What’s crystal clear is that veteran local news anchor Mary Bubala didn’t call ex Mayor Catherine Pugh a nigger.
Nor did she sexualize Stephanie Rawlings-Blake’s appearance, nor did she give the slightest hint suggesting SRB wasn’t smart enough for the job.
Never, ever did Bubala even utter Sheila Dixon and pickaninny in the same sentence.
But if she had said any of these things the conversation in public and private spaces would have been much different. So now people, black and white alike, are confused about what all the hubbub is about.
Because it intersects race, gender, and class issues in Baltimore, it’s really about a lot of things. And accordingly, the local media got it mostly wrong.
All Kinds of Wrong
What Had Happened Wuz
With a black journalist on set of WJZ TV as a guest, Dr. Kaye Whitehead, who is an award winning documentary filmmaker and university professor, Bubala asked whether it was time to move away from black woman as mayoral candidates considering the failures (in Bubala’s opinion) of each of the three: Sheila Dixon (resigned), Stephanie Rawlings-Blake (did not seek re-election) and Catherine Pugh (resigned).
Social media exploded. Journalists from a professional association (BABJ) dedicated to mentoring and establishing standards for their members drew first blood:
Not Everybody Is Mad Tho
I’m going to talk to my people first. People, my people:
Catherine Pugh’s side hustle was a breach of trust. I heard ya’ll say: she sold #HealthyHolly books and got a half million dollars? Damn girl!
But this isn’t a “don’t hate the player, hate the game” type of scenario.
Gaming the system became an art form for us ever since the US defaulted on our 40 acres and a mule.
Sometimes, we know, we just gotta get ours. But in Pugh’s case she was the system, and took an oath to make the system work for the same people she swore to protect and lift up. Then she allegedly used her position to line her own pockets.
What Catherine Pugh Did Wrong
True you might say, Cathy’s game was not as strong as all the white male mayors who have likely done worse. You might also say she broke the cardinal rule: she forgot who she was, who she was playing with, and flew a little to close to the sun. You might even say Pugh deserved to be forced to resign i.e. fired for being so blatant with her ratchetness.
Privately I hear you say Sheila and Cathy made us look bad and maybe we need to go back to white male leadership. But when I really listen, I hear ya’ll’s pain. As notable journalist Lisa Snowden- McCray said recently on a WYPR broadcast: “It’s sad”
We are embarrassed and ashamed. Wearily, we become more than willing to return to pointing fingers at “the man” and grumbling about how he is keeping us down.
We don’t get that many chances. Which is why Mary Bubala’s comments stung.
Baltimore City has had “ …three female, African-American mayors in a row…Is it a signal that a different kind of leadership is needed to move Baltimore City forward?” – Mary Bubala
Across racial lines, sympathy for 15 year veteran CBS affiliate news anchor Mary Bubala is palpable and growing. A change.org petition has been started to get her back on the air.
What’s Really Wrong is … With Journalism
My source for taking the pulse of Baltimore is my mom. Larry Young hasn’t talked about it on his show as I sit here writing, so of course, she didn’t know anything about it. She lives in senior community and the gossip spread through there like a California wildfire. So I showed her the Sun article.
According to the sage woman who raised me (and I’m paraphrasing):
[Bubala] said what she felt. What’s wrong with that? All the callers to Larry Young feel the exact same way, and they’re black. People want to move way from black leadership, because the three mayors were failures. We had our chance, according to my mom. She shouldn’t get fired. Everybody is saying the same thing. The Pugh ordeal was so over the top. It was the straw that broke the camel’s back.
Understandably, the Loyola of Maryland professor, Dr. Karsona “Kaye” Whitehead prefers to discuss what can be learned from the bias displayed as discussed in a May 8 Baltimore Magazine interview.
I’m willing to accept that Mary Bubala’s apology that it wasn’t her best day, and she wasn’t as artful as she would have liked. I’ll even give her a pass for allowing an opinion slip into her questioning.
Tricia Bishop, The Baltimore Sun
Audra Swain, WJZ Gen Manager
I am no way excusing WJZ’s decision to not permit Bubala to offer her apology on air or effectively engage in dialogue with the public she has served for 15 years for an utterance that will stain her career. Audra Swain, pictured above right, is WJZ’s general manager.
Likewise, there is absolutely no pass for the Baltimore Sun in treating the story as one of her firing and not one about the role of journalists, their ethics, duty to objectivity and struggles with bias. The editorial staff, namely Tricia Bishop (above left) continues to miss the point as it makes it an ideological difference in calling the conversation a left wing vs right wing debate.
There should be an apology to residents of Baltimore by both WJZ and The Baltimore Sun. However, I kind of expect one from the former that precede’s Bubala’s likely return, but I won’t hold my breath waiting for anything close an acknowledgment from the latter.
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.
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
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.
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. We 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.
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.
Baltimore City Police Department Det. John Clewell is a former U.S. Marine. He is not under investigation. He has not been charged with any crime.
He is the only sole survivor of the carnage left behind in the now-defunct Gun Trace Task Force (GTTF) where he worked along side some of what surely will go down in Baltimore history, if not U.S. history, is the most corrupt group of law enforcement officers to ever disgrace the uniform. In a Sept 8, 2017 Sun article, he was called (albeit by his lawyer) the only Boy Scout in the group. GTTF members Dets. Daniel Hersl and Marcus Taylor, are presumed innocent unless and until found guilty. Files related to this case can be found on this website’s document pages.
A good place to start with Det. John Clewell’s association with the Gun Trace Task force is with a tracking device.
Testimony from two separate cases has shown officers from Baltimore Police Department have no problem purchasing GPS tracking devices using their own cash, even though the department will issue one – if they plan to use them for legal purposes. Leaving one to assume officers who purchase GPS out of their own pockets could be up to no good. Det. John Clewell used his own personal credit card to purchase a GPS device that helped with an armed robbery and was connected to a murder conviction.
The first case was a drug conspiracy and murder trial. A 19-year old woman from Harford County OD’d on heroin. The prosecutors proved that the woman, struggling with addiction, received the drugs from her friend as they planned to “party”. That friend testified in U.S. District Court that he purchased the drugs from his connect in Baltimore. It’s the connect from Baltimore who was linked to a conspiracy with a BPD detective because they were childhood friends. It is the investigation of the death of this 19 year old woman which led to a wire on Det. Monodu Gondo that brought GTTF to its end.
John Clewell, by way of a tracking device is tied to this sordid conspiracy that ended in a not just that woman’s death, but also more directly to another woman being robbed at gun point.
In order to conduct what was supposed to be a burglary, but ended up being an armed robbery, two BPD detectives (Momodu Gondo and Jamell Rayam) and a drug dealer friend needed to make sure no one was at the house. They used a GPS tracking device to put on the man’s car. That device was bought using Det. John Clewell’s personal credit card. Needless to say, the detectives. and the drug dealer were not very lucky, despite their attempts to make sure the house was empty before burglarizing it. This required ingenuity on their part. Once they awakened a startled woman in her bed, they didn’t bolt and run, they pointed a gun, threatened to kill her and stole whatever they could find. At gun point.
This was all able to be carried out because Det. Gondo was monitoring the tracker. “The GPS tracker was bought by John Clewell, of the gun squad. He paid for it with his personal credit card, and paid the monthly fee,” the FBI agent testified, reported by WBAL TV.
The burglary turned robbery was “Plan B” according to Rayam. Initially, the drug dealer who concocted the whole heist idea, simply wanted to murder the man in the car, using the GPS provided by Clewell to track him. Rayam testified, that was going too far and agreed to the burglary instead. It was in this October 2017 trial that Clewell and a tracking device came up in court.
Two weeks of testimony on the second case began on January 23, 2018 spelling out the horrific crimes of the Gun Trace Task Force. It’s commonly referred to as #GTTFTrial on social media. The officers themselves, along with victims alike, described callous and sometime brutal behavior of law enforcement officials behaving like mobsters, leaving residents of sections of the city as if terrorists had free reign.
Through its actions, the GTTF unit showed that it’s pretty easy to skirt the law, when you are the law.
It also became extremely clear to all those watching (except the Mayor and the recently hired commissioner) that the above-the-law attitudes and actions are not exclusive to the small number of officers facing sentencing and charges. No logically-minded person would believe that higher ups at least turned a blind eye to the activity and even more likely, some encouraged it.
Once the indictments were announced on March 1, 2017, members of the task force fell like dominoes: Both squad leaders plead guilty to robbery, extortion and RICO related charges. Sgt. Allers oversaw the team from Summer 2013 to Summer 2016 when Sgt. Wayne Jenkins took over. The pleas fell in this order:
Det. Maurice Ward and Det. Evodio Hendrix (July 2017)
Det. Jemell Rayam and Det. Momodu Gondo (October 2017)
Sgt. Wayne Jenkins, (January 2018) displaying a flair for the dramatic, held out with his guilty plea mere weeks before his trial was scheduled to commence. It was nearly worth the wait as he plead guilty to expanded charges of dealing drugs and dirt bikes.
In what appears to be divine intervention, the domino not touched is Det. John Clewell, who worked on GTTF under both Allers and Jenkins. So we begin following the path that zigs and zags around Clewell, the only member of the Gun Trace Task Force to not face charges.
Tracing John Clewell Through Tracking Thomas Allers
Clewell joined the department in 2009 and has been suspended since the March arrests of his squad mates. Allers joined in 1996. He became the officer-in-charge GTTF about July 2013.
As reported by Justin Fenton in the Baltimore Sun:
Clewell worked frequently with Allers, the eighth officer charged…Before Clewell and Allers joined the gun trace task force in late 2014, they worked together pursuing illegal guns and drugs on the Southern District operations squad. Both left the gun trace task force in the summer of 2016 to work with the federal Drug Enforcement Administration as city police task force officers. They were working in that role when the first indictments were filed.
Allers has been charged with nine counts of Robbery and Extortion and the indictment alleges that he stole over $90,000.00. Allers faces a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison for the conspiracy, the robberies and for racketeering. In contrast, Det. John Clewell, has not been charged with any crime. He is expected to be witness for his squad member, Daniel “Danny Hersl”. The prosecution expects to rest on Tuesday, Feb 6.
Sgt. Thomas Allers is a family man.
In his detainment hearing, Allers family including his wife was present, according to media reports. The government and the defense had differing views on a letter that Allers penned that each side was using as evidence for their respective views on whether he should be released or held in custody. According to The Sun, the prosecution described the four pages addressed to his wife as a “suicide note” while the defense described it as a “love note to Allers’ wife expressing ‘how much and deeply he cares’ for her and reassuring her that no matter what happened to him, she would be fine.” He was held in custody.
Aller’s indictment references a charge of robbery and extortion when he brought his adult son along. One would be hard pressed to believe then his family did not know of his criminal activities.
Davon L. Robinson is dead.
Dominos keep falling: One of Allers’ robbery victims is dead. In April 2016, Sgt. Allers went into the man’s house and stole $10,000 from him. His report claimed that a family member 1. gave him permission to enter and 2. gave him permission to search. No warrant was needed. The man, Davon Robinson, called “Wooda” was given drugs and was expected to sell them and repay for the advance. When he did not have the $10,000 to pay, police believe he was shot and killed. Another man is awaiting trial for killing Robinson.
In 2016, most news recalled his life as a statistic. But he was loved. Wooda’s passion was dirtbikes. Unfortunate for him, Sgt. Allers and Det. Hersl shared a love of (other peoples’) dirt bikes. Robinson’s parents claimed he was constantly harrassed by Baltimore Police officers. With that knowledge, how unlikely is it that the officers’ presence inside of their home was legal? He gripped to his girlfriend that he often was stopped by police without cause, the Sun reported. Money and property were taken without charges.
Mr. Robinson, like countless other city residents, had nowhere to turn when GTTF officers victimized him. That was their power.
Clewell joined the department in 2009. GTTF is only one of dozens of specialized operations units. At one time or another, these same squad members were together under various units: SES or Specialized Enforcement Section, the Pennsylvania Avenue Initiative, and VCIS or Violent Crimes Impact Section.
For some odd reason, the Baltimore Sun routinely identifies these plainclothes operatives as “elite”. It is not clear if they receive any additional training or held to any higher standard that “elite” would suggest. As part of this “family” it appears that all member enjoyed perks, prestige, and a blind eye from most when their decade-long plainclothes abuses went unheeded, especially by The Sun.
In the second trial, Clewell is expected to testify as a defense witness for Det. Danny Hersl, Illegal use of GPS tracking devices have already been discussed.
Donald Stepp, testified as a government witness that he sold drugs that BPD Sgt. Wayne Jenkins sold to him at a dramatically discounted rate. He testified that he bought burglary and surveillance equipment “off the books” to assist the GTTF squad in committing crimes in and around Baltimore City. One such tale included being in a car with Jenkins when he dropped off one such GPS devices to Det. Danny Hersl.
In a July 2016 case, Det. Rayam swore out an affidavit saying he had watched a suspect for a full day, but told jurors that was a lie. The truth, he said, was that he had placed a tracking device on a car and monitored the car’s movements. John Clewell took part in the traffic stop of a couple leaving Home Depot. No drugs, guns or large amounts of case were found in the car.
After interrogation at what’s being called a satellite BPD office that officers call “The Barn” and others call the old Pimlico Middle school, they drove the pair to their Westminster home in Carroll County. After searching that house and finding no drugs or guns, officers seized cash, but made no arrests. The home owners, Ronald and Nancy Hamilton are suing four officers seeking over $900,000 in damages. They also claim $20,000 was stolen from their home during the search. The Hamiltons have named Rayam, Gondo, Jenkins and Hersl in their lawsuit.
John Clewell is expected to testify primarily to benefit Hersl’s defense. The trial is expected to last until about February 12, once defense begins on February 6.
[update, John Clewell did not testify].
In a summary of the opening days, the Washington Post reported:
As squad members, Evodio Hendrix, Rayam and former detective Maurice Ward testified they routinely ignored constitutional protections and entered homes without search warrants, and stopped people without probable cause — then lied about it. It was common practice, Rayam said, to put GPS trackers on cars illegally to make it easier to follow people the squad intended to rob.
“We would create false reports to cover up the robberies we were involved in,” Hendrix testified.
Detective Daniel “Danny” Hersl is most likely to have his day in court on Monday January 22, 2018 with co-defendant Det Marcus Taylor also a member of BPD’s Gun Trace Task Force.
Charged with racketeering and robbery along with seven other officers, Hersl’s career includes lawsuits, excessive force claims and being a general embarrassment to the department.
In short order, his “brothers in blue” began to flip and change their pleas. By summer a superseding indictment was filed with expanded charges against Hersl. Facing potential damning testimony by citizens and his brothers in blue, Hersl’s defense looks to center itself on: ” It can’t be a conspiracy within the GTTF unit, if the entire department was complicit.”
Known initials from the seven in the Original Indictment: DH, MT, WJ as well as MG, EH JR and MW and later Sgt T.A. GTTF unit member John Clewell, not indicted is J.C. Unidentified Initials: N.F. , M. Mo, Sgt I, Sgt B, Det 3.
Hersl’s Likely Defense
“Don’t blame my incompetence, blame the people who hired me.” While this mantra worked for the Police Administrative Trial Boards, but a federal courtroom is “next level” to say the least. Every officer who has used some version of this defense for the trials involving the death of Freddy Gray has escaped any punishment. It will ring true, that BPD is a dysfunctional cesspool, but the difference in this trial is the conspiracy and racketeering. Evidence is strong that people were plotting, planning and navigating the system in order to advance their own bank accounts.
Just saying that he knew the GTTF squad was dirty and didn’t want to be placed on it in December 2015 is not a defense. It should be a lively trial. Hersl is a cross between Michael Scott from the office (without the charisma) and Archie Bunker who does all the wrong things for misguided reasons.
In 2016, Taylor learned that the GTTF was under investigation by someone in the Internal Affairs Dvision. Jenkins learned that GTTF was under investigation by someone in the State’s Attorney’s Office and from sources withing BPD. None named.
Daniel Hersl’s brother attempts to sway public opinion in defense of his brother.
Jerome Hersl makes an appeal to Harford County Council reported in a June 21, 2017 article in The Sun:
Jerome Hersl also claimed publicity surrounding the indictments “caused great stress and potential harm to the families and friends of the police officers due to the possible retaliation from drug dealers. The testimony of 16 drug dealers put seven cops in jail.”
“The drug dealers control the streets of Baltimore,” he said. “Do drug dealers have political boundaries. How long will it be before they control the streets of Harford County?”
Danny Hersl in his element after the city took to the streets in protest of the death of Freddy Gray in police custody. Here at North and Pennsylvania Ave. During the day.
Danny Hersl at night pepper sprays citizens and violently arrests a journalist capturing people milling around once a curfew has been in place. The city paid damages to the reporter for Hersl’s actions.