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.

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

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

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

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

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

“Get out of the fucking car” she yelled.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

He repeated despondently, “Nothing came up.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

How about a 15-year old kid?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Momodu Gondo: From Sierra Leone to Baltimore, What a Trip (Part II)

Momodo Bondeva Kenton Gondo was sentenced today to 10 years in federal prison for taking part in the organized crime syndicate that ran out of Baltimore Police Department headquarters for the approximate 10 years that preceded the February 2016 federal indictment of members of the Gun Trace Task Force (GTTF).

The 34-year old single man apologized to the citizens of Baltimore Tuesday Feb 12 during sentencing, and to the heartbreak he brought to his family, according to reports from Mike Hellgren of WJZ in Baltimore.

Gondo’s parents both came to the United States escaping violence and tyranny in the former British colony of Sierra Leone in Africa as the nation fought for its independence and suffered through skirmishes that led to a decades long brutal civil war.

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Gondo’s attorney Warren Brown, in the shadow of the courthouse indicated today that his client’s cooperation was instrumental in the government’s case.  Sentencing judge Catherine E Blake agreed that Gondo’s testimony was tantamount to “next level” in alerting feds to the extent of the corruption that breeds within BPD. Of the eight BPD indicted on RICO charges, two plead not guilty, stood trial (found guilty) and four became cooperating witnesses.

The two highest ranking BPD convicts who served as supervisors to the GTTF squad  both plead guilty. Reports have varied on whether either have cooperated with the government, especially since the investigation is ongoing. Given their emotional responses to the sentences, it would not be surprising if they seek to cooperate to amend their sentences.

Above: (L) Wayne Jenkins, 25 years, booking photo. And (top R)  Gondo, (bottom R) Rayam arrest photos.

Not all GTTF squad members are created equally. The buddy system broke down as follows:

Gondo and Rayam; Jenkins and Hersl; Hendricks Ward and Taylor. John “Golden Boy” Clewell, a GTTF member who was not indicted, seems to be a lone wolf. Given the opportunity several GTTF members took pains to exclude Clewell from knowledge or participation in their multitude of crimes. ex Sgt Thomas Allers’ crimes included bringing his adult son along (masquerading a BPD officer) to rob civilians in their home. He was sentenced to 15 years.

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Allers family photo from FaceBook

During GTTF trial testimony, Gondo’s tempered flared and hubris exploded.

Jenkins was intimidated by him because of his intellect, Gondo insinuated. Coupled with his Denzel-like deportment and how he spoke, Jenkins was put off.   Gondo suggested that Jenkins’ views of black men didn’t square with Gondo’s presentation and that irked him.

To have Gondo tell it, even his buddy Rayam was jealous of him. Being a single man, Gondo dated frequently, spent his money freely without the entanglements of a wife and a brood of children. He was living the life that Rayam envied, according to Gondo.

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An artist rendition of Momodu Gondo on the stand testifying against Daniel Hersl and Marcus Taylor in response to questions from Asst. U.S. Attorney Leo Wise published in @BaltimoreSun

What You (Probably) Don’t Know About Momodu Gondo:

  • He was brought into GTTF led by Sgt Wayne Jenkins by his Acadamy-buddy Jemell Rayam.
  • He pressured Jenkins to pony up from his take (of four way split ) after Gondo accused Officer Daniel Hersl of skimming $3000 before they even left the house where they stole $20k+ at gunpoint.
  • He swore on his father’s grave that taking 3 bullets to the back by a drug dealer was in the line of duty, disputing Rayam’s testimony that it was in response to Gondo’s own drug ties.
  • He named names. Namely, Dep Commissioner Dean Palmere as inventing a cover once Rayam shot a man in the head because he was too tired to chase him. Gondo said Palmere gave each officer on the scene a story to tell about how the man was driving towards Rayam who then shot after feeling in fear of his life’
  • He knowingly, willingly and proudly protected his friend Kyle Wells from police investigations into his illegal drug activity.
  • Gondo’s loyalty to his childhood friend Kyle Wells prompted him to protect Wells from the likes of Jenkins. Because Jenkins was always hyped to rob drug dealers simply because they were the least likely to report to that their money, drugs and guns were stolen.
  • Gondo offered to rob a different drug dealer to appease Jenkins desire to rob Wells. Using a GPS purchased on the credit card of GTTFer Det John Clewell, Gondo, Rayam and Wells broke into a rival drug dealer’s house, held a sleeping woman at gunpoint wearing ski masks. They left after stealing money, guns, jewelry and drugs.
  • Wells’ conversation with Gondo about getting protection from being on Jenkins’ radar is what prompted the wiretap onto Gondo’s phone in 2015.
  • Gondo and Rayam are both heard on the wiretap discussing him joining GTTF and doctoring up OT slips as SOP under then Sgt. Wayne Jenkins.

 

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.

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

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

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

Hersl’s (Dis) Hornable mentions:

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

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

 

 

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.

Trumped Up Charges: Convincing the Public Det Suiter’s Death Was Suicide

A vacant lot in West Baltimore is the absolute last place a Baltimore City Police officer would choose to die. Ask any of them.

Now that that’s out of the way, let’s focus on both the how and why the Baltimore Police would suggest otherwise.  A review of several notable events will show that BPD has everything to gain and very little to lose if Det. Sean Suiter’s shooting death was changed from a homicide to a suicide.

sean suiter headshot
Det. Sean Suiter

The Evidence As We Know It

BPD has been extraordinarily tight lipped about the investigation from day one.  We’ve been lead to believe not much exists to help solve the case.  A lack of forensic evidence: no DNA lifted from Suiter’s clothing. Nothing recovered from the gun used to shoot him and an eyewitness description of the assailant that should no longer be considered as viable.

Murder Weapon

What is not in dispute is that the 18-year veteran suffered a fatal gunshot wound to the head.  Three (or four) shots were fired, with at one to the head, occurring in a garbage-strewn lot where a vacant building used to stand.  While BPD insists the shot came from his own service weapon, no evidence has been put forth to substantiate this claim.  Suiter’s hands were wiped clean.

No tests exists to prove that the bullet “found” a week after the shooting was the one that killed Suiter.  Nor is there any proof that the gun found under his body once patrol arrived is the same gun that fired the bullet that killed him. The gun was retrieved in a patrol car some hours later after the Suiter was removed from the scene/

Reportedly, Suiter and his partner were on Bennett Place following up on a year-old homicide. He was shot at about 4:30 p.m. on Wednesday November 15, 2017 with no witnesses to the shooting.  If we are to believe his partner Det. David Bomenka (and there’s not reason anyone should) and his recollection of seeing a suspicious person about 20 minutes before the shooting, we can put them scene since as early as 4 pm.

 

suiter 2 cadets
Police cadets canvass neighborhoods seeking assistance in solving Suiter’s murder.

The maddeningly vague description by a seasoned police homicide detective still has watchers scratching their heads.  The suspect (of course) is a black man, wearing a black jacket with a white stripe. A description, presumably provided by the one eyewitness, so vague that it makes one wonder why Commissioner Kevin Davis shared it with the public in the first place.  The suspect description has been fertile ground for conspiracy theorists to sow wild beliefs from day one.  This “description” given by BPD while all other helpful information was withheld from the public is the primary reason BPD has only itself to blame for even why #SuiterTheories is a thing.

black man suspect
Ever ready black male suspect sought.

No age, no height, no weight, was observable by – not just any run-of-the-mill “shook” witness, but a trained  law enforcement officer came up empty on crucial description elements.  However, Bomenka mustered enough cop parlance to say he saw Stuiter struggle with a”black man” who he observed earlier and was “acting suspiciously.”

It’s crucial to also note that  this “description” was not provided to cops responding immediately to the scene.  They were told that there was no suspect description at all!  The next day, a “description” was ultimately provided to the public, and within days, BPD quickly did a re-shuffle and  instructed the public not to consider the black man and black jacket at all because he probably took it off.  Sigh.

Still there was a reward amount, a record high of $215,000.  But we were not asked to look for anyone other than a black man, no age, no height, no build.  Peoples’ suspicion grew.  The eyes of the nation were once again on Baltimore Police Department.

The Timeline

Inexplicably, a timeline of Suiter’s activities for that day was never given.  Maybe he cut someone off  driving and this was a delayed road rage incident.  Someone might have witnessed that. Perhaps someone spotted Suiter at a store he was at earlier, followed him to that location which led to a confrontation or some type of retaliation. Maybe he was sought out by someone who encountered him for a previous arrest or run-in. We’ll never know.  The police have not given any details about what has been ruled out.

Homicide investigations 101 include a timeline of the victim’s activities.  The detectives could have gotten there as early as noon or as late at 4 pm.  But cast that in the huge empty bucket of unknowns. It’s also unknown if they arrived at the same time or in the same car even. Remember, an enticing reward was dangled, but nothing to aid the public to claim it.  BPD never gave the public anything close to a timeline of Suiter’s movements that day to help solve his death as a murder.  It’s almost like it was the city’s first and only murder.

Pretty much everything else has been tainted by innuendo, cloaked in secrecy, and of course, some details Suiter has taken with him to his grave.

Suiter’s Staged “Homicide”

To sell the murder as a suicide, and a staged one at that, BPD will  likely combine a “reasonable motive” along with a description of how Suiter had both the opportunity and skill to pull off a staged homicide.  The theory will center around Suiter’s  apprehension to testify and his desire to leave his five children financially secure. When this is done (with the assistance of compliant media partners), BPD believes it can slam the lid shut on the Det. Suiter death and move forward with the city’s business.  Narrative changed!

The Location

The day before he was set to testify in a federal grand jury case involving corruption in a gun unit at BPD, Suiter along with Det. Bomenka, not his regular partner, set out to West Baltimore.  Bennett Place is a one way westbound residential street that runs parallel to Franklin St and Route 40, which is a major east/west thoroughfare. Schroeder St intersects Franklin St to the north and Fremont Ave crosses it to the south.

It was early in the afternoon a comfortable 45 degrees and cloudy.  People would be walking to and from the neighborhood store, and kids would be coming home from school.

 

 

 

The bustling environment seemed perfect for the why the detectives were out and about  looking for witnesses in order to close a 2016 triple murder case.  The location might not be the best fit for the optimal place to commit a public suicide, but the very next day Suiter was scheduled to give testimony to the grand jury, time was running out.

The Plan

Keeping with the theory, Suiter is there to plan his own death (We assume unbeknownst to Bomenka). With all the activity, Suiter will have to have a series of fortunate events go his way.   BPD has a stake in selling the world on this theory that Suiter’s plan was to die in a urine soaked lot filled with broken bottles and small patches of grass.

The motive they will say is the thing.  Suiter fits the profile (more on this later).

Suicides, accurately and commonly perceived, most likely occurs in isolation. This requires some distance. So (again if Bomeka does not participate in this wildly imaginative concoction of a story), Suiter invents a reason to go behind the wall, perhaps telling Bomenka he has to go relieve himself. When fully out of view, Suiter pops off 2-3 rounds and yells, telling Bomenka to get down or stay back as a ruse.  With no one around to see him,  Suiter pulls on his own clothes to give the impression of a violent struggle. He’s a seasoned cop.  If anyone can stage a crime scene, he can.

Counting on his partner to follow the order, Suiter then takes his gun and reaches behind his head with his right hand and shoots himself, once. He survives the gunshot and is placed on life support until the next day when he is declared dead as a result of his injuries. The medical examiner discounts any speculation that the car accident en route contributed to his death.

NOTE: It’s possible if BPD goes hard with the scenario, Bomenka will be trotted out with new disturbing details that support the suicide theory.

The Motive

Selling the public on the “why” behind concocting such an elaborate hoax will be at the center of scenario of any farce BPD might trot out.  With fancy graphs, data and experts, they will insist that Det. Suiter attempted to stage his death to economically provide for his family.  There won’t be any evidence of this because they would have shared it by now.  Most likely they will point to how Suiter’s situation cozily fits with nationally recognized experts and studies on officers’ suicides.  They’ll talk about PTSD not just for the urban stresses, but they’ll link it back to his tour in Iraq.  It’ll make perfect sense they’ll argue because Suiter will check each of the boxes below:

  • The average age is 42 years old at time of suicide
  • The average time on job was 16 years of service
  • 91% of suicides were by male officers
  • Time on the job when most are most at risk was 15 to 19 years of service
  • Firearms were used in 91.5% of police suicides
  • In 83% of cases, personal problems appear prevalent prior to the suicide

The rationale will be reminiscent of the catch all predictions of a carnival fortune teller: You are seeking the love of your life.  Recently you lost someone close to you.  Something you lost will turn up soon. Yada yada yada.

The conspiracy was fed by the now infamous Thanksgiving holiday  news dump. Davis dropped a bombshell as preparation was underway for Suiter’s funeral. The day of his death, Suiter was supposed to be a federal witness against Baltimore City Police officers.  The video below for the first time discloses Suiter was scheduled to pointing the finger squarely at criminal activity within BPD.  Davis knew this, but here he said he only just found out. Once the feds he been knew, he later said he mis-remembered. This video is a beauty in  diminishing what little credibility and sympathy people were eking our for the department.

Transparency and Accountability

Up until now, first hand accounts are evasive.  Those on the scene have not provided any statements to the public.  Zero statements have been provided by officers who responded to Bomenka’s 9-1-1 call.  We haven’t even heard the call!  Some details has been provided through the media relations person and from the commissioner at the time, Kevin Davis. And even that information has not been reliable.

Dispatch audio notifying officers of the emergency was released and provides the most insight.  Other primary source material promised has not materialized like the audio of Suiter’s voice on radio. Baltimore residents aren’t likely to fall for the okey-doke.  They will demand that information be provided, especially the Body Worn Camera (BWC) footage of responding officers and the full autopsy results.

Remaining Puzzle Pieces

  • Dispatch sent officers to Bennett and Fremont and had difficulty finding the crime scene.
  • Early reports indicate that the male suspect was probably injured.
  • Medical units were advised of a second victim at the scene and aware that Suiter had been transported.
  • No details on Suiter’s accompaniment, a driver, a companion, etc when transported by car to University of Maryland Shock Trauma
  • No details on the car accident encountered en route to hospital.
  • No details on whether Suiter was conscious or if CPR or any medical performed during transport.
  • Officer’s gun and officer’s radio is back in the alley where he got hit, but Suiter gone.
  • Davis in discarded suicide altogether when asking FBI to take over the investigation
  • No shell casings observed at the scene by first responders.

The most crucial element to supporting suicide is that evidence must prove Suiter fired all the shots and there was no struggle for his gun.  This will be the complete opposite of what says said to be known facts for much of the investigation.  Davis has repeated often that  confusion reigned because officers were unsure the direction of the shots. Bomenka was delayed in providing aid because he was seeking shelter across the street.   Also, Davis insisted Suiter was involved in a violent struggle and that possibly the suspect was injured.

They have to explain why they thought the suspect was initially injured, but the casings are key.  Davis took deliberate pains to explain how the return to the scene after the autopsy gave him additional insight. Conveniently when the media cordon was lifted, officers “discovered” a shell casing in clear view of a television camera, completed with mime-quality acting.

Next Man Up – Commissioner Darryl De Sousa

Mayor Catherine Pugh announced she was terminating Kevin Davis from BPD on January 19, citing escalating violence, namely murders in the city.  She never mentioned Davis’ handling of Suiter’s case for cause or even presiding over the department during the FBI investigation that landed an entire special operations unit in the pokey. Instead, she left taxpayers on the hook for his $150,000 severence.

 

pugh and de sousa
Body language of Mayor Catherine Pugh speaks volumes in announcing her appointment to the city’s top cop.

In promoting De Sousa, Mayor Pugh admittedly has not had any lengthy or repetitive conversations with then Commissioner Davis about the investigation into Det. Suiter’s death.  Instead, she cited her impatience with “getting the numbers down.” However,  when she did  view of grainy video prompted her support of the request for the FBI to take over the investigation. The FBI declined.

In the lead up to his eventual confirmation, Commissioner De Sousa told Brian Kuebler in an exclusive interview his plans to have a new set of eyes. The independent agency is a secret, too.  When the reporter asked, very comfortably De Sousa refused to disclose any details without much pushback from the reporter.

As for his views on the death of Suiter, Commissioner Darryl De Sousa said, “I have an idea, but I’m not going to share right now.”

Showing that the more things change, the more they stay really the same.

Bennett SkyView

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