought and paid for panel of independent experts reviewing the agency’s investigation of Suiter’s death and the unraveling of the IRB report

 

 

A Chronicle of Indifference: Blood Spilled on Baltimore’s Bennett Place

PROLOGUE

Bennett Place in West Baltimore will forever be ingrained in many peoples’ memories because of the blazoned shooting death of Baltimore Police detective Sean Suiter on a cool clear fall afternoon in 2017.

The aftermath of Suiter’s death was felt immediately with a suspension of Habeas Corpus for the entire Harlem Park neighborhood that has yet to be addressed. And also long term as the shadows of suspicion hang darkly over a department desperate to shine itself in a new light.

Outside of the city, what’s incredulous is how BPD easily discounted that Suiter was shot the evening before he was supposed to show up as a federal witness to snitch on a complicated network of dirty cops.

The closer you get to the city, the debate breaks along racial lines and consequently also those who generally have a high opinion of the agency. They are the ones who grapple with whether or not Suiter committed suicide because he was fearful of the “snitch label” that accompanied testifying or if he himself was dirty.

People seriously entertain that Suiter took a partner with him to Bennett Place to kill himself, but stage it as a homicide, so his family could reap the monetary benefits. 

BPD apologists are quick to point out that if the feds believed it was a hit by dirty cops, they would have taken over the case when BPD asked.

Then there are black people and others who are suspicious of LE and more broadly the criminal justice system in general.  Sean Suiter’s widow and children have not been shy pointing the finger directly at BPD (calling it an “inside job“)  for covering up and in some ways being responsible for his death. Screenshot (1192)While there hasn’t been a murder on Bennett Place since Sean Suiter’s, there has been plenty of violent murders prior.

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ScreenGrab Baltimore Sun May 2019

Part I

Historically Bennett Place has suffered from bad press since the 1960s when redlining and later public housing would make the one block stretch a tinder box of discontent. Even today soon as the heat from the national attention from Suiter’s death dissipated, the department for sure and consequently local media seem content to let it fade from memory.

What follows is a timeline of connected activity spurred by politics, hubris, neglect, bias, intimidation and fear. At the center of it all is the Baltimore City Police department (BPD, an illegitimate agency that ought to be disbanded.

Summer 2013

Experimenting with a Police State. Baltimore police under PC Anthony Batts erected metal gates restricting entry and exit to the 900 block of Bennett Place in response to two recent fatal shootings.  A mobile unit was stationed nearby staffed by a dedicated officer. This was presented in news as normal reaction.

The victims were Maurice Taylor, 37 and Joshua Billingsley, 26.  Neither death was reported to be gang related. The corner store, UAC Food Mart, was equipped with 20 video cameras. Store owner Chris Akpala behind bullet proof glass was known to post on his walls “wanted” pictures captured from his cameras of known troublemakers in the neighborhood, according to Baltimore Sun.

gated community

Summer 2015

Chaos Ushers In the Feds. Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake fired PC Batts and promoted Kevin Davis in the aftermath of the demonstrations that followed the death of Freddie Gray who lived in the Harlem Park vicinity.

Property damage was minimal save the cable news stations’ looping on a burned CVS store in Penn North. But the DEA said 27 pharmacies ( a staggering one third of ALL pharmacies located in the city) were looted totaling 315,000 doses – nearly half of which were schedule II drugs like opioids, the Sun reported. It was later discovered that a dirty BPD sold looted drugs to return back to the streets

BPD imposed a work slowdown in West Baltimore, in protest to the uprising and the political climate that resulted in six officers being charged with Gray’s homicide.

(Later, the officers’ attorneys challenged the ME’s finding of homicide, preferring instead to to call it an accident resulting from Gray intentionally thrashing himself inside the transport van). This theory has been debunked in a popular Undisclosed podcast.

Nonetheless, signs of life sprung up in Harlem Park in wake of the 2015 death of Freddie Gray after the uprising.

At the request of Mayor Rawlings-Blake, on the heels of the unrest, the Department of Justice (DOJ) began its yearlong investigation into BPD’s patterns and practices regarding claims of civil rights abuses.

Summer 2016

Feds Nab Dirty BPD on a Wiretap. Gun violence and drug overdoes spiked to record numbers.  Fentanyl deaths were up 86% in Maryland.  Baltimore States Attorney dropped all charges on all officers after judge acquitted Lt. Brian Rice of involuntary manslaughter charges. BPD’s work slowdown continued fatally impacting West Baltimore.

In the meantime, feds were listening in on a wiretap and caught a BPD officer discussing using a personal GPS device to make sure a suspected drug dealer wasn’t in his home in order to assist a rival drug dealer in a burglary.  A woman, in bed at the time of the break in,was robbed by a masked BPD officer at gunpoint.

While building the drug case, feds stumbled upon members of a specialized BPD unit called the Gun Trace Task Force (GTTF) committing and covering up robberies, drug deals and overtime fraud.

Also, the DOJ issued its findings in a scathing report outlined a pattern of constitutional violations which would lead to the city consenting to reform itself under court supervision.

Sunday December 4, 2016

The Triple Murder That Brought Suiter to Bennett Place. Residents in 900 block of Bennett Place called 911 about 3 am to report sounds of gunfire.  Baltimore Police responded and left.

Though concerned all morning, residents of 900 block of Bennett Place waited to call Baltimore Fire Department and someone requested a welfare check. Fire officials found a body and called BPD.

Police located three deceased black males in a boarded up house at 5:45 pm.  Sean Suiter, reportedly the detective assigned to the case, returned to the scene multiple times, the final time was nearly a full year later on the day he was killed.

Monday December 5, 2016

BPD labeled the murder victims as “targeted” (instead of random) and proclaimed them to be Black Guerrilla Family (BGF) gang members (an oft used tactic). Once labeled gang related, the triple murder became less palatable to suburban paid subscribers. The methods LE use to link people to gangs is controversial.

Saturday December 10, 2016

Police publicly identify the victims as Antonio Davis, 23; Howard Banks ,45 and Thomas Carter, 42.  Police’s public outreach to solve this murder was minimal based on the messaging delivered by BPD spokesperson T. J. Smith.

2017 Sean Suiter’s world collides with the fate of GTTF

 

January 2017

Donald Trump was inaugurated as the 45th president of the United States. The new administration under the leadership of DOJ Secretary Jeff Sessions produced a consent decree to the Baltimore City and the Police Department that mandated sweeping and costly reforms.

Catherine Pugh was also inaugurated as the city’s next mayor. Rawlings-Blake did not seek re-election.

March 1, 2017

Seven Baltimore Police officers, linked to the specialized unit (GTTF), were arrested as feds announced a sordid criminal conspiracy indictment involving crimes that went back at least a decade and some capers as recent as mere days before their actual arrest.


Part II : Accusation Sean Suiter unknowingly planted evidence with GTTF and sent two innocent men to prison; BPD’s coordinated a suppression of liberty and freedoms with aid of a complicit media in the week-long lockdown of Harlem Park

Part III: Whispers of suicide in BPD’s bought and paid for panel of independent experts reviewing the agency’s investigation of Suiter’s death and the unraveling of the IRB report

The Hunting Season: Targeting BPD’s Sean Suiter and Ike Carrington

 

 

BALTIMORE — Reporters pulled at threads to piece together a coherent follow up story today to tidy up loose ends poking out about the near fatal shooting of Baltimore City police detective Isaac “Ike” Carrington.

The city’s newspaper of record, The Baltimore Sun, took pains to distinguish how police “blocked” traffic during Carrington’s transport to the hospital, but didn’t “shut down” streets as reported by sometime rival/sometime media partner television station WBAL. On Thursday, Aug 22 flailing local outlets sought out a second day story after Carrington, 43,  was craftily released from the hospital orchestrated by the department’s public relations team.

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At the center of the patrol vehicles’ “block vs charge” debate is a friend of City Council President Brandon Scott, Ike Carrington, who has not given an interview to the press though the public has gotten to know him from his YouTube appearances.  We’ve learned that Carrington is a family man, fashion entrepreneur and police sergeant with a 22-year career in one of the nation’s most notoriously corrupt law enforcement agencies.

The curtain shielding the extent of corruption was pulled back during a high profile trial of two Baltimore Police department (BPD) officers in a specialized unit named Gun Trace Task Force (GTTF) four other BPD unit members testified in early 2018 that the corruption was rampant to the degree that even the Baltimore States Attorney was tipping BPD off about feds poking their noses in. Two sergeants Thomas Allers and Wayne Jenkins did not  testify against the slew of corrupt officers as cooperating witnesses and received harsh penalties.

Even before the cops/fed witnesses held their hands up to swear to tell the truth in fed court early 2018 about their extensive criminal activities,  Det Sgt Sean Suiter was shot in a vacant alley in West Baltimore. The still unsolved murder elevated suspicion that he was targeted for his role in planting evidence along with GTTF’s leader Wayne Jenkins.

Suiter died of a single gunshot wound to the back of his head on the exact same day he was scheduled to be a fed witness against the organized crime run out of BPD HQ by some of its most decorated officers.

Reporters looking at the Aug 8, 2019 attempted murder of Ike Carrington without revisiting the early 2018 GTTF trial and Sean Suiter’s Nov 2017 murder in Harlem Park would be committing the same professional bungling BPD is known for.

Putting a Hit on Officers Isn’t That Far Fetched

Dirty cops come with dirty laundry.  No one wants to keep that stench under wraps than those who thrive on the turnstiles that make up the criminal justice system – law enforcement, judges, and prosecutors.

Whilst the feds were making its case against GTTF’s dirty cops using wiretaps and surveillance, the Department of Justice (DOJ) was also rummaging through BPD HQ in response to the homicide death of Freddie Gray while in police custody.  Jenkins as the supervisor of GTTF, used the unrest to cash in – by selling looted pharmaceutical drugs. Record overdoses and violence immediately followed in the most vulnerable neighborhoods where GTTF tended to prey with lucrative results.

Truth be known, the lack of integrity of BPD officers was simmering under the surface way before the GTTF scandal boiled over.  Arguably, the most noteworthy notch in Carrington’s two decades long career with BPD (that is before being shot in the back running from a gunman while off duty) was his partnership with oft disciplined BPD Officer Thomas Wilson III.

Then federal judge, and now Baltimore City Police solicitor Andre Davis, had a peculiar habit of throwing out drug cases. He also had well publicized scathing remarks about the trustworthiness of drug bust investigations conducted by Wilson and Carrington.

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As a federal judge, Davis routinely reprimanded Baltimore Police and in doing so, undermined the integrity of prosecutors’ cases (when he didn’t out and out dismiss charges against drug kingpins).  It wouldn’t be a stretch to assume notorious drug dealers would delight in seeing Judge Davis handle their case – betting the unconstitutional behavior of BPD would draw his ire enough to toss the charges all together freeing them to carry on.

Ike Carrington Linked to GTTF Through Wilson

As if Judge Davis calling Wilson out on several occasions from 2003 to 2008 wasn’t enough, confessed drug dealer, fence for BPD’s Wayne Jenkins, Donald Stepp testified during the GTTF trial that Wilson worked side hustles for Jenkins and was familiar with Jenkins drug dealing. All local media found the GTTF trial compelling but to have a civilian insider who also worked as a bailbondsman  relay his brash testimony was novel.  A colorful character on the witness stand, Donald Stepp routinely dropped nuggets, like exposing Wilson as an ally of Jenkins, and keeping photos of GTTF shenanigans on his cell phone.

Media Missing The Big Picture

Two weeks after Carrington’s shooting, local established media outlets have not yet made the connection between the shooting of the fashionable sergeant in front of his home and the GTTF probe. Screenshot (1138)

It did pop up on social media when public defender Todd Oppenheim posted a query that no MSM picked up on.  His Tweet is what led to this article. Specifically, Oppenheim called into question the partner history between Wilson and Carrington and wondered publicaly why no reporter had asked BPD officials if that GTTF link could be a possible motive for Carrington getting chased and shot in broad daylight.

It’s likely that the new commissioner Michael Harrison would behave exactly like his predecessor Kevin Davis who proclaimed that while the department had uncovered no motive for Suiter’s murder, his being scheduled to testify in a grand jury against his blue brethren was no way connected to his untimely demise. Zilch. Nada.

Independent journalists have looked closely into the Suiter case to reveal the possibility that the well respected officer was being exposed like a sitting duck. Namely Justine Barron has taken a painstaking look, frame by frame, of the video recovered that captures minutes leading up to his murder and BPD’s response.

Just this time last year, #WestBaltimore residents waited to exhale after holding its collective breath for the “independent” review board (IRB) examination of BPD’s November 2017 murder investigation of husband and father Sean Suiter.

From all appearances Suiter’s killer laid in wait until his partner David Bomenka was out of view before he was able to shoot the veteran homicide detective in the back of the head. Bomenka claimed he never saw anybody.

The IRB concluded there was no  convincing evidence that Suiter was murdered (but they never looked at his partner as being a suspect, only a witness) making suicide the only remaining option.  They also ruled out the shot to the back of the head as an accident.  PC Davis, after he was fired, stood by the decision to investigate Suiter’s death as a homicide and called the suicide theory “absurd.”

Woefully, initial media reports tend to be clumsy and hurried because the situation is fluid and outlets are desperate to not be scooped by their competitors. Add to in the high emotions of when police are investigating one of their own as a crime victim, we can be sure that this department will spin out of control ignoring all policies, protocols and training as it the IRB documented that they did during Suiter homicide almost a year ago.

BPD Shapping Ike’s Narrative

Harrison’s BPD has kept media at bay and orchestrated the messaging about the shooting with a public relations spin that has pushed local reporters to the periphery.

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The wounded officer’s release from the hospital Wednesday was accompanied by a social media maelstrom of photos of salutes from various angles by various first responders provided by BPD. Media was not permitted access to Carrington who has not given a public statement about his attackers.

Earliest Reports Gleaned by Press

Carrington and a neighbor were standing in front of his home where he lived with his family in the Frankford section of Northeast Baltimore when two men wearing masks approached. The neighbor dropped his wallet and phone and ran across the street, he told Fox45 Keith Daniels.  Carrington ran in the opposite direction according to multiple reports.

A neighbor and friend of Carrington (Jabir Pasha) who lives near the corner at Todd Ave heard the shots and then saw the Carrington, prompted him to render aid, reported the Baltimore Sun. Pasha noted a gunshot wound to both arms and also one in the back.

WJZ spoke with neighbors and captured the prerequisite “I’m shocked” interviews from people who claimed the neighborhood is quiet and friendly.

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A total of six shots were fired in Carrington’s direction. A neighbor’s surveillance camera captured the sound of four shots in quick succession. After a 2-3 second silence, two more quick shots.  The “robber” chased only Carrington, who ran away from his home and his friend as his assailant gave chase.

Police quickly notified the public to be on the look out for a blue Acura that was seen fleeing the scene, which in Baltimore is tantamount for searching for a 5 feet 7 inch black man with a goatee – they’re everywhere. A similar non-description description was given for the suspect in Suiter’s murder, a black man wearing a hat and a black jacket – in November.  The reward for Carrington’s shooting is $19,000. Suiter’s broke records at over $200,000 and is still unclaimed.

In a city where anyone’s life could be snuffed out at any minute, having that reality apply to law enforcement officers is extremely unsettling. Add in that they were both black officers should arouse suspicion in an agency noted for its institutional racism.

Carrington was well known in his neighborhood and it was no secret he was an officer with the Baltimore Police department.  He was gunned down steps from his house while the person within arms reach received little attention from the robbers.

Baltimore residents deserve a legislature brave enough to insist that outside independent investigators  look into if anyone connected to LE could be responsible for the shooting of Carrington and the murder of Suiter.  In the upcoming election for mayor, any serious candidate must speak on the need to assure the public that no one from LE is actually targeting BPD.

Until taken off the table, concerned citizens are likely to believe that both Carrington and Suiter were targeted because of their affilitation with crooked cops who have an ongoing operation within BPD.  Just because the snake’s head was cut off when Wayne Jenkins was arrested (and kept his mouth shut) doesn’t mean the body of the snake isn’t slithering around the halls of easily one of the most corrupt police departments in US history.

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Sick and Tired of Being Sick and Tired: What That White Woman Say About Black Women?

What’s crystal clear is that veteran local news anchor Mary Bubala didn’t call ex Mayor Catherine Pugh a nigger.

Nor did she sexualize Stephanie Rawlings-Blake’s appearance, nor did she give the slightest hint suggesting SRB wasn’t smart enough for the job.

Never, ever did Bubala even utter Sheila Dixon and pickaninny in the same sentence.

But if she had said any of these things the conversation in public and private spaces would have been much different. So now people, black and white alike, are confused about what all the hubbub is about.

Because it intersects race, gender, and class issues in Baltimore, it’s really about a lot of things. And accordingly, the local media got it mostly wrong.

All Kinds of Wrong

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Former WJZ news anchor Mary Bubala

What Had Happened Wuz

With a black journalist on set of WJZ TV as a guest, Dr. Kaye Whitehead, who is an award winning documentary filmmaker and university professor, Bubala asked whether it was time to move away from black woman as mayoral candidates considering the failures (in Bubala’s opinion) of each of the three: Sheila Dixon (resigned), Stephanie Rawlings-Blake (did not seek re-election) and Catherine Pugh (resigned).

Social media exploded.  Journalists from a professional association (BABJ) dedicated to mentoring and establishing standards for their members drew first blood:

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Not Everybody Is Mad Tho

I’m going to talk to my people first. People, my people:

Catherine Pugh’s side hustle was a breach of trust.  I heard ya’ll say: she sold #HealthyHolly books and got a half million dollars?  Damn girl!

But this isn’t a “don’t hate the player, hate the game” type of scenario.

Gaming the system became an art form for us ever since the US defaulted on our 40 acres and a mule.

Sometimes, we know, we just gotta get ours. But in Pugh’s case she was the system, and took an oath to make the system work for the same people she swore to protect and lift up. Then she allegedly used her position to line her own pockets.

What Catherine Pugh Did Wrong

True you might say, Cathy’s game was not as strong as all the white male mayors who have likely done worse.  You might also say she broke the cardinal rule: she forgot who she was, who she was playing with, and flew a little to close to the sun.  You might even say Pugh deserved to be forced to resign i.e. fired for being so blatant with her ratchetness.

Privately I hear you say Sheila and Cathy made us look bad and maybe we need to go back to white male leadership. But when I really listen, I hear ya’ll’s pain.  As notable journalist Lisa Snowden- McCray said recently on a WYPR broadcast: “It’s sad”

We are embarrassed and ashamed. Wearily, we become more than willing to return to pointing fingers at “the man” and grumbling about how he is keeping us down.

We don’t get that many chances. Which is why Mary Bubala’s comments stung.

Baltimore City has had “ …three female, African-American mayors in a row…Is it a signal that a different kind of leadership is needed to move Baltimore City forward?”  – Mary Bubala

Across racial lines, sympathy for 15 year veteran CBS affiliate news anchor Mary Bubala is palpable and growing. A change.org petition has been started to get her back on the air.

What’s Really Wrong is … With Journalism

My source for taking the pulse of Baltimore is my mom.  Larry Young hasn’t talked about it on his show as I sit here writing, so of course, she didn’t know anything about it. She lives in senior community and the gossip spread through there like a California wildfire. So I showed her the Sun article.

According to the sage woman who raised me (and I’m paraphrasing):

[Bubala] said what she felt. What’s wrong with that? All the callers to Larry Young feel the exact same way, and they’re black.  People want to move way from black leadership, because the three mayors were failures. We had our chance, according to my mom.  She shouldn’t get fired. Everybody is saying the same thing. The Pugh ordeal was so over the top. It was the straw that broke the camel’s back.

Understandably, the Loyola of Maryland professor, Dr. Karsona “Kaye” Whitehead prefers to discuss what can be learned from the bias displayed as discussed in a May 8 Baltimore Magazine interview.

I’m willing to accept that Mary Bubala’s apology that it wasn’t her best day, and she wasn’t as artful as she would have liked. I’ll even give her a pass for allowing an opinion slip into her questioning.

I am no way excusing WJZ’s decision to not permit Bubala to offer her apology on air or effectively engage in dialogue with the public she has served for 15 years for an utterance that will stain her career. Audra Swain, pictured above right, is WJZ’s general manager.

 

Likewise, there is absolutely no pass for the Baltimore Sun in treating the story as one of her firing and not one about the role of journalists, their ethics, duty to objectivity and struggles with bias.  The editorial staff, namely Tricia Bishop (above left)  continues to miss the point as it makes it an ideological difference in calling the conversation a left wing vs right wing debate.

There should be an apology to residents of Baltimore by both WJZ and The Baltimore Sun. However, I kind of expect one from the former that precede’s Bubala’s likely return, but I won’t hold my breath waiting for anything close an acknowledgment from the latter.

The “Confession” Tape: The Death of Baltimore County Police Officer Amy Caprio

Towson, MD – Once 16-year old Dawnta Harris made a u-turn in the cul-de-sac, officer Amy Caprio, 29, exited her patrol car. She walked in front of the 2016 off road Jeep Wrangler as it was moving, gun drawn.

The Jeep came to a stop. What happened next took probably less than a minute. Harris told Baltimore County homicide detective Alvin Barton the whole story during a 14 hour interrogation captured on video tape.

Caprio died from blunt force injuries in June 2018 when responding to a suspicious vehicle call in a residential neighborhood in the Baltimore suburb of White Marsh, MD.

The young, slightly built Baltimore County officer aimed her service weapon at driver window and ordered Dawnta out of the vehicle.  She stood directly in front of the Jeep with her gun pointed at him, blocking his only escape path.

“Get out of the fucking car” she yelled.

“I was too scared to get out,” he said during interrogation later that same day.

Dawnta said he only saw the officer once, a brief glance.  He saw the gun pointed at him.

A condensed version (three hours) of the 9+ hour video taped statement was played in a packed Towson courtroom Friday, April 26.

“Once I seen the gun I put my head down. For about 5 seconds.”

dawnta
Dawnta Harris, a 9th grader and resident of West Baltimore’s Gilmor Homes in an undated photo.

Dawnta kept his eyes closed tight and his head ducked, in fear of the officer with the gun. His heart and mind were racing.

He opened the door slowly. The body worn camera showed Caprio slowing moving sideways as the door opened.  She had just called in the license plate. She died not knowing the Jeep was stolen or that three of  the occupants earlier that day had committed a burglary.

Caprio stood behind her car, with cover, and with a better view of the door as it opened, no longer in the path of the Jeep.  Dawnta told Det. Alvin Barton that the officer was yelling something, but he couldn’t understand what exactly.

“I put my hands on the steering wheel,” is what he did next when asked.

“I was asking myself, what should I do? What should I do?” Dawnta said kind of frantically.

With a heavy sigh, he told the seasoned investigator, “Nothing came up.”

He repeated despondently, “Nothing came up.”

He closed the driver’s side door, still crouched down and with his eyes closed. The opening and closing of the door as he stated was seen on the officer’s recovered body worn camera video.

Then Caprio moved from behind her car back to her original position directly in front of the Jeep, as seen in the video.

Dawnta told Det. Barton he didn’t want to get arrested for the burglaries that he didn’t take part in.  He had been trying to avoid trouble all day with people he barely knew.

Barton told him he seemed like a good kid. In court he testified that the teen seemed intelligent and calm.

Without warning, a gunshot whizzed over the 16 year old’s head. Glass shattered around him.

Startled, Dawnta, put his foot on the gas. He was driving blindly. The car moved slowly.  On the BWC video, the car didn’t jerk, or burn rubber at a high rate of speed.

With his eyes closed he took a chance, Dawnta said. He was stuck with no good options for the 16 year old.

“I didn’t know if I was going to crash, hit her or get shot.”

After he got out of the cul-de-sac he didn’t look back.  “I didn’t know I hit her.”

The 5′ 7″ 120 pound soft spoken kid abandoned the Jeep about five minutes away from where Caprio was last seen standing. He shook the glass from the shattered rear window from his hair and tried calling other three boys on his cell phone.  Then he did the improbable.

In about 15 minutes, he was back to the same street, this time on foot with police cars swirling around.  He was stopped, questioned, and taken into custody.

Media coverage was racially-tinged common once mugshots of the four black teens are released.  Predictably, the arrest of the four boys evoked vitriol on media outlets’ online publications and across social media platforms.

The jury deliberated on Monday April 30th in the afternoon on felony murder charges. It’s the catchall charge when prosecutors fear that the bar of premeditation that comes with  first degree murder is way to high.

It’s a controversial charge. Many defendants have had their convictions of felony murder overturned. In short, prosecutors are not focused on the elements of the murder, but the accompanying burglary.

So, if the jury of three black men find that a property crime occurred (a felony, but not nearly as serious as a crime against a person), then a person can be sent to prison for any homicide that is associated with that related felony.

 

Amy Caprio: A Troublesome Engagement of a White Woman and a Black Male Teen

Biases aside, what’s your take on how much slack a trained police officer should be given for a momentary lapse of judgement?

How about a 15-year old kid?

Defense attorney J. Wyndal Gordon has an uphill climb convincing a jury that any error in judgement for a cop should result in her death sentence.

“We live in a world where a trained police officer can panic but a teenager is expected to remain calm with a gun pointed at him,” Gordon told jurors in his opening statement Tuesday April 23, 2019.

The U.S. has a history, if not a penchant, for idolizing white women.  It’s likely to be offensive to the ears of those on the jury to even consider that Baltimore County Police Officer Amy Caprio a white 29-year old, from a white community, working in a white department, protecting the property of white residents may have made a mistake at all.

“Strong feelings do not make strong facts,” Gordon said.

Dawnta Harris is not Emmitt Till, but he may as well be. Once a white woman cried foul over a cat call whistle Till allegedly made, the teen’s future was sealed.  He was abducted, tortured, and body discarded for that infraction.

Twenty nine year old Amy Caprio was thought by her fellow officers to have been shot in the head and then ran over by a black teen.  Harris was detained based on a general description, taken into custody a block from the incident, interrogated at a police station after he waived his rights. The 15 year old reportedly confessed to murdering Caprio, which led to his arrest.

“I want you to free your mind like you’ve only seen half of the case because you did,” Gordon said.

Once the highly publicized trial began, the jury saw three body worn camera videos.  One worn by Caprio as she cornered Harris in a residential cal-de-sac of white residents, exited her patrol vehicle pointing her weapon at Harris; another by the officers who stopped Harris when he was walking near the scene, and the other by an officer who took the description from a witness who saw a young black man exiting the stolen vehicle that Caprio shot and that ran her over.

Once it’s all said and done, “If you have more questions than answers, you have to find [Harris] not guilty,” said Gordon.