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.

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

 

 

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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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.

 

 

 

 

Judge says Baltimore Police Too Big to Fail, But that Ship Might Not Hold Water

Baltimore.

Not quite Charm City.

Far from Bodymore, Murderland.

A town with an abundance of big city problems – much more like, Small-timore.

Members of AFSCME Local 1195 Baltimore, Maryland Police Union strike in 1969.
BPD walked off the job in 1974 even after gaining widespread protections in passage of the state’s Law Enforcement Bill of Rights (LEOBR) in 1972.  Pushback prevented collective bargaining until 1982 leading to today’s FOP3.

Baltimore is big on grit, tenacity, history, humor all blended together to make for a special brand of what some call charm.  Tinged by the threatening cloud hovering over the major sports stadiums and scaring away any potential corporate growth is the city’s biggest budget item: The Baltimore Police Department.

The Problem

Baltimore’s Police Department is too big – to fail.  Yeah, just like the banks that suckered people into mortgages they could not afford, made a ca-billion dollars by packaging the loans together, disguising their value, and getting taxpayers to bail them out when their balance sheets couldn’t add up.

Chief U.S. District Judge James K. Bredar in his remarks Thursday during the second quarterly update by the parties involved in Consent Decree declared (Small-timore) Police Department too big to fail.  The analogies didn’t stop there.

Judge Bredar was clearly no fan of BPD at any point while negotiating the Consent Decree between the feds and the city and then selecting a monitoring team to oversee the process.  Furthermore, he is set to spend the next 5-10 years enforcing the decree to fix the ails (Monitoring Team points to “decades of neglect and mismanagement”) that DOJ uncovered when it pulled back the covers of BPD following the in custody death of Freddie Gray.

Still after witnessing all the ugliness festering inside a racist institution with little challenge for generations, Bredar then was subjected to a month long trial with sordid tales of murder, drug dealing, robberies, and the efforts to cover up the crimes while working as special unit detectives with the Baltimore Police dept.  Bredar spits out each letter of the Gun Trace Task Force (GTTF) like he’s riding himself of the taste of a bad peanut at an Orioles game.

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Judge James K. Bredar. Undated Photo. Presumably 10 year old. caption

Even this judge, with all that he has seen, is not in favor of disbanding BPD and starting over.  This city is not Camden, New Jersey he said.

“It’s not going to happen” said Bredar. There will be no fourth quarter “hail Mary pass” by way of a magical fix to the dept’s woes.  Anything other than sticking to the course set forward by the Monitoring Team is an “infeasible concept.”

At times the Judge appeared at a lost, but nonetheless compelled to dole out some measure of encouragement. For instance, he liked Solicitor Andre Davis’ oratory skills. Maybe how his forced sincerity bounced off the portraits hanging on the chamber walls.

With a proverbial pat on his head, Judge acknowledged how interim BPD Commissioner Gary Tuggle is pressing forward meeting deadline after deadline in drafting  policies that most likely eventually be tossed in the trash. Bredar expects whoever eventually takes over the helm, and rightfully so, would want his or her stamp on the process. Mayor Catherine Pugh did not attend this day long hearing. At the first hearing she and DeSousa left immediately after giving their opening remarks.

“BPD is the only police department that going to police the city of Baltimore – especially in my lifetime,” said Bredar.

Even with his commitment to the institution, the the judge ticks off significant if not insurmountable wrongs with BPD namely:

BPD has no commissioner. It’s had three in first six months of the year. Depending on the analogy of the day, the department lacks a construction foreman, compass on a barn, rudder on a ship, architect with blueprints, pilot with a flight plan,  foundation to a skyscraper – it’s become quite comical as new ones crop up.

City Solicitor Andre Davis said 10 resumes have been submitted after a nationwide posting and efforts were being made to replace former Commissioner Darryl DeSousa chosen by Pugh, who resigned  four months into the job after admitting to failing to file his taxes for multiple years.  Davis  attempted to assure the judge that the “flight plan” that the city has put forth using the Police Research Forum to aid in selection of the next commissioner will have one in place by Halloween.

Judge Bredar’s concerns were not assuaged.  “Sooner than that I hope,” he said. Everyday there is one or two negative things in the press.  He pointed to the officer arrested that week in Baltimore County county on charges of selling prescription narcotics.

“I’m not afraid to make the tough decisions” the Judge said. And then slightly under his breath,  “I don’t always make the popular decision.”

While claiming BPD is too big to fail in his eyes, Bredar had little difficulty often pointing out the department’s numerous and substantial umm, failures:

  • Staffing shortages
  • Stalled union negotiations
  • Fiscal constraints
  • Void in technology infrastructure
  • Lack of leadership
  • Deft of public trust

The Office of Professional Responsibility (OPR) which houses Internal Affairs Department (IAD) is a revolving door of people in command with no policy to implement and not captain to steer the ship.  The department said the judge is an “essential organ in a healthy police body.”

“I suggest there are no more critical questions than one, who will be the next commissioner and two does that person have what it takes to lead the department out of the wilderness.”

The Department of Justice (DOJ) chimed in with its own concerns of the “capacity” the department has to make any changes. Along with being the “complainant” in the Consent Decree urging reform, the DOJ is participating with other federal agencies on four ongoing investigations of BPD:

  1. The death of Det. Sean Suiter
  2. Accusations of rushing recruits through the Academy
  3. BPD’s role in revelations uncovered by the GTTF trial
  4. Allegations that an officer lied on the stand in a criminal matter

Problems to Come

Suffering from a back ailment, Judge Bredar often looked uncomfortable at the bench. He said he is bracing himself on the results of the full investigation of BPD’s actions during last year’s Harlem Park lock down.  Citizens implored government intervention to no avail with pleas of #FreeWestBaltimore.  After Det. Sean Suiter was shot on in Nov 15, 2017, BPD all but suspended the Constitution by erecting an expanded perimeter that kept innocent people virtually prisoners in their homes.  Then commissioner Kevin Davis swatted away concerns of violations excusing them in favor of a pressing murder investigation.

Judge Bredar took particular exception to command’s reaction.  Noting it is in exactly times of stress and upheaval that training, adherence to policy and procedure is needed and must be adhered to. Baltimore failed.

The media and others did not recognize that it wasn’t just Harlem Park who suffered when then Commissioner Kevin Davis displayed a utter breakdown in his failure to lead, the entire department and therefore all of the citizens experienced a rip in the very fabric of what holds a civilization together. “The fix is at the top of the organization. Right now we don’t have a top,” said Bredar.

Stops and searches went on for nearly a week after Suiter’s murder. People were detained, some where brought into police station, most without their consent and questioned. One officer out of the multitude that ascended to 900 block of Bennett Place had activated her body worn camera capturing two hours of footage.

Children were kept out of school. Some were even given written passes permitting their travel in and around certain neighborhoods.

“The verdict’s not in” but in talks with the monitoring team “My suspicion is that it’s going to be disturbing.”

 

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.

officer arrested 4
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.

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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

 

 

Murder By Numbers: Policing in Baltimore Just Doesn’t Add Up

Prologue:  Baltimore Police are cornered. After the uprising sparked by the 2015 death of Freddie Gray, the Department retaliated by purposely neglecting neighborhoods they deem to be not worthy of police protection by what they ironically called taking a knee. In one of those areas, Harlem Park, Det. Sean Suiter was shot in the head and left for dead in 2017. Police face scrutiny from Baltimore’s Office of Civil Rights and the ACLU when it suspended the Constitution by preventing free movement in this residential area for nearly a week. Top brass rationalized the move as necessary to catch a vaguely described black man wearing a black jacket. The case is still unsolved despite a record setting $215,000 reward.

Nudged in between 2015 (Gray) and 2017 (Suiter) one murder victim went largely noticed.  However, the case emerged from the shadows, in March 2018 when parents took their concerns to the regular monthly meeting of the Civilian Review Board. Just so happens, representatives from the U.S. Department of Justice were in attendance and took a keen interest in the case of Greg Riddick. After tearful testimony and an enraged Board at a May 2018 CRB meeting, the Board issued its blistering findings – willfully exceeding its authority due to the atrocities its investigation uncovered. 

PART I: What follows shows what happens when civilians have a say in policing and why clearly Baltimore police are utterly incapable of policing themselves.

 

crime scene tape

Gregory Riddick’s parents learned of their son’s death like countless many others in Baltimore.

They logged onto to Murder Ink.

No one from BPD called the family about recovering Greg’s body.  There was no late night knock on the door. Nor did the family themselves call around to hospitals or their local precinct.  That stuff only happens in the movies.

In this instance, Baltimore’s latest murder victim was not identified by name, but by number. The report stated  a 26-year old male died of gunshot wounds in the area where Gregg was last known to have been. It was with the announcement on Murder Ink,  the family’s tug of war with the all mighty and powerful Baltimore City Police Department began.

“They didn’t ask me to come down and ID my son or nothing,” said Riddick.  “The next time I saw my son was in the funeral home.”

Greg Trill
Gregory E. Riddick, Jr

Justice at this point seems to be too big of an ask. Each day local television, social media and The Baltimore Sun tallies up people’s sons, brothers, uncles, husbands, fathers and friends as if they were counting Chicklets out of a gumball machine.

Save the rare novelty of a victim who was also an honor roll student, a grandmother or young child, mainstream media fails to show the humanity of the lives lost, the suffering of the community, and more likely than not these days, the role that BPD played.

Murder Ink, the lifeline for much of Baltimore, didn’t tell the whole story, of course. Maintained by the alt-weekly City Paper, crime victims relied upon its community-centered reporting.  Reporters filled in details where outlets like The Sun fell short.

Predictably, mainstream media only told the police’s version.  Greg Riddick Jr. was shot, yes.  But he was also ran over and dragged over 1,000 feet, in full view of police officers, a innocent bystander who became a witnesses, and even to those of us listening/reading the 9 1-1 call.

There’s one  significant detail BPD didn’t release to the media that became the catalyst for one Baltimore’s family to become mourner-activists. Police were on the scene at the shooting. Neither officer made a move to secure the crime scene, call in the shooting, or do what the civilian did when he saw a man suffering – come to his aid.

 

Riddick Sr.’s strong Christian faith and the determination of everyone who loved Greg is what that propels them all to push for answers and accountability of the Baltimore City Police Department.

For an emergency, dial 9 1-1

This murder story begins with 9 1-1 call regarding shots fired and ends with a horror one cannot imagine.  The tape is likely to haunt all not lulled to sleep by the silent counting of those who lost their lives to the proliferation of guns and the ineffectiveness of the Baltimore Police Department. It all happened in front of witnesses, and it was captured on video surveillance.

“I am on Harford Road and Homestead. Uh, somebody just got shot in front of me,” said the caller on the 9 1-1 tape.

These are the words of the Good Samaritan traveling home about 1 am after visiting an ailing family member. His identity is being shielded as the investigation is ongoing and because, well, it’s Baltimore.

It was his first words spoken to the 9 1-1 operator.   It details the eyewitness’ account, establishes the presence of BPD at the scene, and gives a real time accounting of the hit and run that would follow after Riddick was shot.

Riddick Sr. first heard the 9 1-1 tape alone.  He heard a male caller describe how he saw a car speed away after a shooting.  And that the victim was laying in the middle of the street.  The witness recollects first trying to get the police’s attention before resorting to calling 9 1-1.

He finds the man’s efforts and experiences to be both horrific and at the same time comforting.  A complete stranger stood near his son to provide comfort and security.

“The man. He didn’t have to stop,” Riddick said.

For Annette Gibson, Greg’s mother, the discussion of the tape and the officers’ lack of action stirs up a full range of emotions.

“I couldn’t, [listen]” Gibson said through tearful sobs. “I don’t want to hear it.”

At first despondent, then determined, suddenly angry and back to sobbing she relives the events of earier that day.  Greg had arrived in Baltimore earlier that day to pack. He was moving out of the city and the dangers that he was no stranger to.

Before hanging up with the 9 1-1 dispatch, the witness final words were prophetic.

“Yes, the police are here,” said the eyewitness. “They’re taking care of it.”

9 11 Tape Transcript

One answer Greg’s family wants to know is whether the officers at the car stop had Body Worn Cameras (BWC).  A new BWC policy was implemented shortly after Gray’s widely publicized death because of explainable circumstances clouded his in custody death, eroding what little trust existed between the majority of the city’s residents and the 3000+ member force of sworn police officers.

The voice on 9 1-1 tape captures the fear many black men feel in the city. Along with the literal and figurative distance victims and witness alike experience as detached police officers pursue a traffic stop while ignoring a desperate man’s attempt to flag down assistance.

Believing half of what you see and none of what you hear.

There appears to be two sources of video that could have captured both the shooting and the hit and run. One is the owned by the liquor store on the corner and the other is the surveillance system, Citi Watch, operated by Baltimore City Police.

“[BPD] didn’t show me the one on the pole, that’s on the street, said Riddick. The family believes a video exists that would capture the exact location of the police during the traffic stop and why they both didn’t see or hear the shots that the witness did from inside his car.  It would also verify the witness’s account that police ignored his request to help the gunshot victim, prompting him to call 9 1-1 instead.

Pressing for an arrest, the homicide detective initially assigned to the case, Det. Joshua Fuller, met with the family for an update on the investigation. Fuller showed Riddick the footage from the store. Two men are seen creeping along side of the liquor store lying in wait for Greg to get to the corner. Based on conversation Greg was having on the phone, Riddick believed family members would be able to identify the shooters.

No one has responded to the family’s request for Citi Watch footage. It appears that the camera is positioned perfectly to capture the assailants who crept up on Greg from Homestead as he was walking along Harford Road.

Harford Road and Homestead

“[The family] came to I.D. [the shooters], but Fuller wouldn’t do it,” Riddick said.

According to police, while waiting to view the video, BPD overheard a conversation that concerned them about potential retaliation.  As a result, the only family member who was then allowed to see the video was Riddick, Sr.  He was not able to make a positive identification.

“Fuller’s supervisor told him not to (make the arrest ) because of retaliation.” Greg’s family believes something more sinister is at work.  They are seeking the medical examiner’s report to determine the exact cause of death.  If Greg could have survived the bullets but died because of the injuries sustained when the car ran him over, they believe Baltimore City Police have reason enough to stave off the investigation.

“I went down to Internal Affairs and filed paperwork.”  A common public misconception is that IAD is an independent body charged with investigating complaints against the police.

“I told them the whole story. So I figured that OK, Internal affairs. They gonna investigate. They’re not on the police side,” said Riddick.

It then became a waiting game.

“I guess they was hoping that the eight months that the paperwork was just sitting there on his desk that I would just let it go, but I wasn’t going to let it go,” Riddick said.  “Then I got a letter from [Ian] Dombrowski … that they didn’t find anything.”

The head of IAD at the time -then Deputy Commissioner Ian Dombrowki was fingered by convicted BPD officers from the now defunct Gun Trace Task Force (GTTF) squad during a 2018 federal corruption and robbery trial of tipping off officers that the feds were watching. He has since been demoted to major.

dombroski
Major Ian Dombrowski

His boss, the head of the department overseeing IAD, Deputy Commissioner Rodney Hill, retired shortly after the GTTF trial ended.

After IAD notified the family that it found no wrongdoing on the part of Baltimore Police in Greg’s murder, the homicide detective leading the investigation, Det. Fuller resigned from BPD, said Riddick.  It would take months before the family would meet the new lead investigator Jill Beauregard-Navarro.

She would make headlines in The Baltimore Sun in May 2018 for what prominent defense attorney J. Wyndal Gordon would call “putting bodies on bodies.” BPD, facing mounting unsolved murders, has cleared record numbers by fingering a dead person as the likely the suspect – case solved.  If more could be done to drag Greg’s memory for his family, it would be if such an atrocity happened.

When one door closes…

Had Riddick known to have asked, he would been told that IAD rarely sustains complaints of police misconduct. With Gregg Riddick’s death, the membership into a club no one wants to belong to grew by dozens. The friends and families of victims of gun violence quickly become students of not just the intricacies and bureaucracy that accompany police investigations but receive an up close and personal view of the purported Wall of Silence.

The family stands alone.  No one in BPD or the State’s Attorney’s Office has told them that the two officers who were citing a traffic violation while Greg was being shot and later ran by over by a car did anything wrong.

When BPD didn’t find any wrongdoing with the two officers who seemingly were preoccupied with a traffic stop and not with a gunshot victim, the Riddick family filed a CRB Complaint form_2 with the Baltimore Office of Civil Rights’ Civilian Review Board.

A well respected community leader, Delegate Jill Carter left Annapolis in early 2017 to rejuvenate the Civilian Review Board as she took the helm of the Office of Civil Rights. Community members appointed by the commission and approved by the Mayor represent each of the BPD nine districts.  By statute they can subpoena witnesses, view police files, and investigate complaints. What they cannot do is mete out punishment to offending officers.

The Law Enforcement Bill of Rights (LEOBR) from the 1970s establishes protocols for police accused of misconduct and criminal activity. Over the years, as cries of police abuses have increased, the protections afforded by the LEOBR has largely stayed the same.  The CRB is handcuffed. The board of citizens can only investigate on claims against officers in five categories: Excessive Force, False Arrest, False Imprisonment, Harassment and Abusive Language.

Although the circumstances of Greg’s death didn’t not fit the definitions that by statue limit CRB’s purview, they took the complaint as a “harassment” claim and investigated the case.

“It breaks my heart, really really to read that whole situation,” said board member George Buntin, Wester District representative.  “The harassment is not there.”

Appalled at even the failure to control the crime scene, the board’s frustration with their limitations was evident. The board met in March CRB Minutes and initially struggled with making a determination of the complaint designated as harassment.

“It’s hard to stretch any of our jurisdiction to what happened here. Can we call it harassment? I don’t think so,” said member Mel Currie, Southwestern district.  “The Civilian Review Board, what I think we should be is.. .we would be the counterpart to Internal Affairs. We should be External Affairs.” Currie said.

As the board began to debate not sustaining the harassment claim, silent tears began to fall from Greg’s grandmother’s eyes.  She was given a box of tissues.  Greg Riddick, Sr was given the opportunity to talk.

For five minutes, a father implored the Board to not let homicide number 299 from 2016 become a historical statistic. His moving account of the circumstances of the 26-year old’s murder had seasoned Board members holding their heads in their hand and lawyers wiping at their eyes.

His sometimes wavering voice full of emotion carried much further that day because unbeknownst to him, representatives from the Department of Justice were in the audience. Video from the meeting can be viewed here around the 32 minute mark.

Justice for Greg is not likely to come from BPD, the SAO, the media or even the DOJ.  It’ll happen when citizens like those on the CRB have the power to decide what behaviors they will and will not accept by the officers that roam the street.

CRB envisions itself having a different process in handling complaints where the public is negatively impacted by police action.  The current process requires complainants to check a box accusing officers of a specific violation.  The Board then deliberates and decides whether or not the stated accusation is upheld.

CRB chairman Bridall Pearson suggested a better process where the event is described by the complainant and the board then arrives at the label of the associated violation.

“If we have a process like that, there’s something we could do about [Riddick’s complaint],” said Pearson.  “In this situation it’s difficult, because our hands are tied.”

 

 

Next Up: Part II The Medical Examiner, Healing and Advocacy

 

 

 

8 Seconds: Baltimore Police Breaks Silence on Day of Det. Sean Suiter’s Death

Det. Sean Suiter was shot in the back of his head on November 15, 2017 and died the next day of the injuries associated with that single shot.  Officers who responded to the scene, loaded him into a patrol car in attempt to save his life. Save his funeral, none of his brothers in blue have been heard from.

Inexplicably, neither BPD or the FOP union have made frequent appeals for tips from the public to solve the confusing and dead-end case. Nor has the robust city and the police department’s public relations team persisted to keep this open case in the hearts and minds of the public.  Quite the contrary, Det. Suiter has taken on a “he who must not be named” quality.

suiter memorial
Makeshift memorial for Det. Sean Suiter in the lot where he was shot.

The city’s newspaper of record, the Baltimore Sun on March 22 offered readers an update on the Suiter investigation. It did so with the controversial use of a heavy dose of anonymous sources.   Although the sources were not named, most assume they are Baltimore Police officers willing to break their silence on the cold case.  The article focused on debating a popular theory within the department of suicide.

Using five unnamed sources presumably close to the investigation, veteran Baltimore Sun reporters Kevin Rector and Justin Fenton used unorthodox methods in order to update a public thirsty for details.

Baltimore City Police department’s speaks out on investigation of murder of one of its own,  Det. Sean Suiter

 

Commissioner Darryl De Sousa declined to be interviewed for the article published March 22, 2018. The Top Cop’s last comment on the case came during the week he was confirmed to his post. He announced convening an outside panel in mid February to give fresh eyes to the investigation without giving any details despite pressure from media. Gov. Larry Hogan, and the Baltimore delegation to the Maryland General Assembly who has statutory oversight of BPD were not included in the article.

Other people not interviewed: Any member of Det. Sean Suiter’s family, the Medical Examiner, the doctor who treated him, the ambulance driver who transplanted him

bomenka
David Bomenka

from the wrecked patrol car during the accident, any of the individuals in the accident en route to the hospital, the Harlem Park residents who were affected by the lockdown, the store owner whose surveillance tape was confiscated by BPD, members of the Consent Decree Monitoring team of the ACLU of MD which is requesting body worn camera for that day -or the only eyewitness – Det. David Bomenka –  just to name a few.

But in remembrance of time honored words of Sec. of State Donald Rumsfeld, we go to battle with allies (sources) we have, not with the ones we want.

Readers’ anxiety was not assuaged since the reporters took no pains to reveal the qualifications of the anonymous sources they did talk to. However, the reporters insist that the five sources combine to have seen the video, talked to people who have seen it, and also have knowledge of statements given to investigators.

Importantly, The Baltimore Sun disclosed that in preparing for the “Exclusive” its sources did not provide them access to view any of the videos, listen to any audio, or view any written documents or photographs.

Deep Diving In

The one person expected to have the most answers is the partner who was with him at the time, Det. David Bomenka.  Regrettably, according to the latest Sun exclusive, Bomenka saw about as much as the rest of us.

  • He didn’t see the shooting.
  • He didn’t see the shooter.

The eyewitness then appears to be more of an ear witness.  The location Bomenka chose for cover did not allow him to see where his partner was or what was happening around him.

According to the Sun, everything that happened in the vacant lot all took place in about 8 seconds, maybe less.

8 seconds Bennett Place_LI

New News

Suiter and Bomenka split up, and Suiter headed to the lot. It’s not clear why they separated or what was said between the two prior to Suiter walking to the lot.  Sources said that video shows Suiter “pacing” near the lot’s opening before heading into the blind spot, gun drawn, the article claims.

Start the 8 second countdown clock at about 4:30 pm: Shots rang out. Bomenka took cover. WScreenshot (443)e can assume all three came in quick order. Bomenka called 9-1-1. Officers arrive on the scene.  With back up, Bomenka checks on his partner and finds him face down, struggling for this life. Social media picks up scanner call and alerts the public at 4:41 p.m. that a Baltimore City Police officer has been shot.

Entrance and Exit wounds.

According to a 10 year study by the National Institute of Health in 2012, gunshot wounds related to suicide have very specific characteristics. In all honesty, suicide attempts are not something most people would want to get wrong. This is especially true for “Suicide Theorists” in the Suiter matter.  The Sun’s article suggests that Suiter would want to stage his suicide to appear like a homicide in order to provide benefits for his family.  Having a partner nearby, with potential life-saving medical treatment, is one aspect that makes this theory unlikely. The location of the self-inflicted shot is crucial since medical help would likely to arrive within minutes.

Most favorable handgun locations due to effectivenes are as follows:  right temple (about 67%), followed by the mouth (16%), forehead (7%), left temple (6%), under the chin (2%), and body region (1%).  Even if staging his death to appear a homicide, the back of the head is a difficult and peculiar choice.  Suiter would have been just as effective to suggest he was murdered with his own gun with a shot to the forehead.  Better yet, he would have used a random gun, not his service weapon if he wanted to fool the cops.

“..the bullet…entered behind [Suiter’s] right ear and traveled forward, exiting from his left temple. The path of the bullet is not typical of a suicide, some note.

–Baltimore Sun, March 22, 2018

Suiter was discovered face down and his gun was located under his body.

The location the weapon after shooting one’s self is pretty predictable.  In another National Institute of Heath 1999 study, the location of the gun really depends on the position of the body at the time of the shooting.

“The gun had a greater chance of remaining in the deceased’s hand if the person was lying or sitting when the gunshot wound was received”.  In this study,  the location of the gun also depends on the gender.

In 69% of the cases, the gun was on or near the body but not in the hand (i.e., touching the body or within 30 cm of the body). The gun was found >30 cm from the body in the remaining 7% of cases. In the case of handguns, the gun was found in the hand in 25.7% of individuals.

Other “new news” include that the initial reports to look for an “injured suspect” was unfounded.  The two instances of blood at the scene was  was attributed to an animal and from a person they cleared as being not related to the case.

The last clarification the Sun offered was that the bullet that killed Suiter was discovered on Monday, Nov 20,  five days after the shooting. It was “embedded in the dirt” in a yet to be disclosed location relative to where his body was found.  Results of the autopsy gave investigators insight into where to look for the fatal bullet.

Old News

  • Det. Bomenka provided a suspect description of a black man wearing a black jacket with a white stripe based on a person he said that he and Suiter both saw 20 minutes before the shooting.
  • Three shots were fired from Suiter’s gun, including the fatal shot.
  • Suiter’s clothes were dirty and disheveled clothing suggesting a violent struggle.
  • Suiter’s radio was still in his hand, although under his body.
  • Suiter’s voice was heard on a radio transmission.

Finally, Mayor Catherine Pugh was not mentioned in the article, but continues to express confidence in Commissioner Darryl De Sousa. In early March, she mentioned that the panel he is convening to look into BPD corruption would also include Suiter.  She recounted conversations she has had with his widow and that the family wants the truth.  Still Mayor Pugh nixed the state’s offer of a commission to review corruption related to newly disclosed criminal activity organized by members of BPD’s Gun Trace Task Force.

Suiter worked closely with Gun Trace Task Force (GTTF) officers and was notably scheduled to be a fed witness the day he died.  The Sun’s article did not delve into witness intimidation or executions associated with recent trials as potential theories for a motive behind Suiter’s death.

The  Shropshire, Wells et als, court case is credited for bringing down GTTF and in January struggled with witness intimidation concerns.  The judge took extraordinary measures to restrict cell phone use.  A former BPD member who was a Philadelphia police officer and who is currently awaiting trial is being held in custody because of threats.  The court determined that Officer Eric Snell had threatened the life of the children of ex-GTTF officer Det. Jamell Rayam when he was scheduled to testify as government witnesses.

If actions fall true to form, BPD will hold a late Friday press conference pronouncing the end of the investigation and the case solved.  “We couldn’t find the assailant” they’ll likely say because “Suiter committed suicide.”  With those few words, BPD will move toward clearing their record for a dangling unsolved murder of one of its own.  It will also leave every resident doubtful that BPD could or should be ever trusted to investigate itself.

Also likely, The Baltimore Sun will regrettably look back on its decision to pave the way for the “suicide” declaration with its use of anonymous sources,  And when it’s too late, recognize that in doing so – see its role in delaying  justice for Det. Sean Suiter and his family.  And Kevin Rector and Justin Fenton won’t have the cover of anonymity.

Unshackling the Chains: Racists in BPD’s Recent and Distant Past

 

 

 

 

The call for disbanding the Baltimore Police Department is getting angrier and  louder.

The shouts are angry because of the illustrated disregard for the rule of law by eff the policesupposedly “law enforcement officers.”  The chorus is becoming increasingly louder  because of the incessant chirping behind maintaining the status quo by leaders. Combined, they have become an irritant – not unlike when the smoke alarm battery demands replacement.

Nothing has shown city leaders to be more tone deaf than the February 21, 2018  hearing to elevate interim Commissioner Darryl DeSousa, a 30-year product of the corrupt system to permanent status.  With a unified voice, council members are supporting the mayor’s choice chose fall behind in order to forge a path. The goal, according to Mayor Catherine Pugh is to change the narrative from the city as a national laughing-stock into what might resemble a small measure of respectability.

No council member present questioned DeSousa about the officer-involved shooting deaths of three people – when he was the young officer.  Who would know better about the pattern and practices of racial policing and excessive force and how the department’s systems addresses concerns than someone knee deep, all up in the thick of it?  The public was allowed to comment, but was not permitted to direct questions the one person who was present and could answer – DeSousa. Archaic rules designed to protect the status quo, even in unparalleled times.

Indisputably, the Baltimore Police Department (BPD) was organized primarily to maintain the status quo of viewing blacks as inferior race.  Sworn officers were hired to capture blacks thought to have escapeslave_patrold enslavement with the full support of the U.S. government under the Fugitive Slave Act. Not much has changed in the 166 years since.  A civic’s lesson isn’t required to understand the nation’s past, either recent and distant, with regard to racial injustice. So let’s start with most recent.

 

 

In 2016, the U.S. Department of Justice lambasted BPD for an atrocious display of patterns and practices of racial policing. The DOJ noted the activity was common over decades spanning a sea of commissioners, various council members and multiple mayors. Citing a long history and ingrained racist culture, the report then turned into a court order by way of a Consent Decree to rectify the disparities of illegal stops and searches of black men.

On September 18, 1850 President Filmore signed the Fugitive Slave Act. Eight days later a man appeared in New York from Baltimore with a power of attorney, claiming that James Hamlet was a slave of Mrs Brown. The New York Commissioner immediately complied. The slave was transported back to Baltimore; $800 dollars was raised by antislavery forces to buy James Hamlet’s freedom.

Discords in Disbandment Discussions

In describing the calls for disbandment, some doubters are quick to place those asking for the change to existing way out on the fringe or out of step.  The idea that an organization other than the Baltimore City Police Department has been called everything from an unrealistic fantasy to a a racially-tinged mystical tribal hoax.

David Troy, business leader and activist, in the summer of 2016 before the GTTF became a household name, wrote an op-ed in the Baltimore Sun calling for BPD disbandment. Recognizing the magnitude the Department of Justice’s blistering report on its findings after years-long investigation of the BPD, he sought to urge legislators to act promptly and swiftly. Not exactly what they’re known for.

Free of political restraints that would cloud his judgement, Troy was able to foresee two stumbling blocks that would prohibit the degree of reform the the DOJ report indicated would be needed. First, the organizational structure as it stands is not nimble enough to be responsive to making any changes recommended by the forthcoming Consent Decree. Troy writes,  “…section 16-7 of the Public Local Laws of Baltimore City prohibits the commissioner from directly firing officers below the rank of captain. This hampers the ability of the commissioner to perform one of the very tasks which may most effect the deep change required.”

Secondly, everyone is skeptical about the idea of returning control from the state because  Troy writes, “Baltimore City has a poor track record of governance of its departments and agencies.” Troy cites the city’s general inability for provide oversight for any of its agencies.

By February 2018, more voices have been added to the chorus. A reckoning is coming under the edicts of the Consent Decree. More likely than not will a civilian-led commission be seriously discussed. Some see a new organization as not an alternative, but a co-partner in running the department. For instance, Dr. Lawrence Brown, assistant professor at Morgan State University suggests reshaping the focus of “law enforcement” to instead “keeping the peace” by establishing the Baltimore Peacekeeping Authority to oversee the community-engagement aspects of the department.

Still others focus on the oversight aspect to curb potential corruption. Just after DeSousa’s hearing, Baltimore Attorney Dan Sparaco, addressed some of the concerns with dismantling BPD on MarylandMatters.org‘s website.  He points out the redresses suggested by Annapolis are ” laughably modest.” Early fixes such as audits are but a ripple in the ocean of corruption revealed by recent court trials.   Some of Sparaco’s most noteworthy ideas most likely will be included the Community Oversight Task Force (established by the Consent Decree) recommendations as part of the Monitoring Plan, due June 30, 2018.

“Baltimore needs a commission – independent from city hall, independent from the police department, accountable to the state, and fully funded by it. The commission needs full power to subpoena and review the disciplinary files of any and all police officers, any internal affairs file and any court file…It needs to determine the scope of the corruption and recommend how the department should be managed with integrity in the future.” – Dan Sparaco

 

Stale Ideas

Baltimore City Council periodically stokes stale embers knowing it will gather no spark from the Baltimore City delegation in Annapolis. One such idea that keeps being resurrected was done so recently by the highly ambitious Councilman Brandon Scott.

Working with council ally, Del. Curt Anderson (D) recently snatched back his hand and the olive branch that was in it.  He had sponsored legislation in 2017 requesting the state turn over BPD to the city Council, which  Scott advocated. Such a change would require a vote of the entire Assembly.

At his request, according the the Baltimore Sun: “the Office of the Attorney General issued a letter Friday explaining that if the police department were to become a city agency, it would no longer benefit from the “sovereign immunity” given to state agencies. This protects the police department from liability in certain legal cases.”

The mayor, Catherine Pugh (D) was not in favor of the change.

In order to bring BPD under city control, votes would be needed from representatives from as far as Cambridge on the Eastern Shore to the solid red of Western Maryland.

map-thumb

Media Ambivalence

Media remains entrenched in business-as-usual by quelling voices of those seeking a brand new direction.  Instead, the paper of record relegates the discussion to its opinion and editorial pages, bastardizing innovation by citizens that’s not parented by a politician.

The role of media, growing nationally and also in Baltimore, has never been do little more than regurgitate spoon-fed soundbites or bland statements directly to the public from the desks of BPD. And that was before email. Today’s media relies heavily on electronic transmissions and rarely look officials squarely in the eye to do the public’s bidding.

On the heels of a February 2018 guilty verdict against two Baltimore City Police detectives on RICO charges including robbery and extortion, and with the stinging lack of criminal prosecutions for officers responsible for the April 2015 death of Freddie Gray, citizens have all but thrown up their hands believing that BPD is even capable of doing its job.  Not only were two officers in the Gun Trace Task Force (GTTF) found guilty and face 60 years in prison, six other GTTF squad members plead guilty and avoided trials.

Media (mostly of the social variety) has educated the public to the reality that the department is not a city agency.  Baltimore residents are less likely to redirect their ire normally spewed in the direction of the Mayor and City Council, to the Maryland General Assembly. Even if the normally disengaged Baltimore delegation to the deliberative body in Annapolis were accessible, statute changes would require votes outside of the city’s border.

Recent Past and Racial Divisions

As for the past, both recent and distant, unrest – or the threat of unrest – is the necessary ingredient it appears in spearheading change in the city.  Once need only to recall the height of Slave Rebellions in the 1840s and 50s through the Civil Rights Era of the 1960s, picking up again during Vietnam War protests in 1975 and most recently the young voices raised in the Freddy Gray uprisings of 2015.

It will be the people of the city who determine the city’s fate and the legislators in Annapolis are tasked with carrying it out. There are no visionaries in political office. City council is where all good ideas go to die.  The mayor, city council are the least equipped to change what is inescapable truth:   police are unable to police itself.

The police are powerful.  It begins with their union. A generation ago,  municipal workers went on strike and trash piled on on the street. Political pressure did not yield.  Collective bargaining is the BPD’s ace in the hole.  Once police joined in on the 1974 strike, the power dynamic shifted.

Two years later, in 1976, when the state’s political nexus was planted firmly in Baltimore and in the tight fist of Mayor William D. Schaefer, he made a power grab. No longer would Annapolis appoint the leadership of the Baltimore City Police – now only one commissioner, down from three.  Violence and street protests, as with most revolutionary actions, precipitated the shift.

Gov. Marvin Mandel reluctantly relented and awarded the power to name the Baltimore City Police Department’s commissioner to the city’s mayor.

Members of AFSCME Local 1195 Baltimore, Maryland Police Union strike in 1969.

 

 

A generation or so earliery,  BPD went through another major transformation. from a deliberative three member panel to a single authoritative commissioner.

The year was 1920, when the board of commissioners was usurped by a general. Charles D. Gaither set at the helm for 17 years from 1920-1937 as a result of his appointment by Governor Ritchie.  His father was an officer for Confederate Army.  The tenure for “The General” as he was marked by a desire for more police and speedy trial,. One could say, he was an originator of the Law and Order style of policing.

 

Birth of a Nation and a Racist Department

If racists policies within the department didn’t start with the general, he can surely be credited with embracing them unabashedly.

Screenshot (21)

As the General’s tenure was coming to a close, blacks were still forbidden to serve as officers in Baltimore, Jesse while was in Germany debunking Hitler’s theories of superiority of the “Aryan race” during the Olympics.  Progress in race relationship would move at a snail’s pace at the department.

A website dedicated to milestones in the history of the department records explains:

“Prior to 1966, African American officers were limited to foot patrols as they were barred from the use of squad cars. These officers were quarantined in rank, barred from patrolling in White neighborhoods, and would often only be given specialty assignments in positions in the Narcotics Division or as undercover plainclothes officers. Further, African American officers were the target of racial harassment from their Caucasian coworkers and African American citizens in the communities they patrolled. During this time African American officers were subject to racial slurs from white co-workers during roll call, and encountered degrading racial graffiti in the very districts/units they were assigned. During this time period, two future police commissioners of Baltimore, Bishop L. Robinson and Edward J. Tilghman were amongst Baltimore’s African American police officers.” –

Jesse-Owens-623x438

The racist history of BPD predates both World Wars, and extends further back to the Civil War. Baltimore residents, squeezed square in the middle  between ideals of the northern states and the  traditions of the south have been choosing every since.

This was the war that demanded patriots of the fledgling nation to choose sides.  It was in the run up to the war that Congress enacted the Fugitive Slave Law.

Before the spring of 1861 when the Civil War started, Baltimore was experiencing growth and prosperity as a port city with low unemployment, and consequently little crime.

“Free-born blacks together with newly manumitted, runaway, and autonomous urban slaves formed the beginnings of Baltimore’s African American community. Blacks in all situations, including a young Frederick Douglass, saw Baltimore as “an island of racial tolerance” compared to the rest of Maryland”  “(Koamoie).

A singular event helped form the condition that the Baltimore City Police Department currently faces, when looked at in isolation one clearly can see how disbandment is the only choice, and not it’s not even a radical one.

Disbandment of the BPD will finally undo the effects of the Fugitive Slave Law of 1850 that the outcome of the Civil War was unable to achieve. In fact, no federal or state law, movement or milestone election has corrected centuries of racial inequities reinforced by the perpetuation of the institution named the Baltimore City Police Department.  No landmark hirings, promotions or awards suggest that the department is “post racial.”

Wytte
BPD’s first black officer, Violet Hill Whyte in 1937, the year after the” General” left his helm.

The Baltimore City Police department does not address law enforcement in an equitable manner because the institution is predicated on preserving racial imbalances.

A jury unanimously saw the veracity in the argument that has roots since the it became legal to “arrest” blacks.

“…the difference between an arrest, a kidnapping, and an ambiguous area that could be labeled “arrests.” Arrests followed rules of due process that resulted in a trial. Kidnappings were the abduction of free blacks to sell on the slave market. “Arrests” were the apprehension of accused fugitive slaves without due process—no warrants, possibly a home invasion, no trial. – Matt Diggins Johns Hopkins University Press, 2017.

 

Citations

Milt Diggins, an independent scholar, is a former editor of the Cecil Historical Journal and a frequent contributor to local publications. His  Stealing Freedom Along the Mason-Dixon Line: Thomas McCreary, the Notorious Slave Catcher from Maryland.

Laura Croghan Kamoie. Review of Phillips, Christopher, Freedom’s Port: The African American Community of Baltimore, 1790-1860. H-SHEAR, H-Net Reviews. August, 1998.
URL: http://www.h-net.org/reviews/showrev.php?id=2250

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