The year's first slaying victim in the city, Marcal Walton, 33, who was found dead in an alley in Northwest Baltimore on Sunday, apparently unwittingly helped put down a case involving the killing of a Baltimore County police officer.
The killer is serving a life sentence and the case got linked to a theft ring that was being tapped by the feds at the time. They caught suspects talking about the stolen jewelry and that helped put it down. Walton, meanwhile, ended up receiving 37 months in federal prison in 2002 for possession of a firearm by a felon. Here's an old Baltimore Sun story I wrote in 2000:
A suspect in the killing of a Baltimore County police sergeant during a jewelry store robbery last month was arrested after federal agents investigating an unrelated case overheard him on a wiretap trying to sell stolen watches, according to law enforcement sources.
The secretly recorded telephone conversation not only led to the arrests of three other suspects, it helped police break up a suspected drug ring in raids on 49 houses, 23 arrests and the seizure of nearly 15 pounds of cocaine and heroin and $813,000.Drug agents investigating the drug organization intercepted the call two hours after Sgt. Bruce A. Prothero was shot in the parking lot of J. Brown Jewelers in Pikesville, the sources said.
The recipient of the call had been under surveillance for several months by a U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration task force whose agents had tapped telephones and were looking for evidence.
The call was instrumental in leading police to a West Baltimore rowhouse a day after the Feb. 7 slaying, where they arrested their first suspect, Troy White, 23, federal and county police sources said. There, police reported finding a stash of stolen watches stuffed between cushions of a living room couch.
Details of how the first of the suspects in Prothero's killing was caught have been a closely guarded secret. The DEA issued a news release last week on the arrests of the suspected drug gang, but did not note any connection to the slain officer's case.
Court documents say only that the four men charged in the officer's slaying were named "based on information from a reliable source."
Assistant U.S. Attorney Jim Pyne, who is prosecuting several of the drug defendants, would not comment on any connection with Prothero. Special Agent Bill Hacker, a spokesman for Baltimore's DEA office, said he knew nothing about a link.
Bill Toohey, a spokesman for the Baltimore County Police Department, declined to comment yesterday.
It was unclear how members of the drug ring and the jewelry thieves knew each other, but police sources said the sergeant, a 12-year veteran who was moonlighting as a store guard, was caught up in a robbery designed to outfit drug dealers flush with cash and anxious to flaunt their wealth with fancy jewelry.
"These drug dealers created a market," one federal agent said. More than $438,000 worth of watches were taken from J. Brown's, including Rolexes, Cartiers and Omegas -- some worth up to $7,000 each.
Police described the robbery as violent and well-planned. The holdup men bought two wooden mallets days before the holdup. At least two armed men walked into the jewelry store, ordered customers to the floor and grabbed Prothero by the neck.
While holding him, they went around the store smashing glass jewelry cases. One gunshot rang out in the store. Sources say that some customers, prone on the floor, dialed 911 on their cell phones, and police were able to record the sounds of the robbery as it happened.
The robbers let go of Prothero and ran out of the store. He chased them, drew his weapon and was shot twice in the chest and head. The holdup men escaped in two cars, both of which have been recovered.
Two hours later, law enforcement sources said, federal drug agents intercepted a detailed telephone call from someone trying to sell the stolen watches. White was arrested less than 24 hours later at a friend's rowhouse on North Ellamont Street in West Baltimore.
His arrest led police to quickly identify three other suspects in Prothero's shooting. All are in custody, charged with first-degree murder.
Within days of White's capture, police arrested Donald Antonio White Jr., 29, of Baltimore; the men are not related. Both were indicted Monday. It could not be learned yesterday whether either had an attorney; none was listed in court filings, and the Baltimore County public defender's office said it had not assigned anyone.
Two others -- Richard Antonio Moore, 29, and his brother, Wesley John Moore, 24 -- were arrested Feb. 19 in Philadelphia and are fighting extradition to Maryland. A hearing is scheduled March 20.
Authorities said they are trying to determine whether the Pikesville holdup was part of a larger pattern of area-wide smash-and-grab robberies of jewelry stores with the end customers being drug dealers.
Police said a man with possible ties to the suspects in the Prothero shooting was recently arrested on a West Baltimore street corner with a gun and two watches traced to a jewelry store robbery in Tysons Corner, Va.
The expensive tastes of the suspected dealers involved in this case can be seen in police seizures over the past several weeks: a $120,000 silver Mercedes-Benz, $490,000 from a Columbia home and cocaine seized by the pound.
Police said that the drugs were sold in depressed West and Southwest Baltimore neighborhoods but that there are ties that stretch from New York City to suburban Howard County. Authorities said they arrested two men about to deal a pound of pure heroin outside a hotel at the Inner Harbor.
The federal High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area task force had been investigating the alleged narcotics traffickers months before Prothero was killed, starting a year and a half ago when Maryland State Police arrested Ronald Joseph Hamilton.
Hamilton, 27, was arrested Oct. 19, 1998, when police said they intercepted a 4-pound package of cocaine that had been sent from Marina Del Rey, Calif., to a house in the 6100 block of Encounter Row, in Columbia's Stevens Forest neighborhood.
Police raided Hamilton's house on Good Hunters Rise and reported finding an additional 1.5 pounds of cocaine, a loaded .22-caliber handgun on the kitchen table and $490,000 in a gym bag.
Hamilton posted $250,000 bail, but local prosecutors dropped state drug charges against him last year. He was then indicted on federal narcotics charges but remained at large until Feb. 3, when DEA agents said they chased his silver Mercedes from Baltimore to Prince George's County and arrested him.
Court documents and federal agents describe Hamilton as the person who "controlled most of the drug trafficking in West and Southwest Baltimore City and County." He was in custody when Prothero was killed, but police allege that members of his crew were the ones buying the stolen watches.
Hamilton's lawyer, Harold Glaser, denied that his client was involved with drugs or ran a drug organization. He said allegations that a suspected drug group run by Hamilton was to buy watches stolen during the Prothero killing was news to him.
"I have not heard anything about it," he said.
The days after Prothero's killing led to a flurry of arrests and raids throughout the Baltimore area that netted several pounds of drugs, money, cars and high-powered assault weapons.
On Feb. 11, federal agents arrested a man from Queens, N.Y., outside the Harbor Court Hotel as he allegedly tried to deliver a pound of raw heroin. From there, police raided several homes and a store on West Pratt Street.
On Feb. 16, police arrested Raymond Bourne, 32, and Lucilio Gonzales, 26, of Hyattsville, at a house in the first block of S. Beechfield Ave. in Southwest Baltimore. Inside, they reported seizing 4 pounds of cocaine, 5 ounces of heroin and five cars, including a 1999 Corvette.
In other raids connected to the suspects, police said they confiscated several more cars and $218,000 -- including $63,976 hidden in a electronically controlled trap in the floor boards of a Toyota Camry.
Police on Feb. 22 arrested Charles Oliver in the 100 block of Collins Ave., also in Southwest Baltimore, and reported seizing 2 pounds of cocaine. Three days later, police said they made another arrest in Gwynn Oak and seized eight cars and eight handguns.
Oliver and Bourne are scheduled to be arraigned Friday in U.S. District Court in Baltimore. Both are in federal custody and neither has retained an attorney. Other defendants are being held on state drug charges in various jurisdictions.