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

Getting to Know GTTF’s Silent Sergeant: Thomas Allers

GUILTY ON ALL COUNTS: Robbery, Attempted Robbery and Extortion

Sgt. Thomas Allers’ name didn’t often come up during the corruption trial of Daniel Hersl and Marcus Taylor from Baltimore Police’s Gun Trace Task Force (GTTF).  It’s certainly not because his crimes are any less egregious. The argument could be made that in many ways, his was worse.

Because the grandfather and veteran did not cooperate with the feds or profess his innocence to a jury, we are left piecing together Allers’ sordid crimes as head of GTTF for three years.

“Allers’ supporters tell [Judge Catherine Blake] he was an upstanding person and officer. The letters come from family members, former colleagues,” wrote Sun reporter Justin Fenton.

The 15-year sentence dropped on Allers showed that the judge was not moved by the pleas for leniency. Not even with an actual BPD detective writing on his behalf.  Det. John Clewell, a GTTF squad member also wrote a letter of support, the Sun reported. His son, Trent Allers also wrote an impassioned plea on his father’s behalf, according to the reporter Justin Fenton.

Allers is a tragic figure, his defense attorney would have people believe. Especially dealing with the likes of ex BPD detectives Momodu Gondo and Jemell Rayam, as reported by Baltimore Sun. The attorney claimed Allers became an “alcoholic and developed mental health problems as a result of his experiences as an officer, ” Fenton reported.

None of which ever seemed to be a problem in the eight months between the arrests of the GTTF squad and when the feds came knocking on his door.

For those unconvinced, here are four solid reasons why Allers is in some ways worse than Gondo (seven year sentence)  and Rayam (not yet sentenced). Fifteen years is getting off easy when examining the timeline below of his career at BPD.

What’s almost laughable is Allers’ claim that he was tainted by the bad apples around him and only proves that he just might be the one who is rotten to the core.

  1. He was the supervisor. The detectives can’t repeatedly steal money and have Allers sign off on what was seized if their supervisor didn’t take part in the scheme (or organize it to begin with.
  2. It was his squad. He could have pushed to transfer Gondo and/or Rayam.
  3. He tipped off Gondo and Rayam that the feds were snooping, even though he himself was no longer a part of GTTF.
  4. He isn’t cooperating (as far as we know) to weed out all of the corruption that remains within BPD.

We are left guessing as to why Allers brought his son along with him as he met up with Rayam and Gondo to burglarize a house. The BPD officers plead guilty to stealing about $8000 each. Furthermore, in pleading guilty, all three agreed that Trent Allers, who was present, took cash as well. No charges have been filed for the younger Allers in the Baltimore County jurisdiction where the robbery/extortion occurred.

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Trent Allers (L) and his father (R) ex BPD veteran and GTTF supervisor Thomas Allers

Trent Allers has had troubles with the law himself.  The younger Allers has a history of DUI, traffic charges as well as a burglary charge in 2016, according to online records.

A TIMELINE FOR THOMAS ALLERS

1996 – Rookie

Thomas Allers joined BPD in July 1996 when Thomas C. Frazier was commissioner. His son Trent was 5 years old.

1997 – He Shot and Killed a Man

As a rookie, Allers, 28,  shot and killed an unarmed man when he responded to a domestic dispute.  Neighbors on the scene of the April 1997 shooting said the victim Nelson West, 40, was “a good man” and that he “didn’t deserve to die”.

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Excerpt April 21, 1997 Baltimore Sun. Retrieved from Newspapers.com

2000-2004 BPD and the Wild Wild West

Stopping black men for walking became the norm.  So much so that when DOJ was investigating in 2016, no one even tried to shield the unconstitutional practice. No surprise then It didn’t take long before strip searching men in public and stealing their money and personal property became routine. West Baltimore received the brunt of such wide spread abuses of power.

The brutality on display by plainclothes police was a perfect example of the saying” The cure being much more worse than the disease.

Tumultuous BPD leadership with three commissioners over four years could not have been good for morale or oversight within BPD. Commissioners faced accusations of domestic violence and criminal charges lead them to resigning or being forced out. See the 2004 article below.

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Excerpt from Baltimore Sun archives from Newspapers.com May 23, 2004.

2000-2008 Zero Tolerance Policing

Allers was a young officer and among the rank and file tasked with enforcing the “zero tolerance” tactics employed by Mayor Martin O’Malley.

The 1999 death of Larry J Hubbard, shot and killed while unarmed, and settled in 2002 ignited protests against zero tolerance policing. While preparing for trial against the officers involved in shooting the 21-year old in the back of the head, Barry W. Hamilton and Robert J. Quick, the city settled with his family for an undisclosed amount.

A DOJ investigation cited the O’Malley era’s policy of “zero tolerance” as a racist and violent assault upon the city’s most vulnerable citizens, namely black males in Baltimore akin to Freddie Gray.

2013 –  Squad Leader

Allers became the sergeant in charge of GTTF. He would serve in that capacity for three years. His son Trent was about 22 years old.

2014 – Wildin’ Out

Not only had in custody deaths piqued peoples’ interest and the community’s concern, the failure to hold any officer responsible for complaints of excessive force fell on deaf ears. It would be a mistake to say that the lack of transparency and accountability served only to embolden “rogue” officers.  By 2014, the culture of “anything goes” had firmly taken root throughout the department and some might argue also spread to the city’s legislative and judicial arms as well.

  • March – Allers, along with Rayam and Gondo and the younger Allers executed a search warrant on a home in Baltimore County where about $420k in cash was discovered. They each took about $8,000. Trent Allers was not charged.
  • October – Allers along with his GTTF squad stole $3,000 from a store owner in Baltimore City.

2015 Freddie Gray death and Citizen Uprising Against Police Brutality

  • April – Thomas Allers and his GTTF squad rob a family of $5700 taken from their home.
  • May – Trent Allers takes a shot at being his father’s PR guy.  When Freddie Gray was killed and the city exploded in protest, the younger Allers sought media attention to his father by contacting Joe Flacco, The Washington Post and the local Fox news station via a social media account.
  • July – After stealing $8,900 from a home in Anne Arundel County and before AAPD showed up, Allers, Gondo and Rayam when to a bar to split up the money, which was their usual protocol.

2016  Allers’ Promotion from GTTF to DEA

Thomas Allers left GTTF for a  joint DEA operation and Wayne Jenkins took over leadership of the squad.  Commissioner Kevin Davis took over the helm in the summer of 2015 from Anthony W. Batts who was fired for his handling of the uprising. Testimony showed Jenkins was some ways worse than Allers in that he was ruthless with citizens they encountered, brash about the drug dealing, and acted as if he had protection from higher ups.

Never “remorseful” , Allers claimed he was sullied by the likes of Gondo and Rayam over the course of three years. Yet once free of GTTF , Aller’s doesn’t run to the feds about the sordid crimes Rayam or Gondo had committed.

Instead, Allers tipped them off that they were being watched. Feds had a wire in Gondo’s car and on his phone as of July 2016. The brashness was contagious as GTTF crimes extended nearly up until the very day they were arrested.

Meanwhile, the younger Allers posted how hyped he was for the presidential campaign of Donald Trump.

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2017 – Dominos Fall and a Homicide Detective is Downed

February – seven members of GTTF were arrested on federal RICO charges, including the Sgt Wayne Jenkins. The indictment spelled out an organized crime operation that spawned at least a decade using Baltimore Police HQ as little more than a front.

The first to plead guilty and cooperate were Hendrix and Ward, followed closely by Rayam and then Gondo. They all four would become government witnesses. The trial was set for January 20

  • August – Thomas Allers was arrested, nearly 8 months after mass arrests of GTTF squad. He might have thought he was safe. The court denied bail when he pleaded not guilty. A discussion over whether a 12 page letter was a suicide note or not cemented the judge’s decision to keep Allers in custody
  • August – Momodu Gondo  testified in open court that he along with Rayam committed an armed robbery of a drug dealer. A GPS tracking device purchased by fellow GTTF Det. John Clewell was used as a way to make sure the home would be unoccupied.  It wasn’t. The ski-masked wearing bandits held a frightened woman at gunpoint  while stealing money, jewelry, drugs and a gun.
  • November – BPD Det Sean Suiter was murdered and died the day he was scheduled to testify against members of the GTTF squad in front of a grand jury.
  • December – Allers changed his plea to guilty. He was later sentenced to 15 years. He was last known as being held in a minimum security prison in Florida. His release date is Sept 2030. He will be 61 years old.

2018

  • January – Wayne Jenkins plead guilty. He told the court he was “ashamed”, according the Sun.
  • Late January – The GTTF trial began.
  • February – Both Daniel Hersl and Marcus Taylor were found guilty Gondo, Rayam, Ward and Hendrix would each testify against them.
  • August – A review panel paid for by BPD concluded that Det Sean Suiter shot himself in the back of the head fooling even his partner who had been by his side for 2 days. His wife, Nicole Suiter, all of West Baltimore, and maybe half of the rest of the city disbelieve that the panel’s conclusion of suicide. 
  • November – The one year anniversary of Sean Suiter’s death came and went without any new official suspects or evidence presented to the public.
  • December – The medical examiner after reading the panel’s findings has kept its ruling: Homicide. Sean Suiter was murdered.

EPILOGUE

No one has been held accountable for the unprecedented and unconstitutional lockdown of Harlem Park by BPD in the aftermath/coverup of the fatal shooting of Det. Sean Suiter.

 

 

Cops as Criminals: It’s Not Black and White

All crooked cops aren’t created equally.

Some are born crooked. Some are led astray. Still others, like Momodo Gondo, has crookedness thrust upon him.

No one can pinpoint exactly when Baltimore Police became a hotbed of corruption. More importantly though, no one alive today can honestly remember when it wasn’t.

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Above: Momodu Gondo points to former BPD commander Dean Palmere (Below) who helped orchestrate the cover up of a murder carried out by a GTTF member. Palmere is the subject of a lawsuit that claims it was his command that permitted abuses by GTTF.

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Gondo and his closest Baltimore Police Department (BPD) buddy Jemell Rayam set the federal courthouse on fire last year as cooperating witnesses against two officers standing trial, Daniel Hersl and Marcus Taylor. The testimony was explosive pointing fingers at higher ups and eventually one another as members of the media darlings: Gun Trace Task Force (GTTF).

Gondo is scheduled for sentencing Tuesday February 12th. The month-long trial left a lasting impression:  corruption is rampant throughout BPD and everybody knows it.  The most influential media types have coddled the likes of former BPD commissioner and WBAL guest talk show host Kevin Davis who as points to a few bad apples tarnishing an otherwise stellar organization.

The world (not an exaggeration) took notice of BPD’s level of corruption after what happened to 25-year old Freddie Gray.  A bystander’s  video of Gray, wounded and howling, sickened all with a conscience who heard it.  People still cringe watching the previously healthy and strapping young man being helped into the back of a van by a cadre of white officers.

So there’s that.

Even before Gray’s fatal injuries in police custody, in 2014, the Baltimore Sun chronicled the exorbitant payouts in taxpayer dollars to silence citizens who suffered mightily at the hands of a small, but growing and increasingly violent cadre of police officers.

If Baltimore didn’t invent Walking While Black, it sure did its damnest to perfect it. Screenshot (2023)

West Baltimore is where the long arm of constitutional protections simply does not reach.  Never did. Generations of families suffer from substandard housing, lack of health care, poor nutrition, high drop out rates and low income with precious few escapes.

Heavily reliant upon mass transits, West Baltimore is where BPD members hone their racist practices disguised as stops, searches, and seizures.  Sadly, two decades into the new millennium, some blacks believe that over policing is what is needed to make their communities safe.

The lack of concern for West Baltimore was never more evident that during the uprising when Douglass High School students were dismissed early from school, only to have the MTA refuse them service at the Mondawmin Metro stop, forcing them to walk home, only to be confronted with grown as police men (mostly) in riot gear hurling chunks of brick at the children.

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After a yearlong investigation, the Department of Justice (called in after the Freddie Gray homicide), released its findings in an August 2016 scathing report. To no one’s surprise, the DOJ found that systemic racist practices were embedded so deep into the culture that BPD had not shed even a layer of its  history cloaked with KKK sympathizers.

The corruption was inescapable in 2016. Even so, when black homicide detective Sean Suiter was shot in the back of his head in November 2017 on a vacant lot in broad daylight with a white partner in tow, no one hardly blinked when BPD treated residents of Harlem Park like it was Fullujah.

Parallels to the Iraq War and BPD training are eerily similar.  Evidence of mistreatment of women recruits was captured as a “trophy”.

Arguably, Momodo Gondo, as an eager recruit didn’t join BPD with plans of using his badge and glock as a literal license to kill, maim, intimidate and harass.  The kid came from a “good family” of immigrants in a two parent household of professionals.

His father, Albert Gondo, a native of Sierra Leonne (as is his wife), worked for 20 years as a teacher in Baltimore City Public Schools. He died in December 2016 after a lengthy battle with Cancer.  According to his family, he was known a a principled man, a devoted husband and father.

When emotions ran high during the GTTF trial, Gondo would take to swearing on the memory of his dead father to repudiate fellow detective Jemelle Rayam’s claim about why Gondo was shot shoon after leaving the Academy. Rayam has yet to be sentenced.

If Gondo wasn’t born bad, when did it all go wrong?

The Academy – 2005

Gondo @22 years old

Gondo and his academy brother  Rayam are the final two government witnesses awaiting sentencing.  Gondo – under oath accused Rayam of cold-blooded murder (explored further in Part II) that was covered up by Palmere.

Academy training has more in common with military training than the most of the public may know. The enemy are the people on the street, the community members and the only ones cops trust are themselves.  The creed is to make it home safe. It rarely has anything to do with protecting and serving the public. Especially if the public is black, male and doubly so if he lives in West Baltimore.

Indoctrination and training are the two major components of the trainee’s experiences.  Like the military, the BPD academy experience is designed to break down a person, and build them up. Not coincidentally, it also serves as a loyalty demand. Recruits early on learn to depend on the brotherhood as if their life depended on it.

Gondo graduated in October 2006.

Screenshots from a 2004 era video of a training exercise where a trainee exits a gas house puking with her skin burning reliant upon BPD to carry her to safety. The level of depravity at BPD seemingly knows no bounds.

3 Shots in the Back – 2006

Gondo @23 years old

Then-Officer Gondo was shot three times in the back in December 2006, barely two months after graduating the academy.  Using a photo array, Gondo fingered the shooter as 24-year old Collin Hawkins (with a long history of drug dealing offenses on his record).  The feds, not the Baltimore States Attorney’s office made the case.

The particular moment that turned Gondo into a career criminal cannot be exact, but the same cannot be said for determining when BPD failed him and the community he was allowed to stalk.

Attempted Murder Trial – 2008

Gondo @25 years old

A case of He said vs He said.

The jury returned a not guilty verdict for the man charged with pumping 3 bullets into the back of a bullet proof vest Gondo was wearing as he got out of his car near his home in East Baltimore.

As the victim (and a cop to boot) Gondo pointed out for the jury,  a young black man Collin Hawkins as the person he fired 13 rounds at in a street shoot out. Gondo told the jury that he he and Hawkins struggled as he tried to thwart a carjacking. No dice. The jury decided not to believe Gondo.

Hawkins’ defense attorney claimed that Gondo simply chose the wrong guy. The defense pointed to the State’s Attorney’s Office’s extremely weak case with no gun, no DNA from the reported struggle. It was just the rookie’s word,  and it wasn’t enough.

Next Up: in Part II Fed Witness Testimony and The Sentencing

Freddie Gray: BPD’s Most Famous Yet Forgotten Victim

Freddie Gray’s painful wails resonate as loud as those who suffered the barbaric Middle Passage.

Instead of a transport from African tribal villages to “The New World” Baltimore Police chained him like a hog. Not in a ship, but in a van,  they circled around between Gilmor projects to McCulloh Homes and back again to the Western precinct – all the time with him shackled.

It was at Western District HQ that EMT’s found him to be unresponsive, surrounded by law enforcement officers already in the throes of denials.

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It took a Constitutional Amendment to abolish slavery (except for punishment of a crime) in the United States.  Academy award winning director Ava DuVernay produced a Netflix documentary on the subject. Regardless, since 1865, law enforcement officers have become judge, jurors and executioners.

Running in the opposite direction at the sight of police isn’t a crime. Chasing people who do, though, ought to be be.  The Baltimore six were either tried, exonerated or had their charges dropped in a court of law.

Freddie Gray was charged with possession of a knife that was hidden in his pants pocket. Police stopped him because he could. He ran because BPD are notorious for robbing people and/or planting evidence. It was an early Sunday spring morning.

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To Know Where You’re Going, Know Where You’ve Been

It’s not an exaggeration to say that Baltimore Police is awash with criminals.  A Department of Justice investigation found that the department rarely follows the supreme law of the land, the U.S. Constitution.  The culture of unconstitutional behavior goes back decades, for generations.

If not for the Freddie Gray investigation, it’s likely that members of the Gun Trace Task Force (GTTF) would still be driving their cars into groups of unsuspecting citizens.  Sgt Wayne Jenkins and officer Danny Hersl  would likely be planning to burglarize their next luxury condo at the city’s crown jewel, the harbor.

The resulting Consent Decree is a referendum on the actions of BPD and Freddie Gray’s death.  An in depth look at the absurdity of the internal investigation is explored in a podcast, UnDisclosed The Killing of Freddie Gray.

For perhaps underlying racist reasons the courts, the monitors and even the DOJ seem content to allow the BPD to make it about the Gun Trace Task force and not about Freddie Gray.

Gun Trace Tack Force’s Forced Confrontation of What Everybody Already Knew

Sitting in on the GTTF trial was an eye opener for many seasoned reporters.  As each victim under oath recounted how armed Baltimore Police officers cased their homes, held them at under threat of lethal force and stole not just money, jewelry, clothing and for some drugs, a fact could not longer be ignored.

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Baltimore Police Department itself is corrupt. No one  (other than the FOP) will dare say now that the problem is either a few bad apples or rogue officers. It’s an unavoidable certainty that the systems in place at BPD produced, cultivated and unleashed emboldened criminals to prey on primarily the weakest and most vulnerable of the city’s residents. For this, there is no redemption.

The barrel that holds together the law enforcement agency for Baltimore City is a putrid vessel carrying despicable and deplorable individuals. Anyone after listening to GTTF and still believes  BPD can be reformed instead of destroyed.

Freddie Gray’s Death Cloaked BPD in Feelings of Invincibility

How rotten is BPD?   GTTF robberies occurred while the feds were in cruisers doing ride alongs, knee deep scouring IAD files, and listening to wiretaps.  A (still yet identified) snitch within the State’s Attorney’s office leaked to the BPD gang that indictments were likely. Jenkins, his crew, and ilk continued to plant evidence and sell drugs.

It’s easy to see why GTTF felt emboldened. Freddie Gray died from  painful and pronounced injuries while police custody. His death was  likely the result of excessive force by multiple officers.  Even with charges filed, trials held, and exoneration handed down, there’s been no accounting for his untimely death.

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The federal government was closing in.  The indicted BPD officers (low level) were weeks away from trial.  Some were looking to cut a deal or change their pleas.  Next, a former member of their team was scheduled to testify the next day.  Before he could name names and point fingers, Det. Sean Suiter ended up with a bullet in the back of his head in an abandoned lot with only another BPD officer present.

In this environment, the likely suspect would seem to be connected to Freddie Gray and/or the GTTF crew.  Instead, BPD hired an “outside” and “independent” panel which arrived at an incredulous finding of suicide.

Keeping One’s Eyes on the Prize

In a 20 minute opening statement on Thursday January 24, 2019 in the U.S. Courthouse, Judge James K. Bredar who is overseeing the implementation of the Consent Decree spoke of several matters. Not one time did he mention Freddie Gray.  A synopsis of his major points are as follows:

  1. The BPD’s training facility is really cold and unimpressive. The state should fund a new state of the art building/campus to lure good cops to Baltimore.
  2. Michael S. Harrison, New Orleans’ top cop is the best hope Baltimore can ask for considering its last commissioner was arrested for tax evasion.
  3. If BPD doesn’t reform itself, the violence and crime will skyrocket.
  4. Feds find themselves in “deplorable circumstances” having (during a shut-down) to represent the government without being paid.
  5. 23 murders by the 24th of the month is a “shocking statistic”
  6. The department’s only hope now is Michael S. Harrison.
  7. Community engagement efforts are lagging.
  8. BPD has written new policies.
  9. CRB is all but in the trash bin.
  10. Mayor Pugh didn’t show at all and Tuggle didn’t return after the lunch break to attend to a “family emergency.”

Once the meeting was winding down and some thought levity was appropriate, Judge Bredar made a quip. Bredar said he couldn’t wait to read the book interim commissioner Gary Tuggle is likely to write after his stint with BPD.

That, my dear, is the Baltimore way.

 

 

 

 

Top 10 (Known) Crimes by ex Baltimore City Police Det. Danny Hersl

Warning: Do Not Proceed Unless You Believe (Some) Baltimore Police Straight Up Rob People on the Regular

Veteran cop, Daniel T. Hersl, 49, infamous for his abusive rants and provocations of Baltimore’s citizens, awaits sentencing Friday June 22 in U.S. District Court. He faces up to 60 years  after a jury found him guilty of racketeering, fraud and robbery charges as a member of the violence-prone street gang with badges, – otherwise known as the Gun Trace Task Force (GTTF).

Using RICO statutes, originally crafted as a way to bust open impenetrable crime syndicates like the Mafia, the feds pursued eight cops who as employees of Baltimore City Police department created a criminal enterprise while working as BPD officers that included robbery and drug dealing.

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ex BPD Det. Jemell Rayam. During trial accused Danny Hersl of stealing $3k cash from the $20k cash they stole during a robbery — proving there is no honor among BPD thieves. The robbery victims currently have a civil lawsuit against the city.

During closing arguments in a February 2018 trial, federal prosecutors reminded jurors that Hersl, who joined BPD in 1999, and other veterans in the Baltimore City Police department were acting as both cops and robbers for years, some even before they joined the GTTF.  The victims were believable; the crimes were brazen; the sentences are historical.

A timeline to assist with understanding the “Top 10” Crimes by Daniel T. “Danny” Hersl

  • April 2015      Freddie Gray in-custody homicide
  • April 2015  Civil unrest in West Baltimore’s to protest F.G’s violent death
  • Summer 2015 Jenkins sells looted pharma drugs, sparking opioid crisis
  • July 2016 Feds tap BPD vehicle in the Shropshire drug organization investigation
  • August 2016   Department of Justice scathing report on BPD systematic abuses
  • March 2017    Federal indictments announced against BPD’s GTTF squad
  • April 2017   City enters into a Consent Decree to reform BPD’s racists practices
  • Oct 2017 Rayam and Gondo testify as gov’t witness against A. Shropshire
  • Nov 2017   Det. Sean Suiter murdered the day before scheduled witness testimony
  • Jan 2018 Four ex GTTF cops testify to a 4+ year crime spree while police officers
  • Feb 2018 Jury find Danny Hersl and Marcus Taylor guilty using RICO

To recap, the Gun Trace Task Force was one of many special units within the BPD that operated with little oversight and under various acronyms through different administrations over decades.

As plainclothes detectives, they have untold (and undocumented) interactions with a plethora of drugs, guns, and cash.  Such units are ripe for corruption, according to the the federal government, even in the best of departments.  One member of GTTF, Det. Thomas Clewell who worked along side of each of the members has not been charged.

 

GUN TRACE TASK FORCE

In closing arguments, federal prosecutors implored the mostly white jury to see the parade of unlikely victims, some drug dealers, others with a criminal background as not worthy of protection of the United States Constitution.

Hersl’s co-defendant Marcus Taylor, who joined BPD in 2009,  was sentenced to 18 years earlier this month and is planning an appeal.  Judge Catherine Blake will hear motions related to Hersl’s conviction, but is expected to proceed with his sentencing.  Others who plead guilty thus sparing taxpayers the expense of trial or the complete farce of proclaiming innocence are:

Sgt. Wayne Jenkins, now serving  25 years, joined BPD in 2003. Was the ranking officer in charge of the Special Enforcement Section (SES) with Taylor along with officers Evodio Hendrix and Maruice Ward before taking over GTTF.  Robberies by Jenkins, Hendrix, Ward and Taylor began as early as 2013 as members of the SES squad.

Sgt. Thomas Allers, now serving 15 years, joined BPD in 1996. Headed up GTTF from its origin to 2016 before handing the reigns over to Jenkins and leaving to join a joint DEA task force.

Two other Baltimore Police detectives who plead guilty, did not go to trial and also served as cooperating witnesses (presumably are still doing so in ongoing investigations) include ex detectives Jemell Rayam and Momodu Gondo.

ex Det. Danny Hersl’s Top 10 Crimes and Lawsuits

10 Gave a slip of paper with the date written on it as a warning to H.T. after searching his mouth and down his pants not to let him see him again – only to arrest him a few days later in Nov 2015. Hersl stole $314 from a check he had just cashed. Guilty of robbery and extortion.

9  Stole narcotics and $1700 cash from A.F. and let him go. Guilty of robbery and extortion in Aug. 2016.

8 Stole $2000 from a sock in a homeless man’s storage unit. Threatened the business’ clerk when he would not hand over the surveillance video that captured the theft.

7 Took about $8000 from glove compartment of D.A. who was caught after fleeing scene tossing cocaine out of the window.

6 Nearly doubling his $75k annual salary with false claims of overtime and wire fraud.

5 Breaking the jaw of fleeing suspect until he passed out in 2010. City paid $49k.

4 Breaking the arm of a 19-year old girl in a carry out restaurant in 2007. City paid  $50k

3 Dropped charges by prosecutors in a 2006 case when jurors were notified that complaints against him to Internal Affairs were in the double digits.  This was 10 years before he was promoted to the GTTF.

“Misconduct, sometimes when it’s frequent enough, it indicates a lack of desire to tell the truth” (the late) Circuit Court Judge John Prevas is quoted as saying after reviewing Hersl’s IAD file, in a 2014 Baltimore Sun story

 

2 The double cross. Robbery of the Hamiltons in July 2016. Hersl reportedly stole $3k while the GTTF crew wasn’t looking and before BPD stole $20K from the family.

1 The depraved indifference.  Instead of rending aid, Hersl sits with other GTTF cops  in a nearby police car after an illegal high speed chase that resulted in an Aug 2016 car crash.  Hersl is heard on the wire tap suggesting ways to cover up the fact that they were working at all by altering documents to avoid discipline or prosecution.

Hersl bike
Danny Hersl, convict and former “elite” Baltimore Police officer

Within the Constitutionally-adverse BPD, these units became known as “elite” by the media as well as up and down previous and existing names in command. Both would hype the arrests as a measure of crime fighting.

But for the citizens they were sworn to protect and serve, these units became the living, breathing, gun-toting, badge wearing symbol of why no one would ever willingly call or cooperate with the police even in the most dire of  circumstances.

Hersl’s (Dis) Hornable mentions:

  • Harassing dirt bike enthusiasts.
  • Harassing local rapper Young Moose chronicled by CityPaper.
  • Pepper spraying demonstrators in the wake of of Freddie Gray’s death.

“Detective Hersl, he a bitch, I swear to God he ain’t right/ Heard about my rap career, he trying to fuck up my life/ That nigga fuck me over once, he ain’t getting another,” Moose raps on the song ‘Tired,’ off 2014’s “OTM 3” mixtape. “That racist bitch had the nerve to put the cuffs on my mother/ Put the cuffs on my father, then put the cuffs on my brother/ He think about me every day, that nigga mind in the gutter/ Looking for some information bitch that ain’t how I rock/ Throwing dirt on my name because I’m going to the top/ The warrant wasn’t even right when they ran in my spot.” – Young Moose interview by Brandon Soderberg

 

 

Broken Trust: Make GTTF Victims Whole with Restorative Justice Fund

Something spectacular happened in Baltimore Monday, February 12.

A jury of their peers found two police officers guilty of conspiring to rob and extort money from over a dozen Baltimore City residents.

Something miraculous could happen, in light of these unique circumstances that has laid bare the level of brutality leaving a city bewildered and traumatized.  It would take a leader to arise in favor of making the victims of the corruption whole. grandchildren of slaves

Maryland has leaders, though. This time, it’s eight white women, one Asian woman and three black men. They stood for justice when in returning a verdict in a U.S. Federal Courthouse on Monday Feb. 12.   These anonymous leaders by their actions stated that the one white officer and one black officer who took a roll of the dice to have their day in court, would leave the same in handcuffs.

hersl and taylor

What’s spectacular about the day, was that juror who appeared to be the youngest juror, also looked very much like the victims the Gun Trace Task Force (GTTF) routinely victimized. This juror, elected to be the leader in the deliberations, also delivered the news that will likely ring in the ears of Daniel T. “Danny” Hersl and  Marcus Taylor for the length of their sentences: Guilty.

While media often showed photos of the defendants Hersl, 17 year BPD veteran and Taylor, an 8 year veteran, residents believe that the true perpetrators was the institution of the Baltimore City Police Department. In their minds’ eye, the photo of who was on trial was neither of these, but the whole entire system.  Hersl, more so than Taylor, will likely end up being the disgraced face of BPD primarily because his family professed that he did nothing wrong.

Everyone around Hersl was corrupt, dirty, sleazy (a pretty easy argument to make), according to his brothers.  Danny wanted to escape, his brother said, because he was a good cop  (not supported by the mountain of public complaints for harassment, excessive force, etc), but let’s not let facts get in the way of a cry of injustice.  Taylor’s family, also present during the entire trial, chose not to speak to the press following the verdict.

Poor Baltimore

Those who love Baltimore, I mean who Bleed Baltimore, do so because of its tenacity.  No one wants a pity party for poor ole Baltimore.  Residents are prideful in its ability to maintain a core strength even while all around them crumbles.  We’re not just talking about vacant buildings.

A beloved NFL football team sneaks away in the dark of night.  Dwindling population. Deplorable school conditions. Divestment by state.  Check, check, check and check. Add to it the irreparable harm of the fictional account by HBO’s The Wire to the city’s image and cable news’ exploitation of the uprising for ratings gold, what emerged was an army of activists.

Rumblings of Discontent

Predictably, those entrusted with the public’s trust and who also wield great power, commented on the behavior of the officers, dedication to reform, and a real rush to close the chapter.  Doing so would answer the question Langston Hughes asked about what happens to a dream deferred.

Dream Deferred

To say legacy residents of Baltimore have few ways to better their life standing and children’s prospects would be an understatement of ginormous proportions.  Side hustle in the vernacular is a necessity to sustain one’s life.  We heard victim testimony in the GTTF trial of people being paid “under the table” without much understanding that their labor is being exploited. Getting paid cash, off the books prevents many things, not the least of which is Unemployment Insurance, OSHA protections, health care, Social Security payments and legitimacy.

Each time money was siphoned from the city by way of a planned infrastructure program (Red Line) or campaign promise (Increased Minimum Wage), people got up with the sun, got the kids ready for school,  found a way to get to work, and squeezed in some enjoyment along the way.

A huge obstacle prosecutors faced in convincing the jury that the officers committed the crimes, but that the victims themselves were actually victims.  The defense would argue how can people whose very existence on the edges of society be further victimized?  BPD operates in a new world order where rules don’t apply. Families who use financial windfalls via a lead payment settlement who don’t use the money for college tuition, but instead invest in drugs cannot be understood, or trusted. This jury did.

A man who returned to a crime ridden neighborhood day after day after moving to the county, must be selling drugs, the defense argued.  Who would believe their testimony that they had connections to the community. It’s far fetched to believe that his frequent encounters with Hersl was because he was there simply to coach a youth basketball team. This jury did.

After the burial of the city’s native son, Freddie Gray, in April 2015, the city nearly exploded. Quelled by the national guard and “over-zealous” Baltimore Police Officers impeding people’s 1st Amendment Rights, the uprising what but a whimper. Upheaval is rumbling beneath the surface.

 

The Case for Restorative Justice

Although the eight gang of officers made off with millions in combined cash and drug sales over the years, the federal government recovered very little. Victims who sought the return of their stolen money walked away from the courthouse empty handed.  If any criminal knows how to hide the proceeds of their crimes, it would be police officers. But there is money. Taxpayer dollars. The city is pretty lax in how it uses it.

 

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The chart above for 2016 was included in the federal indictment and aspects were shown at trial.  Just take a look at Hersl in 2015. He more than doubled his salary in OT earnings.  In order to make the math work to claim what he reported as $86,880 in OT in 2015, he had to work his regular 8 hour shift AND an average of 6 hours of OT (a 14 hour shift) every single day.

In other words, Hersl had not to have had a day off from January 1 though Dec 31.  For an 10 am -6 pm shift, he had to work until 12 midnight every day — for all of 2015. And squeeze in sleep along with his affinity to stripper bars, and casino bars, plus regular bar bars testified to during trial.

Each week, the police rake in about a million dollars in overtime. Annually, about $30 million is set aside for OT. That’s in addition to the nearly half a billion budgeted dollars. Not to mention, BPD historically shatters the $30 million budgeted OT by handing taxpayers an actual bill, more times than not,  doubling what was approved.

A Restorative Justice Fund would take but a strike of a pen from Governor Larry Hogan. The same guy who did not hem, haw, or hesitate to pay the National Guard to come through. Expediency would be key.  Naming an administrator, the likes of someone with integrity such as Jill P. Carter to oversee this historical act would be next.

Authorizing Del. Carter to establish the guidelines for application procedures and payout structure would be key.  A single person to oversee the program would ensure expediency.  Requiring regular reports and updates to the Baltimore delegation to the General Assembly would ensure accountability.  Having all meetings and phone calls related to the program be recorded as public record would provide transparency.

Some naysayers will be quick out of the box.  Such a move is unprecedented, they will claim. The parameters and guidelines outside of a court process is not feasible, they will shout.  Asking people to forego future claims against the department is taking advantage of an already vulnerable class, they will assert.

A Restorative Justice Fund will not be a panacea for all that ails this city. It will not calm the shaky lives of all those impacted by Baltimore Police Department.  But it is a start.  We give money quite freely when we see it as an investment such as TIFFs from development, concessions for HQ locations.  Baltimore and the State of Maryland must see its residents as a worthy investment.

A restorative justice fund along with affordable housing, tuition vouchers, small business grants, and financial literacy courses will stabilize neighborhoods.  Unlike a Target store in Mondawmin that will pull up stakes and move, our residents are committed to the city. We can invest in the cultural heritage of the city.  Instead of denying its past, we can shape the future.

Next Up:

Using the model for victims of the 9/11 World Trade Center and Pentagon disasters to administer the Restorative Justice Fund to address the damages inflicted upon BPD victims.

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Oh, Danny Boy: One of Baltimore City’s Dirtiest Cop Goes on Trial

DetectivHersl in unie Daniel “Danny” Hersl is most likely to have his day in court on Monday January 22, 2018 with co-defendant Det Marcus Taylor also a member of  BPD’s Gun Trace Task Force.

Charged with racketeering and robbery along with seven other officers, Hersl’s career includes lawsuits, excessive force claims and being a general embarrassment to the department.

In short order, his “brothers in blue” began to flip and change their pleas. By summer a superseding indictment was filed with expanded charges against Hersl.  Facing potential damning testimony by citizens and his brothers in blue, Hersl’s defense looks to center itself on: ” It can’t be a conspiracy within the GTTF unit, if the entire department was complicit.”

hersl plea

The Original Indictment (March 1, 2017)*

gttf indictment

 

GUN TRACE TASK FORCE

*Sgt Thomas Allers was charged separately in August 2017.

The Superseding Indictment (June 2017)

Hersl Jenkins Taylor SuperIndict

Superceding Indictment

Known initials from the seven in the Original Indictment: DH, MT, WJ as well as MG, EH JR and MW and later Sgt T.A.  GTTF unit member John Clewell, not indicted is J.C. Unidentified Initials: N.F. , M. Mo, Sgt I, Sgt B, Det 3.

Hersl’s Likely Defense

“Don’t blame my incompetence, blame the people who hired me.” While this mantra worked for the Police Administrative Trial Boards, but a federal courtroom is “next level” to say the least. Every officer who has used some version of this defense for the trials involving the death of Freddy Gray has escaped any punishment.  It will ring true, that BPD is a dysfunctional cesspool, but the difference in this trial is the conspiracy and racketeering.  Evidence is strong that people were plotting, planning and navigating the system in order to advance their own bank accounts.

Just saying that he knew the GTTF squad was dirty and didn’t want to be placed on it in December 2015 is not a defense. It should be a lively trial.  Hersl is a cross between Michael Scott from the office (without the charisma) and Archie Bunker who does all the wrong things for misguided reasons.

Sun’s Coverage on Hersl’s Likely Defense

Widespread Corruption Puts the Department on Trial

In 2016, Taylor learned that the GTTF was under investigation by someone in the Internal Affairs Dvision.  Jenkins learned that GTTF was under investigation by someone in the State’s Attorney’s Office and from sources withing BPD. None named.

Daniel Hersl’s brother attempts to sway public opinion in defense of his brother.

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Jerome Hersl Speaks Out in Defense of His Brother

Jerome Hersl makes an appeal to Harford County Council reported in a June 21, 2017 article in The Sun:

Jerome Hersl also claimed publicity surrounding the indictments “caused great stress and potential harm to the families and friends of the police officers due to the possible retaliation from drug dealers. The testimony of 16 drug dealers put seven cops in jail.”

“The drug dealers control the streets of Baltimore,” he said. “Do drug dealers have political boundaries. How long will it be before they control the streets of Harford County?”

Baltimore Family Feels Safer With Hersl’s Arrest

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Danny Hersl in his element after the city took to the streets in protest of the death of Freddy Gray in police custody.  Here at North and Pennsylvania Ave.  During the day.

danny hersl uprising

Danny Hersl at night pepper sprays citizens and violently arrests a journalist capturing people milling around once a curfew has been in place.  The city paid damages to the reporter for Hersl’s actions.

Hersl attacking a journalist

 

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