In both cases, authorities cited the state's restrictive wiretaping law that forbids recording audio of people without their consent. But prior opinions from the state's top law enforcement officer have generally held that words and images captured in public are protected.
An arrest at the Preakness in front of hundreds of people is in a public venue. A trickier issue is whether a traffic stop in which an officer talks with the driver is a private conversation or a public act. The Maryland ACLU argues that the officer is engaged in a public act because virtually everything an officer does is a matter of public record.
The AG does say there could be circumstances in which taping would not be OK, but that would be the exception, not the rule. The ACLU is taking up the case of the motorcycle driver, whose criminal case is pending.
Milton Hill, 70 and spry, shoveled the snow from the front walk of the church next to his small East Baltimore apartment. He helped carry heavy boxes to the food pantry, and walked women to their cars after late night events. He trimmed the church hedges on Thursday, just because it needed to be done.
On Friday morning, a relative found Hill slumped against a fence, lying in a pool of blood. He had been shot. The scooter he used to get around town – a retirement present he bought himself, according to the church deacon – was gone.
Friends, family and church members stood across the street, consoling one another and praying as city fire fighters washed the blood down the drain. The red-stained water washed along the sidewalk he helped clear of debris, and down the alley he traversed to get to the ramshackle porch leading to his second-floor apartment in the 1200 block of E. North Ave. above the Ark Church bookstore.
“People are really gonna miss him,” 82-year-old Reginald Trusty said. “I can’t say it enough how much he’ll be missed.”
It's been a long week in the city, with eight slayings recorded through Friday morning. The stabbing death of a Johns Hopkins researcher in a robbery Sunday captured the city's attention, while two people were killed in nearby Station North. Police are investigating whether the second victim was targeted because he witnessed the first killing there. A 19-year-old was killed during a fight between two groups of men in Northeast Baltimore, and police say they have yet to reach next of kin for victims in Southwest Baltimore and a man found dead in a vehicle in East Baltimore.
Because Hill's scooter and the keys to it were taken, police believe the motive may have been robbery. But no one could understand why anyone would take his life too.
Family members gathered at the scene said they were too distraught to talk, and church members said they didn’t know much about his background other than that he may have worked at a church in Northeast Baltimore, which he biked to until he purchased the scooter.
Here’s what they did know: whenever they needed a hand, they could count on Milton.
“When we needed a good back, it was ‘Get Milton,’” said Bishop Darnal Johnson, the Ark Church’s executive pastor. “‘It’s late and people are going to their cars, get Milton.’”
John Eden, chairman of the deacon ministry, said Hill’s efforts didn’t seem particularly motivated by spirituality, though he did attend services during the week. He recalled that Hill had a mammoth appetite, but stayed thin. He didn’t ask for compensation for helping around the church, just a bite to eat from the pantry on occasion.
Eden said he and Hill often spent time together, leaning against the church fence and chatting.
“I’m gonna miss my buddy,” Eden said, watching the water wash over the pavement.
Charles J. Herring was in charge of scheduling security at the Bel Air Cinema Stadium 14 in Abingdon and he worked out of his home as a lawyer. Twice he defended people charged in crimes who had been arrested by Harford County sheriff's deputies.
The story raised questions about whether a police official in one jurisdiction could and should represent people arrested by police in a neighboring jurisdiction, especially when he also worked security in that county.
Police union officials objected to the multiple jobs, saying they posed obvious conflicts. The Harford County State's Attorney said the situation, "doesn't look clean," and the Harford County Sheriff said he would instruct his deputies to withhold information from Herring if he called them for help on behalf of the cinema.
It's been more than six months and police union officials are complaining nothing has been done. They sent me these two letters that they've submitted:
Baltimore police have sent out another batch of mugshots of wanted suspects, as part of their campaign to text crime information to citizens.
This week's batch includes suspects wanted on charges of child abuse, burglary, assault and attempted first-degree murder (a complete list with photos is here). One example from this week is Samuel Lechuga-Felicia, 29, who is wanted on charges of child abuse and 2nd-degree assault. HIs picture is at left.
Few details were made available, but the shooting occurred in the 5200 block of Florence Ave. Detectives are also investigating a non-fatal shooting on West Lanvale St. in West Baltimore. The victim is a 47-year-old man.
Meanwhile, police announced more gun seizures.
They said a traffic stop in the 2200 block of Kirk Ave. in Northeast Baltimore led to two arrests and the seizure of a loaded handgun. On the city's westside, police said they raided rowhouses in the 1700 block of West Warwick Ave. and in the 1500 block of Presstman St. in West Baltimmore and found three handguns and arrested seven suspects.
In today's paper, Sun reporter Julie Scharper pens a feature about a 2002 incident in which Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake's brother was stabbed and nearly lost his life. It's an incident that she says shaped her views on crime:
The front door banged open and Stephanie Rawlings-Blake heard her brother scream: "Call the police!"
Rawlings-Blake hurried to the landing of her split-level home that chilly November evening eight years ago. She found her younger brother hunched in the entryway, blood streaming from his neck and back.
"I didn't know what happened," the mayor said Thursday. "I didn't know the circumstances. I picked up the phone and I yanked it so hard I pulled the cord out of the wall."
Her brother survived, and Rawlings-Blake said the incident furthered her resolve to push for stricter penalties for violent criminals.
"We have to be vigilant to make sure that people who should not be walking among us are off the street," she said
Rawlings-Blake was four years into her tenure with the public defender's office at the time, a position she continued to hold until 2006 when she became a full-time city council president. As mayor, she has largely continued the crime approach pushed by her predecessor Sheila Dixon and her pick for police commissioner, Frederick H. Bealefeld III, while trying to carve out an identity as an advocate for increased use of the newest technology to fight crime.
Witness is second killed in Station North in a week
As city officials and community leaders demanded answers in the Charles Village stabbing death of Johns Hopkins researcher Stephen Pitcairn, two killings over the past few days and just blocks to the south are following a more typical storyline in the city's struggle with violence
A 21-year-old man who sources said had been interviewed as a witness to a weekend homicide was fatally shot early Thursday in Baltimore's Station North district, according to police.
The victim, who was not identified pending notification of his next of kin, was a witness to a killing that occurred Saturday night in the 300 block of E. Lafayette Ave. in the Greenmount West neighborhood, multiple sources told The Baltimore Sun. Justin Kendrick, 24, who had a history of drug charges, was killed in that incident. There've been no community marches, no politicians holding press conferences, no letters to the editor. Nearby, a memorial on a light pole contains this note:
"TO ALL YOUNG MEN: THIS IS ONE OF LIFE'S LESSONS," the note read.
UPDATE: Thursday's victim has been identified as Emmanuel Thomas, 21, with a last known address on Homewood Avenue. Thomas was sentenced just last month to time served on an eight year prison term after being pleaded guilty to armed robbery. A four year probation term was imposed.
O'Malley offers praise for Jessamy, stops short of explicit endorsement
During an appearance in West Baltimore to announce $7 million in public safety funding grants, Gov. Martin O'Malley was asked whether he would be endorsing anyone in the upcoming state's attorney's race.
He stopped short of endorsing her, but offered what sounded like high praise for incumbent Patricia Jessamy, saying their "partnership has never been stronger," that they talk every day, and that her "leadership and performance" has been a big part of crime declines in Baltimore. Specifically pressed if he would endorse her, he replied: "I anticipate - yeah, stayed tuned." Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown also appeared at her birthday fundraiser over the weekend, according to reports.
That's particular notable, as friction between O'Malley and Jessamy is well-documented, and in one his last acts as mayor he increased her salary dramatically - 60 percent, or $83,000, to $225,000 - in what many believed was an attempt to make the position more attractive to potential challengers. When defense attorney Gregg Bernstein announced he would challenge Jessamy in the Democratic primary, Jessamy even accused of O'Malley of putting Bernstein up to it.
I've sought clarity this morning from O'Malley's campaign spokesman, through text, email and phone calls, and haven't heard back. I will update this post when I do.
Rick Abruzzese, O'Malley's campaign spokesman said in an email: "I think the Governor’s words speak for themselves. And the important thing is that the two of them are working well together and achieving results."
Here's a transcript of O'Malley's remarks, which came right after he said "yes" when asked if Judge John Addison Howard had "dropped the ball" in his handling of suspect John Alexander Wagner:
The Sun: Will you be endorsing anyone in the city state's attorney's race:
O'Malley: We've done a lot of positive things together. I know you all focus on the one case where we disagreed 10 or 11 years ago. but the fact of the matter is, the partnerships between the state and the state’s attorneys office have never been stronger. I have endorsed every Democrat in our state who has endorsed me. That's been our policy, and there’s been a lot of progress made in the city of Baltimore in the last 10 years. Notwithstanding some occasional disagreements, the fact of the matter is Baltimore has achieved the third largest reduction of violent crime of any major city in America. That headline has never made a headline, but its a fact. And the partnerships with the state’s attorney, the higher level of functioning especially with the war room, and the cooperation and collaboration with the Violence Prevention Initiative, you know, underscores all of those things. We continue to talk, and I believe the state's attorney's office led by Mrs. Jessamy has had a significant part in saving lives over these past years. It would fly in the face of the facts to say it hasn't.
The Sun: So are you endorsing Jessamy?
O'Malley: I anticipate - yeah, stay tuned. I mean, we talk every day. Partnerships between the state and the state's attorney's office have never been stronger, positive things on the war room, violence prevention initiative. This isn’t a campaign announcement today, but i believe her leadership and the performance of that office has been a part of why Baltimore has been able to achieve historic reductions in violent crime these last three years. We need to strengthen those partnerships, we need to strengthen the connection between the information we have and the information we're able to provide police to solve crimes. It all comes down to improving clearance rates and doing a much better job every day protecting the public. That's the mission we've all been engaged in, including Mrs. Jessamy over these last few years.
Baltimore has enough real criminals out there, we certainly don't need fake ones.
But that's just what's happening in Bolton Hill, according to a community Internet message board, which describes encounters with a man pretending to have been mugged and then asks for money:
Several Bolton Hill residents have reported they have been approached by a man informing them he had just been mugged. Each story is almost identical. He states he was just mugged. His phone, wallet and other belongings were stolen. He says he gave a report jto the police. He sometimes asks for a glass of water then asks for money to hold him over with the promise of a payback. Several residents have given him money. He lives in Bolton Hill and is a familiar face to many residents.
His identity has been reported to the police. If approached by anyone saying they were mugged, call the police immediately.
A stabbing and dangerous geography; another killing near Penn Sation
Should you be able to get off a bus or a train at Penn Station and walk to Mount Vernon, Bolton Hill or Charles Village without being attacked or even killed?
That's a question posed by a story in today's newspaper by Julie Scharper and Michael Dresser in the aftermath of Sunday's fatal stabbing of Stephen Pitcairn. The Johns Hopkins researcher was walking home from a bus when police said he was robbed and stabbed in the 2600 block of St. Paul St.
One of the great benefits to living in the city, and in places near downtown or in a vibrant neighborhood, is the ability to walk to the store or to get a haircut or grab a beer. Or even walk to work and walk home again. Take that away and a great part of city living is lost.
"Part of why we bought a house in Charles Village is because we can walk to the grocery store and the park and everywhere else," said Melissa Schober, 31, who moved to Baltimore from Boston with her husband in 2007. "But it feels unnatural to not have the ability to walk from one neighborhood to another, to have these boundaries."
Today's story notes attempts to revive neighborhoods around the train station, such as the Station North arts district around North Avenue. But more needs to be done. The Johns Hopkins University campus should be connected to the arts institute to Charles Village, Mount Vernon and Bolton Hill.
The barrier right now is neighborhoods full of boarded houses and crime.
Above, Reggie Higgins, a resident on the 2600 block of St. Paul St., places flowers on the make-shift memorial to Pitcairn. Higgins was with Pitcairn when he died on the sidewalk in front of Higgins' home. The Sun's Kenneth K. Lam took the picture at a vigil Wednesday night attended by residents and city officials, including the mayor and police commissioner (details are in a previous blog on this site).
Charles Village residents, city officials converge at stabbing site
Marc Unger had had enough. The comedian and Charles Village resident was standing at the foot of a memorial for Stephen Pitcairn, the Hopkins student slain near Unger's home Sunday, listening as politicians took turns making remarks when Unger boiled over with frustration.
"We are in fear!" Unger yelled, interrupting Councilwoman Mary Pat Clarke.
Unger described how he was asked by police to try to identify the body, and how he hasn't been able to get the image out of his head. He chastised a police spokesman for calling the stabbing an "isolated incident," pointing out that another man was killed a block away earlier this year. (The spokesman has since clarified that he meant that Pitcairn wasn't targeted). He said what happened to Pitcairn could've happened to anyone living or passing through the neighborhood.
Politicians promoted the event as a show of solidarity, a press conference where each to go before the cameras and call for an end to violence. But dozens of residents showed up, standing on either side of the podium, with the intention of expressing their concerns, and some grew increasingly frustrated at the lack of substantive talk. After all, there have been two other such events nearby this year alone, along Greenmount Avenue (after a 72-year-old Afro newspaper employee was shot at a carryout) and in Guilford (after a resident was robbed and locked in his own trunk).
Police Commissioner Frederick H. Bealefeld III matched their outrage, raising his voice above the street noise to condemn the failures of the system as veins popped out of his neck.
"We're sorry we failed," he began. "We're sorry we failed to protect you."
"I'm going to accept my responsibility and challenge myself about what we could've done better. But I want to hear from a lot of other people," he said, in an apparent allusion to the state's attorney's office or city judges. "... These people should not have been on the streets. We've got to get everybody behind this."
Bealefeld spoke about "bad guys with guns," saying he doesn't know what's debatable about keep gun offenders in prison. Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, who could barely be heard from where I was standing, and Del. Curt Anderson both spoke about supporting gun legislation in the next legislative session.
Of course, Pitcairn's killers weren't "bad guys with the guns" in the sense the public officials were talking about (and wasn't Pitcarin shot). True, John Alexander Wagner, one of those charged in the killing, has handgun and armed robbery convictions from 1991 and 1993 for which he received considerable prison sentences at the time. But in recent years, Wagner's crimes were for assaulting his then-girlfriend and driving a stolen car. He was charged by city police with armed robbery in April, though police never recovered a weapon despite catching Wagner as he ran from the scene.
That charge was later dropped because prosecutors say the victim refused to cooperate, and there is debate over whether prosecutors could have done more to keep the case alive. Regardless, gun legislation would have done little to change what transpired.
As the Sun reported Wednesday, Wagner received suspended prison sentences for his most recent crimes and was put on two concurrent probations in the city and later Baltimore County, never forced to serve any of his sentence despite repeatedly running afoul of his probation. He failed to check in with his agents, failed to take required anger management classes at the House of Ruth, picked up new criminal charges on three different occasions, and failed to attempt to pay restitution to one of his victims. Judge John Addison Howard found him guilty of violating his probation, but his probation simply continued unchanged.
Baltimore State's Attorney Patricia Jessamy has borne much of the brunt of criticism, and she stood far away from the officials gathered behind the podium, telling reporters she did not want to politicize Pitcairn's death. Prodded by a television reporter about whether her office had a role to play in fixing the problems that kept Wagner on the street, she noted that her office in recent years has inserted prosecutors into the violation of probation process, a civil matter traditionally handled by probation agents. Now, prosecutors attend the hearings to try to add weight to the probation agents' concerns. Indeed, prosecutors say they asked city Judge Howard to impose a three year sentence at one of Wagner's recent hearings, to no avail.
"I don't have all of the answers," Jessamy said, "but I never stop working and neither do my employees."
Earlier city councilwoman Belinda Conaway said debating crime and punishment wasn't the issue, challenging residents to reach out and help those less fortunate than themselves. "There's so many young people, crying out for help," she said.
Nearby, an 18-year resident stood by with a sign: "When criminals slip through the cracks, the city crumbles."
Killer of 6-year-old girl out of prison, in trouble again
Anne Arundel County police released pictures of a carjacking outside the Annapolis Mall earlier today hoping to find the victim who sped away after the suspect jumped out of the vehicle and was promptly arrested (photo at left).
His name is Arthur Tyler Felton, 38.
A check of the records reveals a stunning fact: Arthur Tyler Felton shot and killed 6-year-old Tiffany Smith in July 1991 during a gun battle with a rival drug dealer in West Baltimore's Walbrook community.
The shooting outraged the city much in the same way Sunday's stabbing death of Stephen Pitcairn does today, complete with similar complaints of lenient prison sentences for prior crimes and failures of judges and others to hold criminals accountable.
Felton pleaded guilty to second-degree mruder, agreed to testify against his rival and got a 30 year sentence, with all but 18 years suspended. He was released in 2005, after spending 13 years behind bars, and completed his probation just three months ago.
Now, police in Anne Arundel County have charged him with stealing a cell phone and an MP3 player from a Sears store in the mall and then briefly carjacking a woman in a failed bid to escape security guards.
Tiffany Square still stands on Rosedale Street, complete with the little girl's name and a few trees. But the promised revival of the neighborhood, along with promises by cops and others to end the scourage of drugs and violence, failed.
Now, after Pitcairn's death on St. Paul Street, a makeshift memorial is going up and politicans are again swarming the scene of a murder and promising reforms. And the debate rages over prison sentences.
Back in 1992, Tiffany's mother complained that her child's killers had gotten away with murder. After 20 years, the stories and the complaints remain the same.
Here are the details on the Annapolis theft and carjacking:
Information Sought/ Attempt to Locate Victim Southern District Detective Unit
On July 27, 2010, at approximately 3:05 p.m., officers from the Southern District responded to the 800 block of Bestgate Road in Annapolis for a report of an unknown disturbance. Through investigation, officers learned that a suspect inside of Annapolis Mall cut a cell phone and MP3 player off the display with a box cutter and attempted to leave Sears. The suspect ran and was subsequently chased by loss prevention officers.
The suspect fled outside into the parking lot and across Bestgate Road, where he approached and stopped a light-colored four door sedan, possibly a Toyota Camry, at Industrial Drive. The female victim attempted to drive off, but the suspect opened the driver's side rear door and jumped inside. The car began to drive again, stopped about 50 yards later and the suspect jumped out. The suspect brandished the same razor and swung it at loss prevention officers, who were finally able to control and apprehend him on the sidewalk.
The suspect, Arthur Tyler Felton, 38, of 101 Victor Pkwy, Annapolis, Maryland was arrested and charged with Theft, Assault (2 counts), CDS possession and Carrying a Concealed, Dangerous Weapon. The victim drove away from the scene and has not been reached. At this time, detectives are requesting that the victim of the possible attempted carjacking come forward to provide additional information in this investigation. If anyone knows the whereabouts of the victim, please contact Detective Praley at 410-222-1965.
At the Maryland Politics blog, Annie Linskey reports from this morning's Board of Public Works meeting that both Gov. Martin O'Malley and state Comptroller Peter Franchot addressed the killing of Hopkins researcher Stephen Pitcairn.
O'Malley, who as governor appoints judges when vacancies arise, stressed that judges must play their role:
“I don’t think I do a single interview with candidates for judges where I don’t emphasize the importance of protecting the rest of us from that small tiny group of people who harm others, who kill,” he said. ”That is the most important thing that a judge does, is protect the public.”
Franchot wants a briefing on the O'Malley Administration’s work to help law enforcement target parolees suspected of continued violent criminal activity, a tactic police find useful because it is generally easier to have a suspect re-committed to prison via a simple violation of parole or probation hearing than by building a fresh criminal case.
Franchot said he’d like to talk with the suspects in the case.
“I just wish I could sometimes sit down with this person and say: What was it? Why did you murder him?” Franchot said.
Too often, people get more angry over the way they're treated after something bad happens than by what actually happened. Clarence Lowe tried to get answers after a police cruiser ran over his grandson's leg last week and broke a bone.
The accident will most likely be ruled the child's fault -- Alvin Williams ran into Sheridan Avenue between two park cars and was hit by the patrol car. Police say the officer didn't see the child. Lowe disputes that the accident could've been avoided, but his calls to investigators and to police districts were met, he said, by indifference.
Earlier this week, Baltimore Police Lt. Col. Michael J. Andrew delivered a homebaked cake and Orioles trinkets to the child, who sits on a chair on his grandfather's front porch, his leg wrapped in a cast. The pictures show Alvin and Andrew (Alvin didn't say a word during the exchange).
The investigation is still in progress, and Andrew didn't admit guilt. But he did promise to call Lowe as soon as the probe is over and let him the know the results. And he gave him his business card with his cell phone number. And he not only apolgized to the young boy -- "I'm sorry this happened, buddy" -- he also told Lowe he should've been treated better when he called.
It was a simple, welcome gesture amid a torrent of negative police news.
Just days before the robbery and fatal stabbing of Stephen Pitcairn, Rick Gilbert's story in Pigtown was making waves.
Gilbert was attacked last month outside his home, given two black eyes, a broken nose and disregarded by police officers who were called to the scene. Within weeks, he left Baltimore. His story was told in a YouTube video posted by the Washington Village Development Association and generated some news coverage. The theme: Drug dealers chase out city resident.
Gilbert e-mailed me today wanting to tell the story in his own words. He says he had a "For Rent" sign in his window for weeks before the attack as he planned a move out west to Portland, Oregon - a decision fueled as much by stalled economic development and community groups that he felt didn't have his best interests as heart as any thump on the head from neighborhood thugs.
Ten years ago he bought and fixed up a home on West Ostend Street and Washington Boulevard, a young aspiring entrepreneur willing to take a chance and open to mixing with people of different backgrounds and social status. He played football with neighbors and started a skate program for area kids while building a business.
But as rehab projects around him went off track, the quieting of jackhammers amplified the police sirens in the neighborhood and he gradually became disillusioned. To be sure, the June 27 attack and the police response were crucial moments, he says. But he says his story has become colored with the agendas of others.
I'll let Rick tell it himself after the jump in the piece he sent me, edited for length and some content. The first half is about the most recent incident, but with the rest he waxes poetic on his decade as a city resident:
The Honest Truth, by Rick Gilbert
On the night of June 26th or the morning of June 27th I came home around 2:30 am after hanging out with some friends about 1 mile away from my home in Baltimore City. When I went to open my door, my four legged, hairy, 1-year-old dog, Zeke, came out to greet me as I entered. I took one step in to set my keys down and noticed the blur of fur had vanished around the corner. When I went around to pursue my dog I saw four young black dudes whom I know to be lower food chain drug dealers on my block. One had his bike in the air and threatened to throw it at Zeke. I insisted he was cool and pointed to his 6,000 rpm tail wagging as a point to consider before turning him into a Bi-doggy medley. But simple reasoning didn’t seem to work. I was instantly approached by all four guys, and when I looked away, I was hit a few times in the face. It was nothing that put me to the ground, but something that definitely made me wish I had that 10-speed instead of Zeke (temporarily at least).
I ran back to the house and was followed. One of the guys just stood there and I yelled something as the blood started literally covering my shirt and stoop. [A neighbor] asked if there was anything he could to help me out, so I let him in and asked him to wet a towel in the sink and bring it to me as I called 9-1-1 a few friends in the neighborhood.
The cops showed up followed by my friend, Adam. When Adam arrived at the “pending investigation,” he was almost immediately put in cuffs. I was thinking, Okay...WTF, and waited for Bob Saget to shoot around the corner with my $10,000 prize in hand. But he never came. Instead, Adam was issued a citation and the cops left without providing any type of police report. They where, however, kind enough to remove the cuffs they so hastily slapped on.
At this point I’m thinking this is a little backwards. The following morning was arguably one of my worst. I was covered in blood, had two black eyes coupled with a broken nose, and the thick smell of iron was in the air. Before I speak a word of English, or any other language in the morning, I must first have my cup of coffee. After scooting my nose to the side to take a sip I noticed the cream had gone bad. That being the least of my worries, I indulged and stepped out the front door for some air. To my delight a few neighborhood friends where participating in a street clean-up with two of whom I called the night before.
A few days later word started to spread around the neighborhood, and I received a call from the president of the local development association. He was interested in spreading my story by way of YouTube—which had become an effective tool for highlighting local criminals. I was skeptical at first, but then realized it may prevent situations like mine, or worse, from happening in the future. So we met, interviewed, and went our respective ways. At one point there were considerable comparisons to the Zack Sowers incident, but they were later dropped out of respect for his family and contrast in outcome. The video, for me, is a little over the top, but good overall. There was a lot of feedback to consider when editing the video before release, and Dan did a good job making sure everyone’s opinions were heard.
An article was also posted on the Investigative Voice depicts me as someone who has given up and thrown in the towel. Someone who was beaten and chased away by the big mean drug dealers. I understand where this angle is coming from, but I feel I should’ve been interviewed beforehand even if it meant postponing the article a day or two. The writer had called and emailed me, but I left town for the weekend not knowing the plans for the article. It irks me to see my name put in this light, because I’ve given up nothing. In fact, I’ve gained something from this experience. I’ve gained an understanding of an environment I chose to live in for the past three years, why I may have been attacked, and why I no longer wish to live there anymore. As for “sticking it out,” I bought my home with two burnt down houses next door, fended off junkies in vacant houses, removed a large group of dealers from the corner, built a business during a recession, and cleaned the alley and block on a weekly basis. These things didn’t require a committee or clean-up group, it was simply something that needed to be done.
Meanwhile I was the only owner-occupied house on the block. If that’s considered giving up, then I suppose I’m guilty. The truth is that I had the “For Rent” sign in my window well before this event took place. I had been planning to move out West. But since no one asked, I couldn’t tell. Being part of this incident certainly hasn’t led to any procrastination with my plans. An although my eye was partially swollen shut as a result of the attack, it helped me see better than ever. It’s taken an event like this and a whirlwind of emotion to help me finally put into words how I really feel. Overall, I’m grateful to arrive to these conclusions and will continue writing until it’s fully understood.
2000 – 2010: The city, neighborhood, and house have a lot more personal significance than some may know. Personally, I feel as if everyone has been using this story to gain a political advantage of sorts, but to also help bring light to every other existing problem in Pigtown. Because of the latter, I’ve agreed to be the poster boy for “The White Boy Who Got Beaten Up By The Drug Dealers Who Don’t Pay Taxes” campaign. But, in reality the bottom line is that I’m more heartbroken by the situation than the attack itself, not to mention pending financial loss on the house and lackluster police response from a city I’ve called home for 10 years. It’s made me feel that I really can’t trust anyone, and that I’m pretty much riding into the sunset solo on this one.
Baltimore, for me, was a place where I became a graphic designer, met great friends, and started my own business in the basement of 1303 W. Ostend Street. Among other things I’ve always enjoyed its diversity and the blue-collar mentality engrained in the city’s heritage. It has provided inspiration in my own work philosophy. Ironically, the shirt featured in the story by the Investigative Voice (Hecht Bros) was the first t-shirt I designed as part of a series that paid homage to the great Baltimore sign creators of the 20th century. In less than a 5- mile radius from the house, I was able to build a business and great clientele that included great companies ranging from Under Armour to Real Estate and Auto Glass Companies on Washington Blvd. My first summer at 1303 I even got the chance to start a skate program for the neighborhood kids.
Some parts were very magical and surreal and others very daunting and disturbing. A handy man (Tom) who painted my door and did other odds and ends at the house was found dead of a drug overdose in a Pigtown alley last year. I remember when I first moved in we would sit on the stoop and jam to classic rock tunes. It had the setting of a real Trenchtown and it was always interesting watching the expressions of the passersby. He was much better than I anticipated and I often found myself playing catch-up. Just recently Doug (a 65-year-old battling a lifetime of triggered seizures known as Sarge) who would occupy my stoop was found dead in a vacant rowhome last month on Cross St. When I moved my Design Studio up to the second floor, I would watch him go around and collect unfinished cigarette butts for the last few puffs of good tobacco. A neighbor across the alley set up a little table for him and would cook him dinner in the evenings. He was very weird about taking money and would never take any from me when offered. It created an intriguing depth to his personality. These two people could be written off by many because of their appearance, but to me it was all part of what made our neighborhood unique and I did what I could to help them out.
I often would have people over for dinner and drinks and after the shock of “why the hell did you move here” wore off, we’d settle into regular Norman Rockwell moments of throwing the football around in the streets. This was done intentionally to help give our corner a better vibe. I can say it was accomplished and would resort to football games in the middle of the street with a diverse mix of people who would NEVER meet under another circumstance. It gave me a weird sense of pride in a way—I felt like I was helping one side truly see the other. I remember my mom thinking it was cute that people started decorating for Christmas in October by putting up “blue lights” on the lamp post on my corner. I responded with “Yup, things are pretty festive around here.”
What I’ve come to learn during my three years as a Pigtown resident is that neutrality can only last so long. The Swiss approach to politics doesn’t work here. You get to a point where you’re forced to pick a side, and whichever one you choose, you are forced to live with the ramifications. And in my case, the consequences. And I didn’t even pick a side.
The choice created a huge dilemma for me because I’ve seen both sides, from the businessmen and the handyman. I simply could not fully pick one side or another and that is the real reason I left. Not because I got punched a few times. After discussions with friends and family, I’ve realized life is far too short to live this way and I’m no longer going to be part of an environment where “the greater good” isn’t allowed thrive and grow for a second longer. This isn’t politics. This isn’t pandering. This isn’t a soap box rant against the big bad drug dealers or the police. This is just me and my honest truth.
Suspect in Hopkins researcher stabbing held without bond
John Alexander Wagner, 34, one of the suspects charged in the robbery and stabbing of Hopkins researcher Stephen Pitcairn, was ordered held without bond in a brief bail review hearing this morning.
In this morning's paper we outlined Wagner's long criminal history, and his multiple infractions while on two separate yet concurrent probation terms that never triggered a change in his probation or prison time. District Court Judge Devy P. Russell emphasized Wagner's repeated crimes, reading them one-by-one even after pre-trial services officials and a prosecutor had each done the same a moment earlier.
She called his record "extensive and extreme" and said it was "clear from his prior record that he not only demonstrates an extreme disregard for others, but has an intent to commit malicious acts on his victims."
Wagner's public defender said he denied the current charges and said he has earned a GED and has been working a city hookah lounge for the past several weeks.
Anne Arundel County police have just released some remarkable photos of a carjacking suspect from the Annapolis Mall. They say a man stole a cell phone and an MP3 player, ran out of the complex and carjacked a woman by jumping into the back of her car.
He jumped out about 50 yards later and confronted security guards with a razor, according to police.
But the victim drove off, and now the cops are searching for her to help prosecute the case against the suspect.
Here are some of the photos police released from surveillance cameras showing the suspect, the car and the confrontation with the guards who were able to get him into custody.
More details of the case can be found here:
On July 27, 2010, at approximately 3:05 p.m., officers from the Southern District responded to the 800 block of Bestgate Road in Annapolis for a report of an unknown disturbance. Through investigation, officers learned that a suspect inside of Annapolis Mall cut a cell phone and MP3 player off the display with a box cutter and attempted to leave Sears.
The suspect ran and was subsequently chased by loss prevention officers. The suspect fled outside into the parking lot and across Bestgate Road, where he approached and stopped a light-colored four door sedan, possibly a Toyota Camry, at Industrial Drive.
The female victim attempted to drive off, but the suspect opened the driver's side rear door and jumped inside. The car began to drive again, stopped about 50 yards later and the suspect jumped out. The suspect brandished the same razor and swung it at loss prevention officers, who were finally able to control and apprehend him on the sidewalk.
The suspect, Arthur Tyler Felton, 38, of 101 Victor Pkwy, Annapolis, Maryland was arrested and charged with Theft, Assault (2 counts), CDS possession and Carrying a Concealed, Dangerous Weapon. The victim drove away from the scene and has not been reached. At this time, detectives are requesting that the victim of the possible attempted carjacking come forward to provide additional information in this investigation.
If anyone knows the whereabouts of the victim, please contact Detective Praley at 410-222-1965.
The youth had been in custody since the slaying of 65-year-old literature instructor Hannah E. Wheeling, whose body wa found Feb. 18 outside a building that housed lower-security detainees in a special program.
The Sun's Julie Bykowicz writes in the politics blog on lawmakers' search for answers on reforms:
Lawmakers first asked such questions in February. Several, including Del. Anthony J. O'Donnell, a Calvert County Republican, and Sen. C. Anthony Muse, a Prince George's County Democrat, requested a hearing with DJS Secretary Donald W. DeVore. But the hearing was aborted when legislative leaders said it was not official.
O'Donnell has issued several press releases about the killing, demanding the resignation of DeVore and seeking answers in the Wheeling case. Last week, he wrote to Democratic Gov. Martin O'Malley, demanding answers. DeVore quickly issued a response, seeking to assure the lawmaker that staff safety is paramount to the department.
It details how suspects Lavelva Merritt and John Alexander Wagner seems to skate through the criminal justice system, to the point where even Baltimore's mayor questions whether the male suspect should've been out on the street.
In one sense, it's a familiar tale of opportunities lost and thrown away, about a reluctant witness who refused to testify in an earlier robbery and about prosecutors who then ditched the case. Whose fault is that?
Above, in a picture by The Sun's Kenneth K. Lam, Joshua Eicher, part of a street-cleaning crew with the Charles Village Community Benefits District, pauses from his work to look at flowers and birthday cake left at a makeshift memorial in the 2600 block of St. Paul St.
The tragic death of Pitcairn, an aspiring Johns Hopkins research assistant who was working on stem cells and breast cancer, will be felt in Baltimore for years to come. Immediately, it will serve as a reminder of a criminal justice system that if not broken is badly in need of reform. It will provide fodder for what could be a volatile race for state's attorney (see earlier blog to get an idea of the fight ahead).
Here is just a few revelations that Justin's story explores:
•Wagner pleaded guilty to a vicious assault on his then-girlfriend in 2008 and received eight years in prison, but the entire sentence was suspended. He was charged with violating his probation on four occasions, but each time a city judge ordered that the terms of his supervision remain unchanged.
•In April, Wagner was caught on city surveillance cameras robbing a man at a downtown gas station and was arrested at the scene after the victim gave a detailed account and identified his attacker. But the victim later got skittish and refused to cooperate. Prosecutors dropped the case.
•And on July 22, a Baltimore County judge issued an arrest warrant for Wagner for violating his probation in a 2009 car theft conviction. But it was added to a backlog of tens of thousands of unserved warrants.
Sunday's stabbing death of Hopkins researcher Stephen Pitcairn is now immersed in politics. Former federal prosecutor Gregg Bernstein is charging that his opponent in the upcoming race for Baltimore State's Attorney failed to prosecute one of the main suspects and thus left him out on the street.
At issue is a case from April in which John Alexander Wagner was charged with robbing a gas station attendant, a crime that was caught, albeit briefly, on a video surveillance camera. (See the surveillance video at the end of the extended version of this post) The victim refused to cooperate, worried about retaliation, and prosecutors in State's Attorney Patricia C. Jessamy's office dropped the case.
Police privately say they feel the case still had merit and more than enough evidence even without the testimony of the victim. Prosecutors said they are Constitutionally bound to allow a suspect to cross examine a witness and can't move forward without the victim. "No victim, no case," said a spokeswoman.
Bernstein issued this statement today:
“Stephen Pitcairn’s murder, like so many others in Baltimore, was not just senseless – but preventable. John Wagner, like too many other violent offenders was allowed to walk out of the courtroom without being convicted. If the State’s Attorney had done her job, a job she has had for over 15 years, Stephen Pitcairn might still be alive today."
"Our thoughts and prayers go out ot the family of Stephan Pitcairn, a young man of great promise who was tragically and senselessly murdered. Shame on Gregg Bernstein for politicizing this tragedy!"
Jessamy declined an interview request. But we've reviewed the court file and there is at least one issue Bernstein raises in his full statement (which can be viewed below) that does not appear to be true. He charges that "nothing was done to speak" with the victim before prosecutors decided to drop the case.
The court file contains a document that shows prosecutor notes indicating authorities repeatedly pleaded with the victim to testify. "Very uncooperative," one note says. "Victim did not want to speak further," another note says.
“Stephen Pitcairn’s [ murder, like so many others in Baltimore, was not just senseless – but preventable. John Wagner, like too many other violent offenders was allowed to walk out of the courtroom without being convicted. If the State’s Attorney had done her job, a job she has had for over 15 years, Stephen Pitcairn might still be alive today.
There are too many stories where the police track down and arrest the bad guys only to watch as the State’s Attorney fails to fight for and obtain convictions. We need to stop this revolving door in which violent criminals are arrested only to see their charges dismissed or spend a short period of time in jail and then return to the street to commit more acts of violence.
The State’s Attorney needs to work with, not against, law enforcement and not engage in this blame game that we continue to see. Rather than come forward and discuss ways to ensure that cases like Mr. Pitcairn’s do not happen again and again, the State’s Attorney engages in the blame game.
Her spokesperson says the victim in John Wagner’s cases in April did not cooperate. Yet, nothing was done to speak with him or ascertain ways to obtain his testimony. And there was other evidence that could have been used in the form of video and the officers’ own testimony.
And then, with regard to the June 2008 case in which Wagner received probation, the State’s Attorney’s spokesperson blames the police, saying that the police do not do a good job in robbery cases. Yet, this was not even a robbery case, but instead a brutal assault
We cannot make our city safe by engaging in finger pointing and misinformation. We cannot make our city safe unless we focus on the most violent offenders. The State’s Attorney gave up on the robbery case against John Wagner in May of this year. In doing so, the State’s Attorney gave up on the safety of Baltimore and its residents
As State’s Attorney I will make it my goal and my mission to prosecute these violent offenders. And while I may not always be successful, it will not stop me from trying to find better ways to ensure our citizens are safe.”
Baltimore police just concluded a news conference in which they released more details about nine robberies at two light rail stations in South Baltimore -- Cherry Hill and Patapsco Avenue.
Contrary to earlier reports, one robbery did occurr about a train. The others were near the platform or in residential areas near the stations. Police said at least two attacks involved a gun; in the others, the suspects implied they had a weapon. Two were purse snatchings.
Police arrested four juveniles, one as young 14, and one 17-year-old who has been charged as an adult. The attacks occurred between May 23 and July 19. Police said they told people who live near the stations about the holdups and talked with passengers but they did not send out a news release or alert the general public.
Here are details from the arrest of the 17-year-old. It involves just one of the attacks, but it's an example of the types of robberies that occurred:
I just got some new information on the spate of robberies at light rail stations. More details will be released at a news conference scheduled for this afternoon.
Police have arrested one adult and juveniles in connection with at least eight robberies of light rail patrons on platforms in South Baltimore. Col. John E. Gavrilis, chief of the Mass Transit Administration police, said the attacks occurred at stations in Cherry Hill and on Patapsco Avenue between May 23 and June 19.
Gavrilis said one robbery involved a gun, two were purse snatchings and others involved threats. He said the suspects waited at the stations until a train arrived and then picked victims as they departed the cars and as they left the station.
Authorities have not yet explained why they didn't notify the public of the attacks; they typically like to keep details secret while they investigate and Gavrilis told me that undercover officers were working the area to catch the people responsible.
But light rail rider Emily Shrift of Annapolis told The Sun's Michael Dresser, who writes the Getting There blog, that she is concerned by the lack of information. “I find it very disturbing that the MTA didn’t notify the public of this spate of robberies,” she said.
Gravrilis called to update: he said his officers informed riders and community residents after the second robbery, and that one person who lives near one of the stations offered her front porch for undercover police surveillance.
Baltimore County police continue to hunt a rape suspect and have now linked an attack that occurred in June to another attack just three days ago. Here is there statement:
Baltimore County police continue their search for the suspect who sexually assaulted a 43-year-old woman in her residence after breaking into it on June 26 in the 6300-block of Monika Place, 21207. He has now been identified in an attempted rape that occurred in the 5900-block of Franklin Avenue, 21207, on July 24 at approximately 1:28 a.m. Investigators have received very little information in their attempt to identify the suspect in both of these cases.
Investigators were able to obtain a forensic artist’s rendition of the suspect in the June 26 attack. The latest victim also describes the suspect as a black male, approximately 20-30 years old, 5’6”-5’8” tall, with a heavy build, and medium complexion. He has a tattoo on his right forearm, and another tattoo on his right upper arm.
For more details:
Police responded on June 26 at approximately 11:42 p.m. for the report of a sexual assault on Monica Place. The victim advised that the suspect broke into her residence through a window and forced the victim to commit a sexual act. During the assault the victim fought back and injured the suspect by hitting him on his head with an undisclosed object. The suspect ran from the location after the attack and the victim contacted police. She was transported to GBMC Hospital where she was treated and released.
Shortly after the sexual assault, police received a call for an attempted burglary in the 1000-block of Coleridge Court, 21229 at approximately 2:04 a.m. on June 27. The victim advised police that he was awakened by noise and observed the suspect attempting to break into the apartment through the sliding glass doors. The suspect fled the area when the victim appeared. The suspect’s description was similar to the suspect described in the Monika Place sexual assault earlier.
On July 24, police were called to the 5900-block of Franklin Avenue. The 34-year-old victim told police that she was in her apartment and heard something, and found the suspect inside her apartment. The suspect, who was only wearing a T-shirt and socks, attacked the victim who began to fight back. After a brief struggle, the attacker fled from the apartment. The victim received minor injuries but did not require medical treatment.
Detectives now believe that the suspect is responsible for the above mentioned incidents, including an indecent exposure on July 23 at approximately 5:59 a.m., when the suspect exposed himself to a woman walking in the area of Ingleside Avenue and Craftswood Road, 21207
Anyone with information about the identity or whereabouts of the suspect is asked to call Baltimore County Police at 410-307-2020 or Metro Crime Stoppers at 1-866-7-LOCKUP (1-866-756-2587). To text a message to Metro Crime Stoppers, send to "CRIMES" (274637), then enter the message starting with "MCS," or e-mail a tip to www.metrocrimestoppers.org. Those contacting Metro Crime Stoppers can remain anonymous and might be eligible for a cash reward of up to $2,000.
In addition, the court papers say that the defendants made statements to the witnesses that they were "hunting to rob someone" and that they "robbed and 'hurt' a 'white boy.' "; The two witnesses identified the suspects in taped interviews and picked their mug shots from photo arrays, police said.
John Wagner, 34, and Levelva Merritt, 24, were arrested hours after Stephen Pitcairn was robbed and stabbed in the 2600 block of St. Paul St. on Sunday night. He had been walking home from Penn Station after a weekend trip from New York and was attacked four blocks from his house.
Police quickly identified suspects and raided a house on Maryland Avenue just a few blocks from the killing. They have not divulged what led them to the rowhouse or whether they were able to trace the victim's cell phone using GPS tracking.
The charging documents state that detectives searched a second-floor apartment and found both suspects in a front bedroom. The documents state detectives recovered:
Suspected blood from the front door of the address Shoes containing suspected blood A brown leather "Coach" wallet with victim's identification inside An iPhone belonging to the victim Several folding and fixed-blade knives
Both defendants have long criminal records. Wagner has been convicted of assault and robbery but has not served jail or prison time beyond time served, even after being convicted of violating the terms of his probation.
The Sun's Justin Fenton discovered this through court files and interviews:
Wagner's most recent arrest occurred in late April, when police used surveillance cameras to locate Wagner and a man who said Wagner had put him in a headlock and taken his belongings. The victim pointed out Wagner, who he said had first asked him if he was "BGF" — a member of the Black Guerilla Family gang — or "J," a reference to Jamaa, a Swahili word meaning "family" that is used by BGF members.
Prosecutors dropped the charge on May 18. On a form documenting the decision to place the case on the "inactive docket," prosecutors checked boxes indicating the victim did not appear and "gave statements inconsistent with evidence or otherwise lacks credibility."
Here are the charging documents in connection with the fatal stabbing:
Police to announce arrests in Light Rail robberies
Baltimore police and Maryland Transit Police are planning later today to announce arrests in a string of robberies on the light rail.
Only a few details have been made public thus far, but representatives from Baltimore County and Baltimore City police are scheduled to attend a news conference this afternoon, indicating the crimes stretch from the city to the suburbs.
Poice said the case involves at least eight robberies.
The death of Stephen Pitcairn and the court system
Stephen Pitcairn had come to Baltimore from his home in Florida, after attending college in Michigan and working with stem cells in Japan, where he became fluent in the language. Here, he assisted with breast cancer studies at the Johns Hopkins University and was poised to enroll in medical school.
Pitcairn had been in New York, hitching one of the cheap buses to visit his sister, according to a friend. He was on the phone with his mother when police say two robbers approached and demanded money. Police say his mother heard the robbery.
Pitcairn's death is likely to have a ripple effect on the Hopkins community for years to come, but the focus in the short-term at least is likely to shift to the suspects. Records obtained by The Baltimore Sun show that one of the suspects, John A. Wagner, had been charged in April with a robbery where he intimated that he was a member of the Black Guerilla Family gang, which seems tied to just about everything these days. But the charge was dropped the next month at the District Court level after the victim did not appear in court. The case is almost certain to touch off finger-pointing between prosecutors, who say police turn over flawed investigations, and police, who prosecutors are often too quick to roll over and drop charges.
It wasn't the first time Wagner got in trouble with the law, however. Court records show a car theft conviction from October 2009 in which he received 2 years in prison but served no time. Two years ago, he was convicted for assault, receiving an eight year suspended sentence. He violated his probation in that case three separate times, with each case resulting in a continuing of his probation.
I'm reminded of a conversation I had with Baltimore Police Commissioner Frederick H. Bealefeld III earlier this year about violent offenders who are put on probation but face no penalties when found in violation.
He told me believed that it was a simple matter of enforcing the conditions imposed by the court. Setting probation terms without enforcing them, particularly involving those who have been determined to be the state's most violent, sends a poor message to offenders, he said.
"I've heard many judges say, 'I'm going to suspend this sentence and give you probation, and heaven help you if you violate my conditions,' " said Bealefeld, raising his voice in frustration. "Do what you said you would do!"
A 29-year-old Baltimore man received 50 years in prison today for the murder of his wife, prosecutors announced.
Baltimore Circuit Court Judge Timothy J. Doory sentenced Antonio Stewart, 29, for the November 30, 2008 killing of wife Dawn Stewart-Williams, 41. Stewart was convicted by a jury in May.
Here's the account of the killing from prosecutors:
On November 30, 2008 at approximately 8:30PM Williams-Stewart’s daughter called her mother but Antonio Stewart, her husband, answered the phone and she heard Williams-Stewart yelling in the background to call the police as Antonio Stewart had hit her. A neighbor was called and went to the house to check on Ms Williams-Stewart’s welfare. Antonio Stewart answered the door holding a gun while Williams-Stewart was seen standing behind Antonio Stewart near the basement stairs screaming, “He’s going to kill me! Help me!” Antonio Stewart pushed the couple’s four-year old son out the door, who said “Daddy said he’s going to kill Mommy now.”
Police responded to 4021 Parkside Drive and, fearing for Williams-Stewart’s safety, immediately broke in the front door. Shots were fired and police retreated. The SWAT team then responded and unsuccessfully attempted to make contact with Antonio Stewart. At 11:16PM SWAT made entry into the home and found Williams-Stewart lying on the basement floor, shot once to the abdomen/chest area. Antonio Stewart was found on the deck of a neighboring house unconscious with a belt around his throat and gun in his hand.
Medics transported Stewart to a local hospital but he had no permanent injuries. On December 1, 2008 he gave a statement to police, claiming that he tried to shoot himself but the gun jammed, so he tried to clear it and it went off. He said his wife was shot by accident. Stewart claimed he tried to shoot himself again, and the gun jammed again. Evidence showed, however, there were five cartridge cases recovered in the basement and there was no evidence the handgun was defective.
Police arrest two in Charles Village murder of Hopkins researcher
Baltimore police just announced arrests in Sunday night's stabbing death of 23-year-old Stephen Pitcairn, the Johns Hopkins research technician who was killed in the 2600 block of St. Paul St. in Charles Village. Police said motive was robbery.
This morning, police raided a house a few blocks away in the 2600 block of Maryland Ave. and took seven people in for questioning. Two of them have now been charged in Pitcairn's killing. They are:
Lavelva Merritt, 24, and John Alexander Wagner, 34, who police say resided in the 2700 block of Maryland Ave.
Police say both face first-degree murder and other charges.
Pitcairn was attacked about 11:30 p.m. Sunday as he walked home from Penn Station. He was about four blocks from his house when police said at least two people robbed him of his wallet and then stabbed him.
In addition, The Sun's police beat reporter Justin Fenton is working hard on the suspects' criminal records and other background material, so check back here or the newspaper later tonight and tomorrow for even more information about the case.
Man arrested in drug chase that led to woman's death
Police have charged a 26-year-old with negligent manslaughter after he crashed into a woman’s vehicle while eluding city officers Sunday afternoon, court records show.
According to the court records, Tyrone Hicks, who was being sought on a warrant, struck two officers’ vehicles as he attempted to evade arrest. Police have a policy against high-speed chases, but said that they had received information that Hicks was armed.
Several baggies of marijuana were recovered, but no weapon, according to court records.
The victim was identified in charging documents as Queonna Zophia Edmonds, who police say was from rural South Hill, Va. Attempts to locate family members were unsuccessful, but she appears to have been a 2007 graduate of the University of Virginia and worked a Washington DC theater. It's unclear what brought her to Baltimore.
At about 3 p.m., police received a call about a man who was selling drugs and was possibly armed at the intersection of Monroe and Penrose streets, according to court records. Police saw a blue Ford pickup truck matching the description and activated their emergency lights and sirens to conduct a car stop.
Hicks drove away at a high rate of speed and struck the vehicle of Officer Michael Minor, police said. Two officers continued pursuing Hicks when they saw a box thrown out of the window. Officer Jared Stern recovered the box, which contained four plastic baggies with suspected marijuana, records show.
At the intersection of Gilmor and McHenry, Hicks attempted to make a right turn onto McHenry and struck the vehicle of Officer Nathan Zachmann, who lost control of his vehicle and struck the vehicle of Officer Stephan White, court records show. Both vehicles were disabled, but Hicks continued.
His vehicle failed to stop at an intersection at Monroe and McHenry and struck the driver’s side of Edmonds’ 1998 Honda Civic, causing both vehicles to spin out. Edmonds was taken to Maryland Shock Trauma Center, where she was pronounced dead at 4:15 p.m. from multiple injuries. Hicks is being held without bond.
The crash came hours after a police pursuit on Interstate 83 killed a motorcyclist who failed to pull over during a traffic stop. Police say that officer had been ordered by supervisors to cut off the chase, and he has been suspended pending an investigation.
Anne Arundel County police are asking for help in locating suspects wanted in a home-invasion and kidnapping case from this morning. Authorities say the incident is believed to be domestic in nature.
BREAKING UPDATE: Officers and detectives recovered the female victim, Sherry Lane, around 3:45 p.m. in the 1400 block of Houghton Road in Glen Burnie. Additionally, one suspect, Roy Thomas, was taken into custody without incident. Detectives pinpointed this address through investigative means. The victim is not injured, but is being offered Mobile Crisis. The investigation is very active and ongoing at this time.
"All three suspects forcefully removed the female victim, Sherry Anne Lane, 26, of that address, and placed her into a vehicle parked outside of the residence," according to a police statement. "Another female resident awoke to the sounds of the female victim screaming and made her way to a window, where she saw the three suspects force the victim into the vehicle."
Here are some more detail's from The Sun's Andrea Siegel:
"We believe the motive was domestic related. We do believe she is in imminent danger,” said Justin Mulcahy, a county police spokesman. The vehicle, seen by another woman living in the house who was awakened by the commotion and looked out the window, appeared to be a light or silver colored four-door sedan. Court records show the victim and suspect had been involved in paternity issues.
The victim is described as a 26-year-old white female standing about f feet 3 inches tall and weighing about 135 pounds. She has brown hair and blue eyes. If anyone has information or seen the victim or suspects, call Detective Mangold at 410-222-3458 or immediately dial 911.
Here is the full statement from Anne Arundel County police:
KIDNAPPING / ABDUCTION HANOVER
On July 26, 2010, at approximately 4:21 a.m., officers from the Western District responded to a residence in the 7700 block of Pinyon Road in Hanover for a report of a home invasion.
Upon arrival, officers spoke with a male resident, who advised that he received a knock at the door and let a male subject into the residence working under the assumption that he was a friend of a female victim, who was staying at that residence. The male resident went back downstairs and he then heard multiple suspects inside of the residence demanding to locate the female victim. At a certain point, the male resident relayed that he heard an altercation between a second male resident and three male suspects.
During that altercation, the second male resident, a 17-year-old acquaintance to the female victim, was assaulted at gunpoint by one of the suspects, Roy Albert Thomas, 26, of no fixed address (seen in the picture). Next, all three suspects forcefully removed the female victim, Sherry Anne Lane, 26, of that address, and placed her into a vehicle parked outside of the residence. Another female resident awoke to the sounds of the female victim screaming and made her way to a window, where she saw the three suspects force the victim into the vehicle.
Detectives from the Major Crimes Section responded to the residence to assume responsibility for the investigation. At this time, the incident is believed to be domestic in nature and one of the suspects, Roy Thomas, an ex-boyfriend of the female victim, targeted her in this incident. Further information revealed that Thomas had physically assaulted the female victim in the past and had made verbal threats against her within the last week.
All three of these suspects are to be considered armed and extremely dangerous. The female victim is described as a 26-year-old white female, approximately 5’3”, 135 pounds, with brown hair and blue eyes. If anyone has information on the whereabouts of the suspects or the victim, they are urged to contact Detective Mangold at 410-222-3458 or immediately dial 911.
Breaking news update: The victim in the Charles Village stabbing was a Johns Hopkins research assistant who worked in the school of medicine. Police executed a raid in the 2700 block of Maryland Ave in connection with the investigation and took away two people in plastic cuffs (right).
In addition to two fatalities involving police chases (one in which an officer was suspended, another in which a man was arrested on drug charges), there was plenty of violence to go along with the hot weekend.
Brent Jones summaries some of the incidents, which include a fatal stabbing in Charles Village. Police say the victim was attacked just shy of his birthday in an apparent robbery in the 2600 block of St. Paul St. The stabbing occurred about 11:30 p.m.
A 25-year-old Virginia woman is dead after a man fleeing city police struck her vehicle in West Baltimore, the second time in less than 24 hours that a suspect fleeing police has resulted in a traffic fatality.
At 3 p.m., police received a call for a possibly armed suspect dealing drugs from a truck at Monroe and Penrose streets, police said in a statement. The driver, identified as Tyrone Hicks, 26 (seen at left in a 2004 booking photo), attempted to flee, striking three police cars. Police said Hicks "continued to engage police in a pursuit throughout the city" and collided with a civilian vehicle at the intersection at Monroe and McHenry streets.
The woman was transported to Maryland Shock Trauma and died as a result of her injuries. Police did not identify her but said she is a 25-year-old from Spring Hill, Va.
During the chase, police said Hicks threw a "box-like object" out of his vehicle containing suspected narcotics. He was being sought on a warrant and has an extensive criminal history, police said.
Hicks was being sought on a warrant for drug distribution, theft and using a firearm in drug trafficking. He has a 2006 from Howard County - charged with drug dealing, he pleaded guilty to giving a false statement to an officer and got 90 days in jail. In 2007, he pleaded guilty in the city to drug dealing and got two years. There's a whole host of other charges and convictions as well.
Baltimore police are not allowed to chase other vehicles unless given expressed permission and then only in the most unique circumstances. This chase began on Northern Parkway in the city after the officer apparently saw the motorcyclist racing another vehicle.
It ended on an off-ramp from I-93 to Dulaney Valley Road about 3 a.m. Maryland State Police said the vehicles collided and the motorcyclist was "ejected from the motorcycle onto the hood of the police car and then onto the roadway."
UPDATE: The officer has been identified as 10-year veteran Timothy Beall, who according to Sun reporter Justin Fenton's records fatally shot a man in January 2009. Police said at the time that the man pointed a Chinese assault rifle at Beall during a foot chase in Better Waverly. The shooting was ruled justified.
Here are more details from a state police news release:
OFFICER INVOLVED FATAL CRASH INVESTIGATED
(Towson, MD) – Maryland State Police are continuing their investigation of a fatal traffic crash in Baltimore County early this morning that involved a Baltimore Police Department officer and a motorcyclist who had allegedly previously been observed committing traffic violations in the city.
The motorcyclist is identified as Haines E. Holloway-Lilliston, 27, of the 200-block of Lord Byron Lane, Cockeysville, Md. He was operating a 2002 Suzuki GSX 600 motorcycle. He was pronounced dead at the scene of the collision.
The other driver is identified as Officer Timothy E. Beall, 31, of the Baltimore Police Department. Beall was operating a marked Baltimore Police Department 2006 Chevrolet Impala patrol car. Beall was wearing his police uniform.
Shortly before 3:00 a.m. today, Maryland State Police at the Golden Ring Barracks were called by the Baltimore City 911 Center and advised that a city officer was behind a motorcycle that was speeding north on I-83. A short time later, Officer Beall called the barracks and, in a brief conversation, said he was behind a motorcycle he believed was stolen. Soon afterwards, State Police were notified by the Baltimore County Emergency Operations Center to respond to a traffic crash on the ramp to southbound Dulaney Valley Road from the Inner Loop of I-695.
Troopers responding to the scene found the crash on the ramp involved the marked patrol vehicle driven by Officer Beall and the motorcycle driven by Holloway-Lilliston. Baltimore County Fire Department units responded to the scene and EMS personnel pronounced the motorcyclist dead at the scene. Holloway-Lilliston was wearing a helmet.
The Maryland State Police CRASH Team responded to conduct a detailed crash investigation. The preliminary investigation indicates the motorcycle was in front of the police car as both proceeded south on the off-ramp. Evidence indicates the vehicles collided and the motorcyclist was ejected from the motorcycle onto the hood of the police car and then onto the roadway. The speeds of the vehicles at the time of the collision have not been determined.
Preliminary information indicates the police officer had witnessed the motorcycle involved in a possible speed contest with a car on Northern Parkway. When the officer attempted to pull the motorcycle over, the driver did not stop and continued north on I-83. Preliminary information also indicates Officer Beall was the only police officer involved in following the motorcycle. No other police units from the city or other police agencies were involved.
Holloway-Lilliston had a valid Maryland driver’s license, but he did not have a motorcycle license. The motorcycle he was operating was displaying tags listed to another motorcycle. The motorcycle was not reported stolen.
No charges have been filed at this time. A detailed accident reconstruction is being conducted by the Maryland State Police CRASH Team. The completed investigation will be forwarded to the Baltimore County State’s Attorney’s Office for review.
This month, one of the young men featured in the well-regarded documentary "Boys of Baraka" stood before a judge in a courtroom, where he was indicted on federal drug-conspiracy charges.
"Every child is unique in their situation," said Robert C. Embry, president of the Abell Foundation, which funded the experimental school. "The child was somewhere else for the years before Baraka. You can't replace those 12 years. All you can do is try and make things better."
A Baltimore police officer pleaded guilty in Circuit Court to shooting at a car after a dispute in Canton last year. Patrick A. Dotson, 28, is scheduled to be sentenced in September but he agreed as part of his plea deal to a 10 year prison term, with all but 18 months suspended.
Sun court reporter Tricia Bishop writes:
According to court records, Dotson was off duty in the early morning hours of March 9, 2009, when he and other officers got into a fight with bar patrons at Fins on the Square in the 2900 block of O'Donnell St. The brawl spilled onto the street, was broken up, then resumed a block away.
Dotson battled with Dustin Jackson, who later got into a car with a buddy and drove off. When Dotson saw them pass, he "produced a handgun and fired," said Assistant State's Attorney, David Grzechowiak. The car was struck near its gas tank.
His conviction comes on the heels of Baltimore Officer Gahiji Tshamba's indictment this month on murder and handgun charges connected to the off-duty killing of an unarmed man outside a Mount Vernon nightclub. Another Baltimore officer, Tommy Sanders III, was acquitted of manslaughter last month in the 2008 shooting death of an unarmed suspect who ran from him to evade arrest.
Drug suspect in "haze" and acting "groovy," court says
The Maryland Court of Appeals today upheld the conviction of a Baltimore man on a marijuana charge. Cops had burst into the house on a warrant and confronted four people sitting around a table, with a marijuana joint burning in the ash tray.
One of the men arrested, charged, convicted and sent to jail for 60 days appealed, arguing the police couldn't prove the marijuana belonged to him. The judges, with two dissents, thought otherwise and upheld the conviction on the grounds that his proximity to the drugs made it reasonable to infer that he "enjoyed them." (read the ruling).
Here's the opening of the opinion, one of the best I've seen recently:
"Reminiscent of a scene from a Cheech & Chong movie, Baltimore City police officers, on 6 December 2006, executed a search warrant on a dwelling at 1932 Lanvale Street where the occupants on one floor were found shrouded in a haze of marijuana smoke.
Despite the appearance of the police, Clavon Smith (“Petitioner”), one of those present, behaved as though everything remained “groovy.” Smith was seated in a chair at a table within arm’s reach of a smoldering marijuana blunt and next to another chair over which was draped a jacket with fifteen baggies of marijuana in one of its pockets.
Although convicted of possession of marijuana in violation of Maryland Code (2002 & Supp. 2009), § 5-601(a)(1) of the Criminal Law Article, Petitioner claims that the State did not prove beyond a reasonable doubt that he possessed any of the marijuana. We shall hold that the evidence was sufficient as to the marijuana blunt to support his conviction for a single count of simple possession of marijuana."
Now checkout the footnotes:
"For those not familiar with them, Richard “Cheech” Marin and Tommy Chong (Cheech and Chong) are a comedy duo whose recreational drug (“stoner”) humor became popular in the 1970s with the release of several comedy albums, and which led to a string of movies, beginning with “Up in Smoke” in 1978, that portrayed recreational drug use in nonthreatening situations. Although the team broke up in 1987, they reunited solidly in 2008 and continue to tour and make movies and television appearances to the present day.
“Blunt” is a popular term for a marijuana cigar. A police witness testified that to create a blunt the smoker obtains a legitimate cigar, removes the tobacco, and substitutes marijuana for the tobacco. The smoker then rolls the wrapper and the marijuana back into the shape of a cigar and lights up.
Yesterday we reported about a bunch of morning shootings that left two dead and four injured. In one of the incidents, police had found a man in Northwest Baltimore dead from a gunshot wound to the face at about 7 a.m., and neighbors reported hearing gunshots earlier in the night.
After an autopsy, however, the case got a bit more complicated.
The medical examiner ruled that the man, 38-year-old Steven Harris, hadn't been shot at all. He had been cut. There isn't a cause of death at the moment, and the investigation is continuing. In the meantime, it can't be listed as a homicide because police don't know what happened.
Police spokesman Anthony Guglielmi said that shards of glass were located at the crime scene, in the rear of the 4200 block of Pimlico Rd., so he may have cut himself. But that doesn't necessarily mean that that was the cause of death.
"All we've ruled out is that he was shot, and the rest is pending," Guglielmi said.
Harris, of the 1700 block of Northbourne Rd., has a long record of drug arrests and theft, disorderly conduct and trespassing charges. Guglielmi said some witnesses reported that Harris had been running around the neighborhood intoxicated.
City police seek help in Highlandtown sexual assault investigation
City police are asking the public for help in identifying a man who tied up a music store clerk with an electrical cord and sexually assaulted her before fleeing with cash. Police said the incident occurred Thursday at about 9:15 a.m. in the 3600 block of Eastern Ave. in Highlandtown. The clerk, an adult female, was the only person in the store and was taken to a back room.
Police believe the suspect lives in the neighborhood and released stills from surveillance cameras in the store. Anyone with information was asked to call the sex offense unit at 410-396-2076.
If you were watching last night's Orioles game, you saw classic freak-outs from infielder Ty Wigginton and manager Juan Samuel as the team notched as many ejections as hits. You also probably wondered what in the world was going on during a two minute delay for a fan on the field. Here's a video uploaded onto YouTube, showing the fan taking a casual jog around the infield and past players as police and security, well, stand around watching. The guy actually gives up, jumps back into the stands, then apparently decides that if no one's going to try to arrest him, why not head back out? He's caught because he runs out of breath, not because anyone's close to nabbing him.
Yahoo!'s sports blog, Big League Stew, summed it up like this:
Honestly, I'm not sure if the cops just thought the kid would pass out by himself in the muggy harbor heat or if Thursdays at OPACY have been tabbed as a Hamsterdam of sorts for field trespassers, but that youngster had to set some sort of record for most time spent on the field without being tackled or even touched. Seriously, folks, don't exert yourselves.
Police spokesman Anthony Guglielmi said that it's the policy of the police department not to chase fans around the field and become "part of the spectacle." He said they wait until the fan, typically intoxicated, burns themselves out and then they are placed under arrest. "We don't Tase or beat them, or anything like that," he said. Indeed, in watching videos from other stadiums, it appears as though its typically stadium staff, not cops, that end up being part of those spectacular takedowns. So the bigger question is why no team staff members even enter the frame during last night's jog.
UPDATE: Police spokesman Donny Moses said the fan was a juvenile, so police can't release his information.
I hate to link to a Red Sox video, but I think this is how it's done:
Baltimore leaders just completed a budget in which they raised taxes and fees to close a $121 million shortfall, barely avoiding laying off police officers and eleminating key police programs, such as the helicopter unit.
In June, after the brutal budget process that scared many employees (some actually got pink slips) and before changes in the pension system took effect that cost cops more money in contributions in exchange for less benefits, more police officers than expected left the force. The number who quit or retired totaled 42, more than the 17 in June of last year and the 20 in June the year before that.
The union insist many or most of the 42 cops who left did so because of the pension changes; the city insists that is just not true, that only three of the officers are affected by the changes and that the departures fit ever-changing patterns over previous years.
That left the 3,119-member department short 106 officers and Police Commissioner Frederick H. Bealefeld III sounded an urgent alarm with an interview on Maryland Public Television (which can be heard here).
The news conference Thursday night at a community walk made it seem like the city was getting more cops. In reality, the city is fully funded for 3,119 and these new hires will merely bring the staffing up to it's full potential, factoring in attrition and that the hires are spread out over the next 18 months.
The real key is how the city plans to pay for the academy classes. Just a week ago, cops were lamenting having money for only two or three classes a year, down from the usual five or six. Now all of a sudden they've got money for five or six reaching into the next fiscal year.
Here's the city's statement on the new hires:
"Public safety is and will remain a top priority of my administration. With my Comprehensive Budget Plan in place, we have restored every single police officer position in the Police Department budget," Mayor Rawlings-Blake said. "Now the focus must be on continued, strong hiring efforts to ensure that budgeted police officer positions remain filled."
The police officer hiring plan calls for additional measures to enhance and expedite the Police Department's hiring process to keep pace with normal retirement trends including:
* Hiring two additional certified consultants to conduct polygraph screenings;
* Hiring up to 9 contractual employees to conduct background investigations in order to clear a processing backlog of applications from new recruits;
* Create a processing unit by consolidating several smaller units that will track and distribute cases, complete civil service testing, schedule various forms of physical/psychological/polygraph testing, etc. This unit will determine the applicants that proceed to a background investigation; and
* Create a third background investigation squad to handle the large volume of applicants. At present there are over 80 cases in the background process and over 120 awaiting the assignment of a background investigator.
* The Police Department will implement additional testing opportunities for applicants.
"Despite a very difficult budget situation, Mayor Rawlings-Blake is providing the resources my department needs to ramp-up our plan to hire hundreds of new Police officers this year and next," Commissioner Bealefeld said.
Apparently, last year, visitors got a little out of control, pulled fire alarms and emptied stand-pipe water valves in the city-owned Hilton Convention Center Hotel near Camden Yards. At least a dozen rooms got flooded and damage, according to Clack, ran into the "hundreds of thousands" of dollars. At left, firefighters arrive at the conference. The photo is by The Sun's Barbara Haddock-Taylor.
The city's fire union blames the damage on visiting volunteers. Another city official hinted that maybe visiting soccer fans (in town for the Chelsea-AC Milan match) might be to blame. But the stand-pipes (akin to indoor fire hydrants) can only be opened with a firefighter's tool, so that might narrow down the suspects.
No one was every charged and officials said those responsible were never found. But poor Clack had to use his opening address to lecture the visitors about childish behavior. This is one of the city's biggest conventions, brining up to $15 million into the city. It's been coming to Baltimore for 27 years.
Jeff Novack is indeed a hero, and a soft-spoken one at that. I know from history that firefighters are reluctant to talk about their deeds -- it is what they do and they hate being singled out for pulling someone out of a burning building.
In the photo by The Sun's Barbara Haddock Taylor, Novack is with Fire Chief James S. Clack and Rawlings-Blake.
You'll probably remember that Novack rushed into a burning apartment building on Liberty Heights Avenue in April and rescued an elderly woman. He then rushed back in, got trapped and clung to a third-story window pain before finally letting go and falling to the ground. He recovered and is expected back at work in a few months.
But for the fire union, Jeffrey Novack is more than a hero. He's a symbol of everything that is wrong with the Baltimore Fire Department and the city. Novack was on a truck company and responsible for rescues. The nearest engine that pumps the water was on another call, and the next closest engine had bed shut down for budget reasons as part of rolling closures.
So Novack went into the burning building without backup. The union has used this case as yet another example of safety being compromised to save money. And union officials found it particularly upsetting that the mayor touted her devotion to public safety and the Fire Department in front of firefighters fround around the country when they feel she has compromised the safety of the city.
The mayor's office counters that Rawlings-Blake saved firefighters' jobs during one of the city's worst budgets, started programs to curtail frequent callers to 911 and reduced the number of rotating closures from up to five or six companies a day to three.
The young Jeff Novack has become part of the debate but he hasn't added to it. He accepted his award, the applause and the attention that comes with it. To the mayor, he's a shining example of what this city is about. To the union, he's a shining exmample of a troubled city.
Jeff Novack just wants to come back to work, fight fires and save lives.
Lexington Market drug investigation leads to 85 pounds of pot
A drug investigation that started at Lexington Market led to a raid last night in Northeast Baltimore that netted 85 pounds of suspected marijuana and the seizure of more than $2,100 in cash, police said.
The raid occurred at about 5 p.m. in the 1600 block of Waverly Way, located within the Renaissance Club apartments. Det. Kevin Brown, a city police spokesman, said David Andrews, 48, and Dwayne Jackson, 51, are believed to have been supplying dealers at the downtown market.
Jackson was being held on $2 million bond, while Andrews was held on $500,000 bond, according to court records. Those are high bails - I couldn't find any prior arrest history for either man in the city.
Lexington Market was recently the focus of a CNN report about prescription drugs. The footage of the bust isn't great, but the DEA apparently allowed the reporter to do an on-camera interview with a man who had been taken into custody. The report concludes that prescription drug sales at the market are "booming."
I've got a hankering for a Faidley's crab cake just writing about the market...
Speaking of marijuana: prosecutors filed documents in federal court seeking to seize a Woodstock, Md. home after police discovered 10 pounds of marijuana and 660 marijuana plants in a kennel on the property of Roger Alan Smith at 10820 Furman Lane, near Marriottsville Road. The Carroll County drug task force had received a tip in June that Smith was growing large amounts of marijuana, and police used a thermal scan to detect an unusually large amount of heat coming from an area of the kennel, court records show. It does not appear Smith has yet been charged in connection with the raid.
Investigators were on the scene of a double-shooting in Brooklyn, where a man was fatally shot in the street at about 9:50 a.m.
Police spokesman Jeremy Silbert said the man was shot several times in the 4200 block of 10th St. and died on the scene, while a woman who was struck in the leg was taken to a local hospital. The shooting was near the Brooklyn Homes project and not far from an elementary school.
"There were several people outside, but the only description we have was that two males were seen running east from the location," Silbert said.
It was one of those killings we barely covered. Keith Ray Jr. was found dead of a bullet wound to the back of the head, lying under logs and brush in woods off Wyman Park Drive in Remington. It was Sept. 25, 2007, and the newspaper account devoted a single paragraph to the killing.
Three years later, on Monday, Ray's killer was sentenced to live in prison. His sister Felcia Ray, and a local Episcopal pastor, Alice M. Jellema, spoke during the hearing. They told of Ray's goodside, how he played with his four children and liked to grill. They noted he fell in with the wrong friends -- the suspect was his friend and they fought over money.
I sat down with the pastor this week and she expressed anger at a society that she says condones violence as a way to solve problems. She worried for Ray's children, now living with their grandmother, especially 11-year-old Darrien, who participates in classes where New York Times science articles are discussed but also could take to the streets.
I've written more about this case in Thursday's Crime Scene column, and I want to share here the victim impact statements from Felicia (the unsigned one) and from the pastor. They shed some insight on the impact of what was unfortunately an all too routine killing in Baltimore:
Baltimore County police shoot man while busting counterfeit ring
A slew of crime news from the Baltimore region today:
-Baltimore County police officers shot and killed a man while breaking up an East Coast money counterfeiting ring, according to authorities. The Sun's Brent Jones reports that the shooting occurred during a raid at a Pikesville hotel on Reisterstown Road.
Details are still scant, but it appears the cops exchanged gunfire with at least one of the suspects. Two others were arrested. More details are here.
-A woman who was knocked out from a punch to the face by a Howard County police officer is speaking out, saying the incident was "like domestic abuse."
"To hit me with a closed fist, that is uncalled for, that's like domestic abuse," said Rita Christine Anderson, of Columbia. "I feel like I was violated as a woman to be punched like that."
Read more from the Howard County Times' Kellie Woodhouse.
In 2007, when Muhammad was 17, he faced attempted first-degree murder, assault and related charges for "violently and repeatedly" striking a 44-year-old man with a baseball bat and kicking him; he was left paralyzed from the waist down after a brawl. Among the charges was a little-used gang statute passed by the state legislature in recent years.
Muhammad pleaded guilty to a single count of second-degree assault and was sentenced to 10 years with all but three and a half years suspended.
Baltimore police say 42 officers left the force in June. That's up from 17 who departed in the same month last year, and the 20 who left the year before that. The department is now 106 officers short of its authorized strength of 3,119 sworn positions.
The union says it's no coincidence that the exodus occurred in the weeks leading up to changes in their pensions that left them contributing more and getting less -- and upping the years from 20 to 25 need to retire. City Hall says the departures, while unusually high when compared to the most recent years, are not unusual when looking back over the past decade. They say 31 officers left in June 2004, 53 in June 2005 and 41 in June 2007.
I've included charts showing attrition rates and officer departures and you can look at the numbers and decide for yourself. Either way, police are planning more recruitment drives aimed at enticing ex-military types and women, even though they've cut back on academy classes from five or six a year to two or three.
The police union says their threats of an exodus have come true; City Hall says this is just part of a routine pattern.
City council hearing on officers carrying weapons off-duty
From the outset of Wednesday night's city council hearing on police internal discipline and the policy of requiring officers to carry their weapons while off duty, Councilman James Kraft made it clear that no one would be allowed to discuss specifics.
What followed was an overly broad discussion of police policies and the department's efforts to curb bad behavior. Police Commissioner Frederick H. Bealefeld III said he is not against making amends to the policy requiring officers to carry their weapons, but said no change would be made without careful deliberation.
Robert F. Cherry of the city police union told councilmembers not to be swayed by furor over the Tshamba incident and that officers are expected to put themselves in danger and should be armed. He said a change in policy would "put officers in grave danger and by extension the citizens we are sworn to protect."
Tyrone Powers, a former FBI agent and professor at Anne Arundel Community College, told the council that there should be a clear ban on officers carrying weapons while consuming alcohol. "There's no training that teaches you how to deal with alcohol and weapons. They never, ever mix," he said. He said officers who know they are going to be drinking or find themselves around alcohol must leave the gun at home or extract themselves from the situation. "That's the burden of policing."
House minority leader Del. Anthony J. O’Donnell is demanding answers about the February death of a teacher at a state juvenile facility in Prince George’s County. O’Donnell, who represents Calvert County, said it is inexcusable that five months have elapsed and yet no charges have been filed in the killing – even though investigators quickly identified a 13-year-old suspect.
A fellow employee found Hannah Wheeling's beaten body early one Feburary morning outside a locked door at a small, lower-security building on the groounds of Cheltenham Youth Facility. The suspect, a boy she had taught, was moved to another juvenile center in Maryland. Little information has emerged about the circumstances of the killing, though the Department of Juvenile services shuttered the building and fired two employees.
O’Donnell, a frequent critic of DJS, says Gov. Martin O’Malley most be held accountable for the lack of movement in the case and said he can’t help but wonder if the delays are politically motivated. O’Malley, a Democrat, faces reelection in November.
“He has the responsibility to give us information,” O’Donnell said. “How many months is it going to take?”
Read more of Sun reporter Julie Bykowicz's post at the politics blog.
Chicagoans believe crime growing worse as numbers dive
Nearly half of the city dwellers who responded to a new poll for Tribune/WGN believe Chicago's crime problem is growing worse. But the reality is that overall crime in Chicago is down when compared with last year and homicides are nearly flat, with no significant uptick compared with recent years, the Tribune reported.
The telephone poll of 800 male and female heads of household from the six-county Chicago area began July 8, one day after Chicago police Officer Thor Soderberg was gunned down in Englewood. A little less than two months earlier, Officer Thomas Wortham IV was killed in the Chatham neighborhood. And on Sunday, four days after the poll was completed, Officer Michael Bailey was killed outside his Park Manor home.
Experts agree that these high-profile homicides, coupled with a bad economy and a steady stream of news about shootings, have fed a public perception that crime in Chicago is getting worse, the Tribune reported. The Market Shares Corp. poll — which has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.5 percentage points — found that only 30 percent of Chicagoans feel their neighborhoods are safe.
State parole and probation officials unveiled this morning new technology to make it easier for cops on the beat to identify offenders on parole and probation:
"Livescan allows a parolee or probationer to be digitally fingerprinted, palm-printed, and photographed at one machine, with the confirmed identification information being transmitted quickly to the Law Enforcement Dashboard, a system that allows police officers to view an offender’s criminal history information from multiple sources within minutes on a single screen.
Livescan closes an information gap: until now, police agencies were not always able to immediately ascertain whether someone was under Parole and Probation supervision. Now, that important component of an offender’s record will show up as a reportable event on his or her “RAP” sheet within minutes after Livescan completes the process."
DPSCS Rolls Out Livescan Digital Technology to Close an Information Gap
Security integration, aiding law enforcement, improving public safety
Towson, MD (July 21, 2010)---In a continuing effort to assist law enforcement, close information gaps, and make the Maryland Division of Parole and Probation (DPP) function as a leader in public safety, the Maryland Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services (DPSCS) today showed off new technology called the Livescan crossmatch system. The system was demonstrated in the Westminster DPP office by DPP Director Patrick McGee and DPSCS Chief Information Officer Ron Brothers.
Livescan allows a parolee or probationer to be digitally fingerprinted, palm-printed, and photographed at one machine, with the confirmed identification information being transmitted quickly to the Law Enforcement Dashboard, a system (also developed by DPSCS IT) that allows police officers to view an offender’s criminal history information from multiple sources within minutes on a single screen.
Livescan closes an information gap: until now, police agencies were not always able to immediately ascertain whether someone was under Parole and Probation supervision. Now, that important component of an offender’s record will show up as a reportable event on his or her “RAP” sheet within minutes after Livescan completes the process.
“Thanks to Governor O’Malley’s commitment to Parole and Probation, we are taking a leadership role with security integration---sharing information better than ever with law enforcement agencies here and across the country,” says DPSCS Secretary Gary Maynard.
The technology is another example of the Governor’s Office of Crime Control and Prevention (GOCCP) working with DPSCS to help fund important public safety initiatives. GOCCP helped secure the grant of nearly $405,000 for the most recent 14 DPP office Livescans. Under the O’Malley administration, Parole and Probation has been a priority agency, with an intensive focus on taking repeat violent offenders off the streets.
DPP’s Violence Prevention Initiative has been critical in helping jurisdictions reduce shootings and homicides, and in requesting more warrants and revocations when DPP clients violate the terms of their supervision.
Thanks to the grant and assistance from GOCCP, 29 Livescan machines have now been installed in DPP offices in every jurisdiction in Maryland. Some busier intake offices have more than one Livescan, and others will be installed in the coming months.
Statewide, DPSCS IT professionals have helped or advised local law enforcement and other agencies on 206 Livescan installations. DPSCS itself purchased a number of these for local agencies, sheriff’s offices, and detention centers. The machines are also installed in several Division of Correction state prisons.
“We are making tremendous progress with technology in the effort to improve information-sharing,” says DPSCS IT Chief Information Officer Ron Brothers. “What used to be very difficult to locate now in some cases can be viewed within minutes. We continue to improve IT systems that help not only our internal DPSCS agencies, but law enforcement across the state too. That translates into improved public safety for all of
Two men shooting at each other on Gilmor Street in West Baltimore Tuesday night were wounded, the latest shooting in the city. One victim was struck in the thigh; the other in the leg. Neither wounds appeared to be life threatening.
Meanwhile, police continued their assault on guns, arresting two men in the 300 block of Woodland Ave. and seizing a handgun and suspected drugs, and arresting two men on Reservoir Street in Reservoir Hill and seizing a revolver.
Also, police said they arrested a man in a Tuesday stabbing just hours after the victim died at a hospital. The inicident occurred about 9:40 a.m. on Schroeder Street in West Baltimore.
The officer, a three-year veteran of the Northeast District, was suspended with pay after a woman told police that she was picked up by the officer Friday night and was asked to perform a sex act to avoid being arrested.
A crucial piece of evidence is the officer's cell phone. Last year, the department spent $3.5 million in federal stimulus money to purchase BlackBerry smart phones equipped with a program called PocketCop. The phones allow police to access critical information while outside their squad cars, but the built-in GPS function also lets police track the officers' whereabouts.
As more officers are equipped with the phones, commanders are able to pull up maps of the city and view where the officers are. The information can include how long they have lingered and even how fast they are moving. The technology traditionally has been used by businesses to track trucks or manage a fleet.
In Cleveland, two officers were each suspended for six months after GPS data showed their squad car drove past a dead body on the side of a highway and was parked for hours at a cemetery. But two Minneapolis police officers were cleared by a jury last summer of raping a woman in an alley, in part because GPS data from their squad car showed they were conducting traffic stops in other areas, according to news reports.
We've now learned that Officer Salvatore Rivieri, who was captured three years ago on video berating a skateboarding teen at the Inner Harbor, has been cleared by a trial board of using excessive force and discourtesy.
This is a blow to department commanders whose internal affairs detectives had filed administrative charges that, had he been found guilty, could've made it easy for the police commissioner to fire him. I'm still hearing that is a possibility; the chief gets final say on all disciplinary cases.
You may recall Rivieri's confrontation with 14-year-old Eric Bush, who apparently didn't hear the officer's commands because he was listening to his iPod and then further enraged the officer by calling him "dude" and "man."
Trial Board, essentially administrative trials overseen by a panel of three officers who hear evidence presented by witnesses and listen to lawyers for the department and the accused, found Rivieri guilty of failing to write a police report and failing to give Bush a citizen contact form.
Exoneration in this case is particularly embarrassing for the police department which is striving to show it's accountable to the public. Watch the video and decide for yourselves whether this officer deserves to be on the force.
Here is the complete story with comments from the officer's attorney and the police union chief:
The Baltimore police officer who was caught on video berating and pushing a 14-year-old skateboarder at the Inner Harbor three years ago has been cleared of the most serious administrative charges, a police union leader said Tuesday.
A three-member police panel called a trial board held a hearing last week and found Officer Salvatore Rivieri guilty of failing to issue the youth a citizen contact receipt and file a report but not guilty on charges of using excessive and unnecessary force and uttering a discourtesy.
The decision is a blow to the Police Department and overturns an investigation led by internal affairs detectives who concluded that Rivieri had exceeded his authority in the incident. Administrative charges that could have led to the officer’s termination were filed as a result of that investigation.
Robert Cherry, the president of the city’s police union, said the panel recommended a suspension of several days for failing to file the proper paperwork. But Commissioner Frederick H. Bealefeld III has the final say, and a department source said he could review the video of the disciplinary hearing and possibly decide to fire the officer anyway.
In most cases, the police commissioner accepts the trial board's rulings, but the commissioner does have the authority to exceed the board’s recommendations.
The video, which was posted online by one of the skateboarder’s friends, became an Internet sensation in part because of Rivieri’s rant on the ever-contentious topic of whether teens pay enough deference to authority. Rivieri became enraged when Eric Bush, listening to an iPod, appeared to ignore him and later repeatedly referred to the officer as “dude” and “man.”
At one point, Rivieri told Bush: “Don’t get defensive with me, son, or you’ll spend some time in juvenile. You aren’t allowed to ride your skateboards down here, nowhere.”
Then, Rivieri went on his now-famous rant:
“Obviously your parents don’t put a foot in your butt quite enough because you don’t understand the meaning of respect,” the officer screamed at Bush. “First of all, you better learn how to speak. I’m not ‘man.’ I’m not ‘dude.’ I am Officer Rivieri, and the sooner you learn that the longer you’re going to live in this world. You go around doing this kind of stuff, somebody’s going to kill you.”
Baltimore police spokesman Anthony Guglielmi said personnel rules prohibit him from commenting on the case. Rivieri, a 19-year veteran, was initially suspended and then moved from the harbor beat to patrol in the Southeastern District.
Cherry called the ruling just and chastised the department for not backing Rivieri in the face of nationwide criticism and debate generated by the video viewed by hundreds of thousands of people on YouTube.
“I wish the department had a little bit more courage when they’re out there doing their job,” Cherry said Tuesday. “Despite what people may have thought, despite what people saw on that short video, Officer Rivieri was doing his job.”
The officer’s lawyer, Michael Davey, confirmed the trial board’s decision but refused to comment further, noting that “the case is not concluded until the commissioner signs the final order.” He said that Bealefeld does have the right to fire his client.
But William P. Blackford, the attorney for the now 17-year-old skateboarder, said the department has yet to take the simple step to say it’s sorry.
“I never thought Officer Rivieri was an evil man,” the lawyer said. “He overreacted. They should just apologize.” He said that dragging the case out over three years only shows the public that police have unique rights and “re-enforces the insidious perception that the police play by different rules.”
Blackford filed a civil lawsuit against the Baltimore Police Department, but a Circuit Court judge dismissed it because the family missed by 59 days a deadline for notifying the city of its intent to sue. Blackford said Bush’s mother waited so long to hire a lawyer because she was expecting an apology from Rivieri, which never came.
The video of the confrontation in the summer of 2007 quickly went viral after a friend of Bush’s posted the video on YouTube. Within days, 400,000 people had watched and weighed in with opinions including that Bush deserved to be lectured and disciplined and that the cop should be fired.
Rivieri warned Bush and his friends to stop skateboarding at the harbor and then drove away, only to see them resume skateboarding a few moments later. He returned and sternly warned them again to stop, then got increasingly upset when Bush appeared to ignore his commands.
Rivieri said in civil court filings that when he tried to grab Bush’s board, the youth held the board “in a threatening manner,” pulled it to his chest and resisted. The officer grabbed the board and pulled Bush to the ground, supporting the boy’s weight to cushion the fall, he said in the court papers filed in connection with the now-dismissed civil suit.
Rivieri said in a report in the court file that Bush “immediately lunged forward to stand up” and that Bush pushed him “back down to a seated position.” In his civil suit, Bush said Rivieri “violently grabbed him by the throat and body,” threw him to the ground and “struck him when he tried to get off the ground.”
In the video, it does not appear that Rivieri struck Bush, but neither does it appear that the teen “lunged” toward the officer. The commissioner’s review could take several days or weeks.
Driver in fatal crash indicted on manslaughter charge
An illegal immigrant who had been charged with negligent driving after police said he crashed his car while driving impaired on I-83 in June has been indicted on a charge of auto manslaughter, prosecutors announced this morning.
Freddy Alberto Cortez Flores, 22, of Hyattsville, was speeding 65 mph, 25 mph over the posted limit, in the far left lane of the highway near Guilford Avenue when prosecutors said he lost control of his car and struck a Jersey wall about 1 a.m. on June 21.
His passenger, Carlos O. Cardoza Portillo, was partially ejected from the car and his right arm and head was dragged 567 feet against the concrete wall and a chain link fence, the Baltimore State's Attorney's Office said. He was pronounced dead on the scene.
Police said Flores' speech was slurred and that officers detected a strong odor of alcohol on his breath. Cortez told police he had swerved to avoid a vehicle that had cut him off. His blood alcohol level was determined to be .09 percent, according to police charging documents.
Cortez, who has a valid Maryland driver's license, is being held without bail at the Baltimore City Detention Center. The U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency as put a detainer on him to prevent his release from custoy and could begin deportation proceedings after his trial in Baltimore.
Bealefeld: Focus on shootings contributed to neglect in sex offense investigations
Baltimore Police Commissioner Frederick H. Bealefeld III said a focus on homicides and non-fatal shooting investigations may have contributed to neglect of growing concerns about the way the department investigated sex offenses.
Bealefeld also said that the department no longer will allow patrol officers to dismiss rape claims at the crime scene, something that accounts for nearly four in 10 rape calls to 911 failing to generate a police report. All claims will now be referred to specialized detectives, he said.
The Sun last month reported that since 2004 Baltimore has led the country with more than 30 percent of rape reports marked “unfounded” by detectives, police parlance for the victim was lying or that detectives did not believe a crime occurred. Advocates and sexual assault victims also described harsh interrogation tactics by officers that in some cases compelled alleged victims to recant their story. Those factors may have contributed to an 80 percent decline in rapes since the 1990s while such crimes fell 8 percent nationwide.
Bealefeld has called the issue a “crisis” and last night on Maryland Public Television's Direct Connection program said he accepts “full responsibility.” Bealefeld credited The Sun's reporting for pointing to a wider problem, saying: “I can't tell you that we would have seen that by ourselves.”
He said some of the areas of concern could be attributed to training, burnout or apathy, but he acknowledged that an emphasis on shootings may have distracted officials from other issues.
“In five or six years in Baltimore, we've focused a lot of energy on homicides and detectives handling non-fatal shootings investigations, and the monitoring of what those detectives were doing,” he said. “Absolutely, we need to do a much, much better job of looking across the board at what the sex offense unit is doing.”
A team of police officials, prosecutors and non-profits have been tasked by Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake with revising policies, and police are conducting an audit of rape cases from the past 18 months. Bealefeld said he has personally reviewed cases that were marked “unfounded” in 2009.
“There were a few practices that are distressing, and some we can curtail right away,” he said. “You can see how they would lend to discouraging victims to move forward with their complaints.”
Bealefeld said that patrol officers can no longer determine at the scene not to write a report for a rape claim. “Anyone reporting a rape [will now] be seen by detective,” he said.
The city has established a hotline at 443-279-0379 for alleged victims who want police to reopen their cases or report mistreatment by officers.
Two former prosecutors say crime stats fair game for prosecutors
Two former prosecutors say crime statistics are fair game for State's Attorney Patricia C. Jessamy to tout as she fights for re-election.
As Jessamy is criticized by her Democratic primary challenger over conviction rates, her campaign posted crime statistics on her campaign website showing a 59 percent drop in the most serious crimes in Baltimore since 1995, her first year in office. Political operative Larry Gibson, a veteran of the Schmoke administrations, sent the statistics out to reporters over the weekend.
Jessamy has maintained that conviction rates are a poor way to gauge her office's effectiveness. But conversely, can she take credit for the city's crime declines?
Lynne M. Abraham, who served as Philadelphia's District Attorney from 1991 to 2010, said there's nothing wrong with citing crime numbers.
"When police and prosecutors are working together effectively and as a result, crime appears to be going down, that is generally conceded as a good sign," Abraham said. "I don't think conviction rates tell the tale."
Abraham, who did not seek re-election last year, took heat over dropped cases too - the Philadelphia Inquirer found that nearly two-thirds of all defendants accused of violent crimes walked free of all charges - but she said her critics failed to take into account the complexity of many cases. "Prosecutors can sometimes go through hoops to get a conviction and the judges won't convict, or witnesses won't show up - not at the fault of any prosecutor," she said.
Abraham said she knows Jessamy well and has been impressed with her community outreach. "She's easily accessible, does community outreach, has effective programs and addresses issues not only from a prosecution viewpoint but a prevention viewpoints," she said. "I'm extremely impressed with her ability."
Jessamy's former boss and supporter Stuart O. Simms said it's not fair for only police or the mayor to boast of crime declines.
"The fact that crime declined may not be solely the exclusive province of the police commissioner or mayor or governor," Simms said. "The fact that there has been a crime reduction, to my understanding, is a positive for the community. One of the things the public is going to look at is what has happened over a multi-year period."
Simms said Jessamy has been "responsive to the community and its neighborhoods, understands the impact of violence on victims," worked with federal prosecutors - particularly on gun cases - "has taken on the somewhat controversial issue of reforming the conspiracy laws in order to go after gangs, and has been consistently hard on child abuse as well as firearms."
"When you look at the totality ... I think you've got a good composite of someone who's been an effective leader and prosecutor," Simms said.
Abraham said if Jessamy simply wanted a better conviction rate, she could plea bargain most cases on lesser charges (something critics say Jessamy's office does far too often). "We're there to get justice. We bring the cases, the jury makes the decision. Let the chips fall where they may," Abraham said.
Meanwhile, challenger Gregg Bernstein, a defense attorney and former federal prosecutor, released a list of "Lawyers for Bernstein," a group co-chaired by defense attorneys Warren Brown and Steve Levin. Levin said Jessamy too often takes credit for others' accomplishments and passes the buck when things go wrong.
“The State’s Attorney’s Office should be a credible deterrent to crime in its own right and should not take credit for cases that federal prosecutors bring. The State’s Attorney should be held accountable for her failure to convict violent offenders -- instead of passing blame to other agencies, when the blame for her ineffectiveness rests solely with her leadership.”
Investigators say Bruce Allen Tucker, 47, of Esplanade Court in Owings Mills, had received and exchanged images of child pornography, including male and female children performing sex acts, posing nude and performing oral sex. He was arrested July 16 and released after posting $50,000 bail.
State Police spokeswoman Elena Russo said Tucker has been suspended without pay.
According to the statement of charges, the investigation began in March. All the exchanges occurred while Tucker was off-duty, said Lt. Robert McCullough, a Baltimore County Police spokesman.
Here are more details from county police, who did not mention in a release that Tucker was a state trooper:
Police Arrest Baltimore County Man for Child Pornography
Man Possessed More Than 3,000 Images
Baltimore County Police arrested Bruce Allen Tucker, 47, of Esplanade Court in Baltimore County. On July 16, he was arrested and charged with numerous child pornography charges to include possession of child pornography, possession of child pornography with the intent to distribute, and the distribution and possession of obscene matter.
This incident occurred in Precinct 3/Franklin.
Police investigation revealed that Tucker received and exchanged numerous images of child pornography over a period of several months. he images depicted pubescent male and female children nude performing sex acts, posing nude in a state of arousal, performing oral sex, and posing nude.
Because of information gained by police about Tucker during their investigation, police are asking anyone who has had contact through the Internet or by cellular phone texting where Bruce Tucker attempted or sexually exploited them, to contact the Baltimore County Police Department’s Crimes Against Children Unit at 410-853-3650.
Special Agent Richard J. Wolf, a spokeswoman for the Baltimore FBI office, said the 27-year-old suspect became "extremely agitated" while stuck Saturday between the entrance way doors of the Madison Bank in the 6800 block of Harford Road.
Wolf identified the suspect as Darion Randle of Lansdowne. She had been sought since early July after the FBI says six banks were robbed by a woman wearing a long black wig and used notes to threaten tellers that bank employees and customers would be injured if she didn't get money. Authorities say that female bank robbers are "rare."
Police say that they've linked four bank robberies in Baltimore County and three in the city to the woman.
The latest occurred Saturday about 11 a.m. at the Madison Bank on Harford Road. Wolf said the woman -- who sometimes wore an Arab head covering, but not this time -- handed a teller a note and got money. The teller pushed the alarm button as the suspect left, trapping her in the vestibule.
A city police officer said cops rushed to get a picture of her before her makeup came off. Wolf said her makeup was melting in the heat. "She was extremely agitated," he said. ""She tried to bang the glass off. She pulled some weather stripping. Her make-up was running because of the heat. There was a lot of make-up."
Baltimore police are now publishing mug shots of wanted suspects. It's a new adventure in social media for a department that more than most other agencies uses the Internet to announce breaking crime.
Today's first batch can be viewed here and by signing up to Nixle, which provides alerts from city police. The cops also have a Twitter account that can be directly fed to your cell phone as incoming text messages.
Here is a sample of one of the computerized "wanted posters," though not a lot of information is divulged about the crime, where it took place or where the suspect might be:
Attached are photos of individuals wanted by the BPD. Contact 410-637-8970 if you have info on their whereabouts Photo 1
Former Schmoke campaign manager speaks out in defense of Jessamy
We received an odd email on Saturday night. It was unsigned, but appeared to be a press release from the campaign of State's Attorney Patricia C. Jessamy. The first line read, "Jessamy: Tough and Smart on Crime," (her campaign slogan) and it proceeded to explain that since Jessamy took office in 1995, crime had declined substantially. It didn't say whether Jessamy was taking credit for this decline, nor did it draw any parallels between prosecutions and crime rate. There was no contact information.
In an attempt to discern the sender's identity, I wrote back. It turned out it was from none other than Larry S. Gibson, an old hand in politics once described as the "man behind [former mayor] Kurt Schmoke" and a political "kingmaker" in the city. Though the statistics and exact wording of the email appear on the front page of Jessamy's election web site, Gibson said he had prepared the email as a private citizen because it was important that the "public know the truth," calling Democratic primary challenger Gregg Bernstein "dishonest."
Gibson said he has had almost no involvement in local politics since 1999 (he ran former state's attorney Stuart Simms' failed bid for Attorney General in 2006), but wants to get involved with the Jessamy campaign. "I intend to do what I can to re-elect Patricia Jessamy," he wrote in a reply email.
Among the stats highlighted is the 80 percent decline in rapes, which victim's advocates say "doesn't make sense on any planet" as a team of detectives audits police investigations. It's an interesting strategy, to be highlighting police statistics as she is criticized over conviction rates, which she has called an "old school" way of measuring effectiveness. The police, among Jessamy's biggest critics, would say they achieved those declines in spite of her office, not because of it. But it's not the first time Jessamy has made the claim, telling The Sun's Julie Bykowicz in May: "I tell everyone ... crime has been going down since 1995, and the only consistent thing there has been me."
In a 2001 story about Jessamy's what then appeared to be weakening support among the city's black political establishment, Gibson declined to comment. But Gibson says he will be one of her biggest champions in this year's election, in part fueled by what he says is dishonesty from Bernstein:
"My real problem with Mr. Bernstein is his credibility. His campaign material intentionally implies that he has mainly been a prosecutor. But he has been a criminal defense lawyer for 24 years. He was a prosecutor for just a few years as a young lawyer. Nothing is wrong with that career path. But, why doesn’t he just say that he is a criminal defense lawyer who now wants to fight crime. This “former prosecutor” label is baloney.
Bernstein cannot even report on his few prosecuting year without exaggeration.
His law firm websites and professional listings all say that he was an Assistant U.S. Attorney for four years (1987-1991). But his campaign materials claim an additional year. (1987-1992).
He keeps saying in the press things that he knows are not true. For example, Bernstein told the Jewish Times that that the War Room “has only a 35% conviction rate.” The War Room lawyers do not prosecute cases and therefore do not have a conviction rate. Their success is preventing the criminals from committing additional crimes during the year or so wait for trial on their most recent charge. The idea is to have them waiting in jail, instead of out on the street committing more crimes. The War Room has nothing to do with the pending charges.
[For more information on the War Room, here's a recent report from former War Room attorney and frequent Jessamy critic Page Croyder]
Bernstein keeps saying that Baltimore City has “the lowest conviction rate” for violent crime in the state. He knows that there are not any reports that compare the conviction rates of the Maryland subdivisions. He admitted to the City Paper on 7-14-10 that “he does not know how well other jurisdictions fared prosecuting violent crime." Yet he continues to repeat on his website that Baltimore has the lowest conviction rate.
He criticizes Jessamy with a statement that “convictions for violation of parole are 35%.”, when any criminal lawyer knows that the States Attorney has absolutely no involvement with parole matters. Besides, that number is meaningless.
Bernstein stated in the Jewish Times article that “over half of all suspects charged last year with carrying illegal guns had their cases dismissed.” and that “53% of suspects charged with gun crimes with felony gun were not convicted”, Those numbers have to be just made up. I would be willing to bet that most (probably more than 75%) of last year’s gun cases have yet to be adjudicated and are still pending.
So, I guess that what has spurred me into action is that the last thing that Baltimore needs is a dishonest prosecutor."
I've contacted the Bernstein campaign for a response and will post when I hear back.
UPDATE, 9 p.m.: The Bernstein campaign responds: "Mr. Bernstein and his campaign material make clear that as a former federal prosecutor and partner at a major law firm, he has the extensive trial and management experience needed to make Baltimore a Safer City. The campaign website has a full biography that details his professional career. http://www.greggbernstein.org/bio.html. And, all statistics used by the Bernstein campaign come from publicly available sources.
Highlighting crime statistics, which can be attributable to a number of factors, not the least of which include the shifting police strategies under four mayors and six different commissioners since 1995, seemed an unusual way to support Jessamy without any emphasis on programs or statistics related to Jessamy's office. Gibson explained:
"She has done a very good job under difficult circumstances. What I like about her are her energy, her can do attitude, and her constant search for new ideas and approaches. So many elected officials, after a few years in office, get complacent and just ride along. Jessamy seems to be constantly pressing the legislature to pass a new law or creating a new task force or partnering with some other agency to fight crime. I am sure not everything works, but she does not stop trying. Therefore, she should get much of the credit for the decrease in crime. She certainly would be getting much of the blame, if crime was increasing........
I hope that during the next month or so, Jessamy’s campaign will spell other things that she has done that contributed to the decrease in crime. "
State prison officials sent six female inmates, described as non-violent, to a Howard County horse farm to clear pasture for abused animals. The inmates were all nearing thier release dates and had met all the criteria for the coveted work-release.
In the photo by The Sun's Ken Lam, Ziggy, a former Arabber horse, munches on Hay as Maryland Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services Secretary Gary Maynard, left, announces a partnership with Days End Farm Horse Rescue in which female inmates will be working on the farm doing landscaping with the eventual goal of caring for the rescued horses.
Only someone in the prison system forgot to tell the neighbors and the parents of the young volunteers that the inmates were coming, and understandable outrage followed and the program was put on indefinite hold. Then people started to wonder about the inmates themselves -- were they reall "non-violent"?
In today's crime scenes column, I try to answser that question. It's not as easy it may seem. One inmate I focused on, because she was the lead of a feature story on the program, a story that triggered the uproar, was in for second-degree assault on her boyfriend (complete story here).
Here's a bit about what I learned:
State officials describe Paula Jordan as a nonviolent inmate at the Maryland Correctional Institution for Women in Jessup. That made her a perfect candidate to work at a Howard County horse farm as part of a rehabilitation program.
Here is what the 41-year-old from Baltimore did to get locked up: In January 2005, she chased after her boyfriend swinging a butcher's knife, stabbed him in the leg, mopped up the blood, cleaned the blade and put it back into its holder before police arrived.
Jordan pleaded guilty to first-degree assault and was sentenced to 10 years in prison, with all but two months suspended. She violated the terms of her probation by committing another assault, and in June 2006 she was sent back to prison for six years
Classifying her as nonviolent may seem absurd to most people. But bureaucrats have indeed decided that an assault can either be violent or nonviolent, depending on the severity of the injury, and regardless of whether the term "nonviolent assault" is an oxymoron.
I did find one woman who didn't have any trouble with all this:
Cathy Batz, who lives almost adjacent to the Lisbon farm, said her 20-year-old daughter has ridden horses at Days End since she was 8 years old and was at the stables when the inmates were in the fields. "She didn't even see them," the mother said, adding that Jordan's criminal record didn't bother her a bit.
Batz told me that inmates are always out picking up trash along nearby I-70. "If nobody has a problem when prisoners are picking up trash a block away from our homes and a half-mile away from a school," she said, "why do they have a problem when they work on a 58-acre farm?"
Few shootings in city this weekend, handgun seized
Baltimore police reported few shootings this weekend, all but one apparently minor. Most occurred Saturday night into Sunday morning.
This updated information from reporter Gus Sentementes gives more details than the original Twitter feeds:
9:59pm -- 23-year-old male in the 1000 block of N. Eden St. A burgundy vehicle approached him and suspect shot at him from the car, hitting him in the right hand. The victim continued to run to the Johns Hopkins Hospital emergency room.
10:19 pm -- 24-year-old male struck in the left foot in a shooting in the 2500 blk of Frederick Ave. Police had initially thought two people were shot, but there was only one victim. Three individuals were walking on the street when they were approached by a suspect from behind. The suspect fired a shot and the three began running. The gunman then ran in an unknown direction. Police said detectives have some leads in case.
4:03 am -- Two men were shot in the 300 block of Mosher St. in West Baltimore. A 39-year-old male and a 28-year-old male in the block when another man opened fire. The 39-year-old was hit in the lower back; the 28-year-old was hit in the right knee. Police reported no suspects or motive.
The only homicide so far occurred just after midnight Saturday when a man was found shot to death on the sidewalk in the 3800 block of Park Heights Ave.
Police did report several gun seizures on Sunday. Detectives serving a search warrant at a house in the 200 block of N. Luzerne Ave. said they found a loaded handgun and suspected drugs. Three people were arrested.
A 28-year-old was arrested in the 2500 block of McHenry St. in South Baltimiore and charged with illegally possessing a loaded handgun. And in Northeast Baltimore, police said they arrested a man with a loaded handgun in the 2700 block of The Alameda.
At this week's meeting of the Criminal Justice Coordinating Council, police included this chart with the statistics they shared with the other stakeholders. I took a picture of it rather than scanning it, so apologies for the lousy quality.
Authorities picked up a murder suspect yesterday in Miami, who had fled there after he was nearly arrested in New York.
Dwayne Thompson, 36, is charged in the May 30 killing of 28-year-old Alvin Martin inside a home in the 2100 block of Ramsay St. He was one of the eight people slain over that holiday weekend.
Det. Jeremy Silbert, a city police spokesman, said Thompson was picked up by the U.S. Marshal's fugitive task force in Miami. Officials they believe they had previously missed - by five minutes - a chance to get him earlier in the Bronx. Documents linking Thompson to the crime were not available.
Thompson has a handgun conviction from 1999, receiving a four year sentence, court records show.
It's no secret that Baltimore police and prosecutors snipe at each other in the political arena, but on the streets they do team up.
Here's an example from the Baltimore State's Attorney's Office on how a top city police commander, Col. Dean Palmere, chief of the criminal investigations division, chased down a man in West Baltimore identified for special attention because of his criminal history:
PROSECUTORS CALL BPD Col . PALMERE TO TESTIFY AGAINST VIOLENT REPEAT OFFENDER AMOS JOHNSON DEFENDANT CONVICTED OF FAILURE TO REMAIN AT THE SCENE OF AN ACCIDENT and SENTENCED TO 60 DAYS
Defendant Identified as a Violent Repeat Offender in the Western District Partnership between Police & Prosecutors Identifies and Prosecutes Repeat Offenders
Baltimore, MD –July 15, 2010– Amos Johnson, 24, of the 900 block of Caroline Street was convicted July 14 of failure to remain at the scene of accident involving damage to a vehicle. Judge Nancy Shuger sentenced Johnson to 60 days in jail.
On May 31, 2010 at approximately 8:58 pm Colonel Palmere of the Baltimore City Police Department observed a two vehicle accident in the area of 1500 Mosher Street. After he pulled over to assist both vehicles, he observed Amos Johnson exit one of the vehicles from the driver’s side, and run from the scene.
Colonel Palmere pursued a foot chase and called for backup. Detectives Ott, Watkins, Citchetti and Hermon from the Violent Impact Division responded to the call and apprehended Mr. Johnson inside a residence. Upon apprehension, Colonel Palmere positively identified Johnson as the same man who ran from the scene of the accident. Palmere was the State’s key witness at trial.
Johnson is one of nineteen individuals who have identified themselves to law enforcement in a process called “self-identify” used in the Western Police District and two other police districts. This initiative, launched in 2007, is a coordinated effort between the Office of the State’s Attorney, Baltimore Police, the United State’s Attorney’s Office, and federal law enforcement.
Cases are closely monitored to leverage any conviction or criminal infraction to build a broader criminal case to revoke probation, or parole. “This is an important tool in our toolbox,” said Jeanne Canal, Special Prosecutor leading the State’s Attorney’s initiative. “We are building significant cases using all convictions.” Eighteen individuals have state and federal cases pending. In addition to those cases, 3 other Western District violent, repeat offenders have received State sentences of five years, four years and ten months, and three years.
Assistant State’s Jennifer Wahlgreen prosecuted this case.
NOTE: This item has been updated to reflect new information obtained from charging documents.
A 73-year-old cab driver who was assaulted in Hampden while returning home from work in April has died, police said.
John Russell Sandy, of the 800 block of W. 35th St., had gotten off work and was walking home in the 3500 block of Elm Ave. on April 18 when he was repeatedly struck from behind with a tire iron, police said. Officers responded at about 4 a.m. and saw him lying in the street, suffering from a fractured skull, multiple broken bones to his left hand and bruises covering most of his body.
Sandy was taken to Sinai Hospital in critical condition. He was pronounced dead Tuesday morning at Johns Hopkins Bayview, and the medical examiner ruled that his death was the result of complications from his injuries, police said.
Police said a suspect, 29-year-old Bobby Wisner, was charged in June with attempted first-degree murder. According to charging documents, Sandy identified his attacker as "Bobby," who he said was the brother of a man who lived with him. He slipped into a coma, but eventually recovered and identified Wisner from a photo lineup.
The charges against Wisner, who is being held without bond, will likely be upgraded. A motive for the attack was not disclosed in court records.
Wisner, also of the 800 block of W. 35th St., has also been charged in two other assaults, according to court records. Wisner has faced multiple assault and robbery charges in the city and Baltimore County but has only one conviction, receiving a 10 year sentence with seven years suspended in 1999.
Sandy's killing brings the city's total to 109 for the year, down 12 percent from the same point last year. There hasn't been a slaying since Friday, after the first nine days of July saw nine homicides.
Baltimore man charged with identity theft of the dead
UPDATE: We just learned that the person whose identity was stolen in this case, Kurt Branham, was a legislative aide to U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell, (R-Kentucky), who died in 1994. An obituary published in the Washington Post said Branham had worked on legislation that included laws dealing with missing and abused children.
Here's the story:
A British citizen is being held on charges that he obtained a U.S. passort and a Maryland driver’s license in the name of dead man from Washington and tried to use the documents to fly out of BWI Airport, according to U.S. Customs and Border Protection.
Authorties said Skelton, of Yorkshire, assumed the identity of Washington resident Kurt Branham, who died in 1994. Court documents stated that Skelton told investigators that he was barred from traveling to the U.S. because of medical issues, and obtained the Washington’s man's name from a friend.
U.S. officials had been monitoring the use of Branham’s name and social security number, saying it had been used twice before by people applying for passports. How Selkton allegedly obtained his passport was not divulged, but court documents say the name and number were on a watchlist since 2009.
Customs officials notified the U.S. State Department after Skelton flew out of BWI on July 2 for a trip to London, according to court documents. An investigation ensued and Skelton was arrested when authorities say he used the fradulent passport to return to Baltimore on Monday.
Authorities said Skelton told them he lived on Wheeling Street in Federal Hill.
“Stealing another person’s identity is a very serious crime, but stealing the identity of a deceased citizen is despicable,” Stephen Dearborn, the acting director of the Port of Baltimore said in a statement. “We are very pleased to end Mr. Skelton’s charade.”
Here is a news release from the U.S. Customs and Border Protection:
Death Match Snares Brit Impostor at BWI Feds Arrest Baltimore Resident For Allegedly Stealing Dead American’s Identity
BALTIMORE – Federal authorities arrested British citizen John Skelton at Baltimore-Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport on Monday night on charges of identity fraud, false statements, and being an impostor to a U.S. citizen.
U.S. Department of State’s Diplomatic Security Service (DSS) officials discovered that Skelton, 41, of Yorkshire, England, allegedly stole the identity of U.S. citizen Kurt Branham, who died in 1994. DSS teamed with Customs and Border Protection officers to apprehend Skelton after the Brit presented a fraudulently obtained U.S. passport to re-enter the country after a trip to the United Kingdom.
Skelton, who resides in Baltimore, will be prosecuted by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Maryland. The specific charges Skelton faces are for violations of 18 USC 1028, 18 USC 1542 and 18 USC 911.
“Stealing another person’s identity is a very serious crime, but stealing the identity of a deceased citizen is despicable,” said Stephen Dearborn, CBP Acting Port Director for the Port of Baltimore. “CBP and Diplomatic Security Service officials work vigorously to bring impostors to justice and to protect American citizens’ identities. We are very pleased to end Mr. Skelton’s charade.”
DSS detected the potential fraud using investigative techniques employed during Operation “Death Match.” A passport had been issued in 2005 in the name of Kurt Branham, who died more than 10 years before, a cross match of records indicated.
More than 150 individuals have been charged with federal passport fraud and related offenses as a result of Death Match investigations.
Todd Brown, Special Agent in Charge of the DSS Washington Field office said, “The U.S. passport is one of the most coveted travel documents in the world, and those who have acquired passports fraudulently could perpetrate further illegal acts. I am pleased that the collaboration between our agents, the Customs and Border Protection professionals, and the U.S. Attorney’s office in Maryland has been so successful in this case.”
CBP, DSS and Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials were at BWI when Skelton disembarked his flight from London at 7:45 p.m. Monday. During questioning, Skelton allegedly admitted he was a United Kingdom citizen and that he obtained Branham’s identity.
CBP officers paroled Skelton into the United States for prosecution and turned him over to DSS agents. The U.S. Attorney’s Office will prosecute Skelton. CBP issued a detainer on Skelton to be returned to CBP at the adjudication of his charges.
Police Commissioner Frederick H. Bealefeld III sought last night to tamp down rumors about the departure of popular Southern District commander Scott Bloodsworth, while assuring that acting major has his confidence and is "in the pilot's seat" to remain there.
The meeting was called last week as rumors swirled that Bloodsworth had been forced out as part of some political scheming fueled by bar owners and a prominent fundraiser who lives in the district. Bealefeld addressed it head on, saying his first communication with the mayor on the topic was after Bloodsworth had decided to leave, and he said that to this day he had not been contacted by two city councilmembers who represent the area.
He said that if bar owners are upset, he was "ignorant" to it. And a Locust Point resident's concerns about crime were noted but hardly the kind of thing to set off political domino effect, he said.
Instead, Bealefeld emphasized how disappointed he was that Bloodsworth opted to leave rather than oversee reforms in the beleaguered sex offense unit, which the commissioner said was in "crisis" and is at that top of his priority list.
"I lost my ace pitcher - and I didn't get another body. He's just off the team. How did that happen?"
He spoke at length about the deliberations that went into deciding to move Bloodsworth, and his attempt to offer the commander his position back once he opted to retire. He said Bloodsworth's ultimate decision is "his personal business."
Despite Bealefeld's appeal, it seemed as though few were convinced. Most of the questions after he was done centered on how few could believe that the commander they admired and worked with so well would decide to leave. Bealefeld said Bloodsworth, initially accepting the position, said "I'm a soldier."
Asked Paul Robinson, of the Federal Hill Improvement Association: "I find it odd that this 'soldier' would waver" unless politics were somehow at play, he said. Betty Bland-Thomas, of the Sharp Leadenhall Community, said "I have to wonder, how did it go from 'Yes' to 'I'm going to retire?'"
Chris Taylor, of the Union Square Association and who missed the majority of Bealefeld's presentation, said he would take Bealefeld at his word but nonetheless still believed the move was political. And Bill Lehman, a Brooklyn resident, got into a brief back-and-forth with Council Edward Reisinger after the meeting had concluded, his voice booming that "one person" had "created this mess," an apparent allusion to the Locust Point fundraiser. Reisinger retorted that no one had any evidence and that people were irresponsibly spreading rumors on the Internet.
Everyone who spoke up expressed confidence in Acting Maj. Margaret Barillaro, who longtime community activist Jack Baker said "doesn't take any crap from anyone." They only asked Bealefeld for one thing: that he not continue to shake up the district leadership. With three commissioners and five Southern District commanders in the past eight years, that is easier said than done.
It was one of those feel-good programs that come across reporters' desks nearly every day. This was from the state prison system: "Restorative Justice Benefits Women Inmates and Starving Horses."
A mix of crime and feel-good animal stories. Inmates helping abused horses at the Days EndFarm Horse Rescue in Howard County. A can't miss!
In this photo by The Sun's Kenneth K. Lam, Nelson Myers, left, a correctional officer, helps some of the inmates and volunteers unload bales of hay for the abused horses that. State prison inmates delivered 220 bales of hay from the Thoroughbred Retirement Foundation to Days End Farm.
Here's what the news release said:
The Maryland Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services today added yet another to its growing list of unique restorative justice inmate initiatives, putting a work crew comprised of female inmates at Howard County’s Days End Farm Horse Rescue. The inmates, from the Maryland Correctional Institution for Women (MCI-W) in Jessup, will begin with grounds maintenance and landscaping, and eventually move into equine care. “What we try to do with these restorative justice programs is not only give inmates skills and the chance to pay back the society they’ve harmed, but meaningful projects that really do make a difference in the lives of people -- and in this case, horses,” said DPSCS Secretary Gary Maynard.
Only state prison officials forgot to tell the neighbors of the horse farm, as well as the young volunteers who work there. Now, state officials have shut down the program, according to a story by The Baltimore Sun's Larry Carson.
The prisoners were four to six women, non-violent offenders who were close to being released. A little bit of communication and this all probably could've been avoided. The prisoners need to transition from jail to real life and the Days End Farm Horse Rescue needs help caring for help with the 70 abused and neglected horses in their care. The farm just took in a dozen more horses from a farm seized in Garrett County.
Here is more from state prison officials and some of the projects performed by inmates:
DPSCS began its Public Safety Works initiatives last year to help communities and non-profits accomplish projects despite limited manpower and resources, and has completed some remarkable achievements since: inmates have planted more than 600-thousand trees, including 3,800 to restore Antietam Battlefield to its Civil War appearance; built thousands of oyster spat cages; grown enough shoreline-restoring bay grasses to protect several islands; and restored state veterans’ cemeteries, as well as important historical sites like Mt. Auburn Cemetery in Baltimore and the town hall in the western Maryland city of Williamsport.
The women inmates from MCI-W are all non-violent offenders with little time remaining on their sentences. The four to six women will work in a group under the supervision of a correctional officer. They have received training by Days End on working around horses, and will begin their work with the goal of helping the 58-acre farm create more grazing pasture land.
I spent the morning walking in the rain with a few hundred police officers who have been visiting Baltimore for the annual National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Executives.
As they traditionally do at the end of every meeting, they walk though a neighborhood that most needs police. They ended with a memorial service at Israel Baptist Church to honor fallen police officers. The next Crime Scenes column will have more on the march and the meeting. Here are some pictures to enjoy from walk along East Biddle Street from the Baltimore Sun's Jed Kirschbaum.
Baltimore police are seeking the public's help to identify the owners of stolen property recovered in a raid.
The department is planning a news conference this afternoon to show off the items (shown at left by Lt. Michael Newman), which were recovered over the weekend during druing the search of house in the 1800 block of E. Register St.
The suspect, charged with burglary, is Devon Anderson, 29 (at left).
Items recovered are:
Xbox 360 (# 050684580507) - Dell laptop ( # CN0G5152-4-8643-440-0838) - Compaq laptop (# CND4380N2G) - Gateway laptop (# T225701008324) - PSP Go (# AG211057398) - PSP (# SU0838277) - HP Deskjet printer (# CN91A5H180) - Gameboy (pink in color) - Brother printer (# U61944J7J114214) - PS2 (# HU4090802) - Bose 321 media center with sub-woofer and speakers w/ remote (# 049331F00680139AE) - Corg keyboard (# 501283) - 4 framed flower pictures - 1 plastic bag containing DVDs - Approximately 200 pieces assorted jewelry - Nintendo Wii box (# LU113260315) - 1 blank pistol
It took police nearly one month to warn the public that a man on the sex offender registery and suspected of raping a woman in a park had been mistakenly released, and only then after a reporter asked.
It took less than a day for police to arrest Ernest Clark after his picture and a story got published in the media. A tip from a citizen helped cops Tuesday evening capture 34-year-old Clark walking in the 200 bock of E. Chase St., in Mount Vernon and near the Belvedere Hotel and many other popular taverns and restaurants.
As you may recall, Clark was being held in the city without bail awaiting trial but was transferred for a paternity hearing in Baltimore County. There, county sheriff's deputies mistakenly released him after losing paperwork authorizing his detention.
UPDATE: Police told me that the shooting mentioned below on MacTavish Avenue was a self-inflicted wound. The victim survived.
Also, police just reported another loaded handgun seizure from the 4800 block of Reisterstown Road. The police made two arrests while serving a location at a residence.
The heavy rain and storms didn't stop the gunmen Tuesday night. At 9 p.m. in East Baltimore, city police say a man was shot in the lower back in the 1600 block of N. Wolfe St. Another man was shot in the thigh in the same incident.
About 4:30 a.m., and adult male walked into the emergency room at Harbor Hospital suffering from a gunshot wound. City police later determined he had been shot in Glen Burnie, and Anne Arundel County police are handling the investigation. Around the the same time, police responded to the 3600 block of MacTavish Ave., near Violettville Elementary School in Southwest Baltimore, for a man who had been shot. There's no word yet on his condition, but police said homicide detectives are investigating.
Baltimore police do report making an arrest in the shooting that occurred two days ago in the 4200 block of Reisterstown Road. Othnell Carr has been charged in that incident. And earlier Tuesday, police arrested three suspects and seized a loaded handgun in the 700 block of Linnard Street in Southwest Baltimore.
Man convicted of murder; authorities aided by surveillance camera
A jury today convicted Allen A. Banks, 29, of killing a man two years ago on Tivoly Ave. Prosecutors used two neat tricks to secure the conviction, a good demonstration of how surveillance cameras can be helpful even if they don't capture a crime.
A prosecutor used the camera to prove to the jury that it was bright enough on the street for the witness to see the suspect as he opened fire. And the prosecutor debunked the suspect's story that he had been recording rap music at a friend's studio at the time of the killing by seizing the computer and analyzing it to prove there were no recordings.
Here is a complete statement from the Baltimore State's Attorney's Office:
A Baltimore jury convicted Allen A. Banks, 29, of the 1400 block of Argyle Avenue today of first-degree murder and use of a handgun in the commission of a crime of violence. The trial began July 7, 2010 and the jury deliberated approximately four hours over two days before reaching its verdict.
Judge Timothy J. Doory scheduled sentencing for September 14, 2010 at which time Banks could receive a maximum prison term of life plus 20 years.
On January 17, 2008 in the 2700 block of Tivoly Avenue officers responded to a call for a shooting. Once on scene officers discovered the victim, Collin Mazyck, 27, unresponsive and suffering from multiple gun shot wounds. Police recovered nine 9mm shell casings from the crime scene.
The victim died a short time later from injuries related to this incident, and an autopsy determined the cause of death to be a homicide. An eyewitness was located who identified Banks as the individual who shot Mazyck. The state introduced pole camera footage and although the footage did not capture the crime, the prosecutor used the footage to prove that it was bright enough on the street for the witness to see Banks.
The state also presented computer forensic evidence to contradict the defendant’s alibi that he was recording rap music in a friend’s studio at the time of the murder. Police seized the computer from the studio and analyzed it in order to show that there were no recordings made at or around the time of the murder.
Banks remains held without bail at the Baltimore City Detention Center. Assistant State’s Attorney Richard Gibson of the Homicide Division prosecuted this case.
Howard County police announced that they had made arrests in 11 residential burglaries. Here is their statement:
Howard County police have charged four people for a series of 11 residential apartment burglaries in Columbia. The suspects targeted apartments in the 5200 to 5600 blocks of Columbia Road from May 5 through June 29. In all of the cases, the burglaries occurred during daytime hours and showed no signs of forced entry or minimal signs of force. More than $50,000 worth of property was stolen in the incidents, including cash, jewelry, laptops, video game systems, mp3 players, cameras and cell phones.
All four suspects live together in an apartment at 5629 Columbia Road. They are:
* Antwan Terrill Moorman, 21, and Madeline Rose Asbell, 19, both charged with 11 counts each of first-, third- and fourth-degree burglary and theft; fourth-degree burglary; two counts of possession of a controlled dangerous substance; and possession of drug paraphernalia • Steven William Souder, 21, charged with 11 counts each of first-degree burglary and theft • Lori Marie Chilcoat, 26, charged with 11 counts each of conspiracy to commit first-degree burglary and theft.
For more details:
Detectives were investigating the burglaries when the 911 Center received a call on June 29 at 11 a.m. for a suspicious subject in a Columbia Road apartment complex tampering with door knobs. A resident had heard someone trying to open her door and looked out the peep hole. She provided police a description of the suspect. Officers quickly arrived and located the suspect, later identified as Moorman, in a hallway in an adjacent building.
Police detained Moorman and obtained a search warrant for his apartment, which he shares with Asbell, Souder and Chilcoat. Police seized numerous items suspected to be stolen in the recent burglaries in the area. Police also located marijuana and paraphernalia and charged Moorman and Asbell with possession of drugs and drug paraphernalia. That same day, while monitoring Moorman’s apartment, police initiated a traffic stop of Souder and Chilcoat after they were observed leaving the apartment. Police performed a search of the vehicle and seized additional suspected stolen property.
On July 2, police learned that Asbell and Moorman had pawned items believed to have been stolen in the burglary series. Police recovered the property, and on July 7, police conducted a stolen property display with the pawned items, as well as items seized during the search of the suspects’ apartment and vehicle. Eight of the 11 burglary victims positively identified their property in the display.
Police believe the suspects gained entry to the victims’ apartments by tampering with door knobs and locks. Moorman, Asbell and Chilcoat were arrested on July 9, and Souder was arrested on July 12. Moorman and Souder are being held at Howard County Detention Center on $50,000 and $75,000 bond respectively. Asbell and Chilcoat were released on personal recognizance.
Shontay Joyner-Hickman (left), 35, of the 700 block of N. Kenwood St. in Baltimore was arrested Monday night at her home by Anne Arundel County police after she and Dante Jeter, 23, who was being held at the Baltimore jail, were indicted on murder charges.
"I am extremely proud of the men and women of the Anne Arundel County Police Department to include personnel from our Crime Laboratory and Evidence Collection Unit along with Detectives Cremen and Gajda, who worked tirelessly on this case from the very beginning to make these arrests a possibility," Chief of Police Colonel James Teare, Sr. said in a statement. "These detectives displayed compassion while they aggressively investigated this case and sought justice on behalf of the victim and his family."
Details are still developing in the case. The Sun's Andrea Siegel wrote:
Ro kept to a workday routine that had his office closed to patients about 5 p.m., with him staying to finish paperwork and arriving home by 7 p.m., according to his family. But by 9 p.m. that night nearly four years ago, his wife, Susan, was frantic. Ro had not come home and she could not reach him. She called his mother.
Later in the evening, she met relatives and police in the office park and brought her husband's office door key. Police entered to find office papers strewn everywhere and Albert Ro dead in a back room. With no leads panning out despite the offer of a cash reward, the case was turned over to cold-case detectives when the small unit was restarted in 2008.
Albert Ro's parents immigrated to the Baltimore area from South Korea with their four children in 1970. He received a dental degree from the University of Maryland, served briefly in the Air Force and then opened a practice in Lutherville and a satellite office in Glen Burnie.
Even beyond the error, which occurred when paperwork got lost, there are many troubling aspects to the case.
The woman told Baltimore police she was raped in Herring Run Park back in August 2000. Police investigated but were unable to locate a suspect. Six years later, detectives learned that DNA found on the woman matched Clark's genetic code. But a police spokesman said detectives in the sex assault unit had trouble reaching the woman, and when they did reported that she did not wish to move forward.
The police are in the midst of an audit to determine why so many rape cases were deemed "unfounded," leading to complaints that detectives pressured women into dropping cases to preserve good crime stats (here's a complete package of stories on the rape issue). It's not clear whether something similar happened here. Police said the case was not unfounded, but rather pushed off to the department's cold case squad, which investigates old, hard-to-solve crimes.
In 2009, those detectives re-investigated, talked to the woman and filed charges against Clark, who by then was in prison serving four years for failing to register as a sex offender from an earlier conviction that he assaulted a minor.
In mid-June, court officers took Clark to Baltimore County for a routine paternity hearing. After the hearing, Baltimore County sheriff deputies returned him to the county detention center, but official there tell me they lost his "detainer," which authorizes his transport back to prison in Baltimore City. Without that, the guards had no way of knowing Clark was to be held, and they released him.
Even more troubling is that law enforcement officials, who are never shy about notifying the media to help them find wanted men and women, never asked for help in this case, despite a convicted child sex offender being on the loose. It wasn't until we at the paper began asking questions did authorities concede that they had mistakenly let him out.
Council president calls for hearing on rape investigations
We just received this press release from aides to City Council President Bernard "Jack" Young:
Council President Young also introduced a resolution calling for representatives from the Police Department, State’s Attorney’s Office and Mayor’s Office of Criminal Justice to testify before the Council to explain the factors behind Baltimore’s troublingly-high percentage of reported rape cases that eventually become classified as false. The representatives will also detail the steps that must be taken to ensure that rape allegations are thoroughly investigated.
The Sun reported last month that Baltimore leads the country in the percentage of rape cases marked “unfounded” by detectives, police parlance for saying the victims were lying. Moreover, four in 10 calls to 911 for rape don’t generate a report at all.
Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake has already tasked a panel of law enforcement officials and victim advocates to review the department’s policies and procedures, and a team of detectives is expected to review 18 months worth of data. The city also established a hotline for alleged victims to call to report complaints in rape investigations.
Documents show slain Cherry Hill youth leader may have been killed for cooperating with authorities
UPDATE, July 22, 4:30 p.m.: BPD spokesman Anthony Guglielmi told the CityPaper that the original affidavit was filed with false information due to "a miscommunication between police and prosecutors," and adds that Dangerfield "was never an informant for the police." A corrected affidavit has since been filed in court.
Dangerfield, his mother told CityPaper's Van Smith, spoke of being fearful that he'd been labeled a snitch in the weeks before his murder, even though he hadn't helped the police. She says Dangerfield told her of a recent visit by the police to a Cherry Hill house being gutted by Dangerfield and a crew of fellow city workers. The police had asked them for information about anything they'd noticed going on at a house across the street, and Dangerfield and the other workers had no information to offer. Later the same day, the police raided the suspicious house, and she recalls Dangerfield saying that shortly thereafter he was being a called a snitch by people around the neighborhood.
"We thought he was just being paranoid," the mother said, "but he said, 'I know what I'm talking about.'"
When police made an arrest in the killing of Cherry Hill youth leader Angelo Dangerfield, they explained in charging documents a heat-of-moment confrontation: Dangerfield, walking his pit bull Princess, startled two men, who told Dangerfield to keep the dog away from them. Two shots later, Dangerfield was dead.
But documents obtained by the CityPaper and published last week show that police were working off another theory that was never revealed in court records or provided to defense attorneys for Ronald Hall and Michael Robertson, the two men who were charged: that Dangerfield, a 21-year-old who by all accounts was on the right path in life, was killed for information he was passing on to federal authorities about Hall's drug dealing. All charges have since been dropped against Hall and Robertson, with state prosecutors citing the problem of a single-witness in the case. But federal court records reveal a new angle.
Here's what the murder charging documents said:
An eyewitness to the crime "observed Michael Robertson yelling at the victim to keep his dog away from him," according to [Detective Raymond] Yost's statement. "The victim then stated that his dog does not bite. The witness then heard two shots and observed the victim fall to the ground." After Dangerfield fell, the eyewitness saw Robertson "place a handgun in his waist and both Robertson and Hall fled the scene" in Hall's gold-colored Lincoln.
But federal court documents filed last month in civil forfeiture proceedings reveal a decidedly different angle, according to CP's Van Smith:
On Dec. 4, 2009, according to federal court documents, BPD officers raided a Cherry Hill apartment tied to Ronald Edward Hall, a suspect in Dangerfield's murder. During the raid, they seized $7,693 believed to be drug-dealing proceeds. A little more than six months later, on June 18 in U.S. District Court in Maryland, a forfeiture complaint was filed to allow the government to keep the seized cash.
The forfeiture complaint (see below) reveals that Dangerfield was a "confidential source" for the BPD who had been providing detectives "with information regarding Hall and his involvement with trafficking and selling heroin." The complaint also states that BPD "detectives believe that the murder of [Dangerfield] was retaliation for [Dangerfield] supplying information to the Baltimore City Police."
Dangerfield's mother, in a December 09 radio interview on WYPR-FM acknowledged that her son had been called a snitch, but she that was untrue.
"He would come home from work and say some people would call him a snitch. He wasn't a snitch," she said, adding that "I don't know why somebody would do that to him."
Officer identified in shooting of vehicle from behind
City police have identified the officer who last week fired his weapon at a car that was driving away after ignoring a roadblock.
Officer Richard J. McCarthy, a 25-year veteran and member of the accident investigation unit, is on administrative suspension as homicide detectives investigate the Friday afternoon shooting. The victim, a 56-year-old man, was injured after the officer fired at his back window and he crashed his pickup truck into a wall on Falls Road.
Police Commissioner Frederick H. Bealefeld III, who expressed concern over the incident, said Friday that McCarthy had blocked the ramp to I-83 at West 28th Street for a wide load. The driver, who Bealefeld has a minor criminal record and has not been identified by police, ignored the officer’s commands not to drive around the roadblock, and the officer fired at the vehicle as he drove onto I-83.
Police say it is not clear why McCarthy decided to fire his weapon or whether he believed he was in danger. Homicide detectives, as a matter of policy, investigate all police involved shootings.
State's Attorney Patricia C. Jessamy held a press conference today to announce the indictment of Officer Gahiji Tshamba, charged in the off-duty shooting of a man outside a Mount Vernon nightclub. Former Marine Tyrone Brown was hit 12 times out of the 13 rounds discharged from Tshamba's weapon. Press conferences to announce indictments, which are typically only a formality in the process (Tshamba was charged last month and has been held without bond since then), are rare. Then again, this is a high profile case, and prosecutors were publicly criticized by police for moving too slow to charge, and there is that business about an election in the fall.
The Sun's Tricia Bishop was there and will be updating this story throughout the afternoon. Click on the "Tshamba" tag below or on the right hand rail to read related coverage on this case.
Jessamy and defense attorney Brown debate on radio
Baltimore State's Attorney Patricia C. Jessamy, facing what may be her first serious challenge in years in the fall election, appeared Friday morning on the Larry Young Morning Show on WOLB and got into a debate with prominent defense attorney Warren Brown, a supporter of Jessamy's opponent, Gregg Bernstein. I did not hear the show; but former city prosecutor Page Croyder, a frequent Jessamy critic, summarized the portion she heard:
Upfront about his support of Bernstein, he nevertheless complimented Jessamy for her personal qualities before asking his question: Why has Jessamy never invoked mandatory penalties for repeat violent offenders?
Here was her answer:
1. Brown had a personal motive for asking this question because he blamed her for leaking some information that took him out of a previous state’s attorney’s campaign. 2. Brown had just argued for a lenient sentence for one of his clients but the judge sided with the prosecutors. 3. No one will believe that a defense attorney wants her to put his clients away for life.
Brown persisted: Why has Jessamy never invoked mandatory penalties for repeat violent offenders?
Jessamy finally responded that Brown was “inaccurate.” She provided no details—no explanation of her policy, no numbers, nothing. And she proudly added that she did not invoke mandatory penalties for “non-violent offenses.”
Kurt Schmoke, the former mayor and state's attorney, also called in to compliment Jessamy. I'm working to get a copy of the show and will post more.
Meanwhile, here's an interview Bernstein did with the Investigative Voice web site. Bernstein promises that he will be more personally involved in cases, and praised Philadelphia State's Attorney Seth Williams, who he says is doing "terrific work," as an example of how to run a metropolitan state's attorney's office. Of course, Williams has only been in office for six months, but he has vowed to reduce prosecutions and increase conviction rates as part of a "smart on crime" mantra.
Police are on the scene of a shooting this morning in Reservoir Hill. A man was taken to a local hospital with injuries that appear non-life-threatening after being shot in the abdomen in the 2200 block of Callow Ave. The victim was located around the corner, sitting on steps in the 800 block of Newington Ave., where small amounts of blood stained the marble steps. Neighbors said they heard five shots but no one I was able to speak with had seen the incident. The shooting comes after a relatively quiet weekend, which Peter blogged about earlier today. Deputy Commissioner Anthony Barksdale, Col. Dean Palmere, and Maj. Melvin Russell, of the Eastern District, briefly visited the scene and spoke with investigators (they had been attending the National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Executives conference at the convention center)
The Sun's Childs Walker this weekend profiled 17-year-old homicide victim John Crowder, a talented basketball player who had a support system of family and coaches trying to keep him from returning to the streets of East Baltimore:
This is not the story of a young man who died because no one bothered to help him. Lots of people — coaches, teammates and kin — saw his gifts and sought to get him on the path to using them. If anything, it's the story of those would-be helpers, left behind and haunted by Crowder's decision to take a darker path. Why would a 17-year-old, cruising toward a Division I scholarship, go back to the neighborhood he once described as a war zone? What drew him, inexorably, to the place where his best friend was murdered, where two brothers hit the ground in agony after catching bullets? How could the dream they were all constructing have been so fragile?
"So many people are hurting, because so many people tried to step in and say, 'John, you should get out,'" says Brodie, who became his cousin's guardian and lived with him in York, Pa., until John moved back to his grandmother's house six weeks before his death. "They saw his potential. But it's like he was addicted to the neighborhood."
In recent weeks, it became apparent that Crowder was on a dangerous path:
Brodie quickly saw the environment eroding all of John's progress. The 17-year-old stayed out until the wee hours, drinking, smoking marijuana and letting his cherished basketball skills slip. When Brodie confronted him about dealing drugs, he says John didn't bother to deny it. "He was just addicted to the lifestyle," Brodie says.
Countless people tried to steer John back on track. "Even the people in the hood who were living wrong would tell him, 'You need to get back out of here,'" Brodie says.
On Sunday, an adult male was shot in the leg in the 3500 block of East Northern Parkway. Today, police reported that an adult male walked into Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center with a gunshot wound to the arm and another man walked into the emergency room at Johns Hopkins Hospital also suffering a gunshot to the arm. Police the victims may have been wounded in the same incident inthe 700 block of N. Lakewood Ave.
The only fatal shooting occurred Saturday about 4 a.m. when a 35-year-old woman was found fatally shot inside a car in the 100 block of East 22nd St. in lower Charles Village.
Police also reported seizing illegal guns. Timothy Robinson, 29, was charged with gun offenses after police said they arrested him with a rifle in the 1700 block of Presbury St. And police said they arrested Shaquan Robinson, 18, with an illegal handgun in the 800 block of Bethune St.
The victim, Yolanda Howard, was pronounced dead on the scene with a gunshot wound to the head about 4 a.m., said Detective Kevin Brown, a police spokesman.
The Investigative Voice site reports that the shooting was near an after hours club and occurred not long after it had closed.
There's been quite a few killings this year in the Charles Village benefits district, albeit on the fringes. Reputed gang leader Donatello Fenner was shot March 12 in the 2600 block of N. Calvert St. Three days later, Asia Carter was killed in the 200 block of W. 25th St. Then, in a span of three days Charles Bowman was killed at a carryout in the 2900 block of Greenmount Ave and Damon Minor was shot a few blocks north in the 500 block of E. 33rd St.
Officer shoots at pickup truck driving away from him
A 56-year-old man who drove around a police roadblock was injured Friday after an officer shot at his back window, causing him to lose control of his pickup truck and crash off Interstate 83 in Hampden, police said.
Police Commissioner Frederick H. Bealefeld III said that he was concerned about the shooting and that investigators are trying to determine why the officer fired the shot after the vehicle was heading away from him.
The driver, who was not identified, was injured either by broken glass or bullet fragments, police said. His injuries were not deemed life-threatening.
Authorities say Alicia Simmons, an employee at the Maryland Correctional Adjustment Center, is associated with the Black Guerrilla Family, the gang accused of directing a criminal enterprise from inside prison with the help of corrections staff. In a June 22 raid on her Pikesville apartment, agents seized the BGF "constitution," gang codes written in Swahili and paperwork related to its top leadership.
Simmons, 34, also was in possession of letters, inmate ID cards, debit cards and other correspondence linked to some of the city's most notorious criminals. There's a letter from Kevin Gary, the Tree Top Bloods member known for his tinted red contact lenses, and another from Isaac Smith, convicted in the firebombing of a North Baltimore community activist's home, that discussed Simmonsbeing criminally charged.
She also had inmate identification cards in the names of Johnny "J.R." Butler and Calvin "Turkey" Wright, recently convicted for running a violent east-side drug ring connected to at least two killings; and Ronnie Thomas, better known as "Skinny Suge," the producer of the infamous "Stop Snitching" videos.
I get asked constantly what the Baltimore police helicopter is doing flying or hovering over a neighborhood. It's a near impossible question to answer because pilots of the city chopper, named Foxtrot, patrol like any officer in a car. They fly over and look for things and may hover over a routine car stop to watch over the officer or help in a car chase.
The other day in my neighborhood, a police officer arrested a man for being disorderly outside a bar and the helicopter hovered overhead to shine a spotlight on a dark street. Seeing that the officer was alone, the observer in the helicopter called for backup. That brough a half dozen police cars and all the neighbors came out, even though it ended up being the most ordinary of arrests.
I thought of that story when I spotted a statement from Mayland State Police on a particularly busy day for one of its MedEvac helicopters:
TROOPERS IN THE AIR CAN BE JUST AS BUSY AS TROOPERS ON THE GROUND
(Frederick, MD) – When some people see a Maryland State Police helicopter in the air, they might think the crew is peacefully flying above the frenetic fray of life as a patrol trooper, but often, State Police helicopter crews are moving from call to call just like their fellow troopers on the ground.
The rapid pace of a day in the life of a helicopter crew was demonstrated yesterday by the crew of Trooper 3, based in Frederick. Just before 10:00 a.m. yesterday, Trooper First Class Greg Lantz, a flight paramedic assigned to Trooper 3, was at the Frederick hangar when he monitored a police radio call for a serious motor vehicle crash in Libertytown. Based on his experience, TFC Lantz could tell responding medics would likely need a helicopter transport of the critically injured victim. He notified State Police Pilot Russ Zullick and the two were in the aircraft and ready to fly when the call came in minutes later.
After lifting off from the crash scene in Libertytown, Pilot Zullick headed across Central Maryland towards the University of Maryland Shock Trauma Center while TFC Lantz provided emergency medical care to the patient in the back of the aircraft. While caring for the patient, TFC Lantz was also monitoring the radio and communicating with Pilot Zullick.
Moments before landing at Shock Trauma in Baltimore, TFC Lantz heard a police radio broadcast for an armed robbery and a police pursuit that was occurring in Montgomery County. Knowing the helicopter could provide vital police assistance, TFC Lantz notified his pilot and staff at Shock Trauma that they would be doing an immediate turnaround. Before the off-loaded patient’s stretcher had reached the elevator doors at the Shock Trauma helipad, Trooper 3 was lifting off and heading to Montgomery County.
Within minutes, TFC Lantz was actively monitoring the on-going police pursuit and was providing information to the crew of State Police helicopter Trooper 2, which had been dispatched from Southern Maryland to assist. As they approached the scene in Montgomery County, TFC Lantz learned a shooting had occurred and a person was wounded.
Pilot Zullick landed Trooper 3 at the scene and TFC Lantz provided medical assistance along with the ambulance crew already on the scene. After completing a delicate and critical medical procedure, TFC Lantz radioed that Trooper 3 would be transporting the person with the gunshot wound to Shock Trauma. A medic from Montgomery County joined the crew of Trooper 3 for the flight to Baltimore and helped care for the patient. Less than an hour after delivering their first patient to Shock Trauma, the crew of Trooper 3 was landing again with their second patient of the day.
"The missions Trooper 3 were involved in during just a short period of time yesterday exemplify the versatility of our multi-mission aircraft, as well as the important support our helicopter crews provide to first responders on the ground,” Major A. J. McAndrew, Commander of the Maryland State Police Aviation Command said. “The expertise of our helicopter crews enables them to readily switch roles from providing aerial surveillance support to providing rescue services, emergency medical care, and aerial medical evacuation without missing a beat, or more importantly, wasting precious minutes which can be so important to a critically injured person’s survival.”
The Baltimore field office of the FBI is asking for help finding a female bank robber:
The attached photo is of a female subject wanted for 5 bank robberies within the past two weeks. The robberies have occurred throughout Baltimore County, and the latest was on July 8th in the city, (M&T Bank, 5225 Belair Road, Northeast Baltimore) .
In each case the subject passes a demand note to the victim teller, threatens to injure bank employees (in a generic way) and customers if they do not comply.
The subject is described as a B/F 5'5"-5'7" 20-30 yrs., long black wig, white framed sun glasses, white jacket. In the recent county robberies the subject has worn female middle eastern style clothing.
The FBI is very determined to capture the individual due to the large amount of robberies in such a short period of time. The case is also highly unusual because it involves a female suspect.
Anyone with information should call local police or the FBI at 410-265-8080.
Eyrania Smith is, in the words of Maryland's second-highest court, a "truly innocent and injured" person. Eyrania Smith, in the words of the same judges of Maryland's Court of Special Appeals, has no basis to sue over her mistreatment.
That ruling comes even though all sides agree that Smith was mistakenly arrested on a city warrant that should never have existed, taken away by a police officer who left her two children alone in a car in a highway parking lot, and was shackled by her left wrist and ankles to a pole for more than 12 hours in a Baltimore County police precinct.
Smith had been arrested at 9:08 a.m. on March 26, 2005. She was released from custody at 12:54 a.m. on March 27, 2005. She sued for $2 million in Baltimore County Circuit Court, alleging that her detention amounted to the use of excessive force. A judge threw out the case and on Wednesday the appeals court upheld that ruling. The judges said her treatment, while regrettable, did not "shock the judicial conscious."
Read the full column for more details of a simple traffic stop led to the discovery of an old warrant that even the judge had though was long expunged and how a series of blunders prompted her to be held for no reason.
That has led to concern that police were dumping cases or scaring victims out of reporting legitimate crimes. A full scale review is underway and top police officials promise that it will lead not only to the possibility of opening closed cases but longstanding reform in how sexual assault complaints are handled.
Above, in a picture by The Sun's Jed Kirschbaum, a dummy named Bobby is litertally taken out of his shoes after being hit by a car traveling 40 mph near Camden Yards.
Here's how Michael begins his story:
At 25 mph, the Subaru driver managed to stop for "Bobby" — a dummy about the size of a 10-year-old boy — with about 10 feet to spare. At 40 mph, it smashed into Bobby with a sickening thud and enough impact to lift him out of his tennis shoes.
The simulated encounter between vehicle and pedestrian was part of an announcement Thursday by regional law enforcement and highway safety officials of a plan to crack down on aggressive driving — with a special emphasis on speeding and pedestrian safety.
Baltimore Police Col. Michael J. Andrew added a bit of levity to the otherwise very serious discussion about aggressive driving, by introducing himself and saying he was not this guy (Leslie Nielsen, of "Naked Gun" fame) as the city and other law enforcement officers kicked off a campaign against aggressive drivers. On West Camden St. near Camden Yards various area police departments and Baltimore City demonstrated what would happen to a pedestrian hit at 40 miles per hour as a dummy named Bobby is litertally taken out of his shoes. - Jed Kirschbaum, Sun photographer. (In honor of this moment, here's a YouTube video of OJ Simpson's Nordberg character attempting to make an arrest.)
A Charlottesville, Va. court has unsealed a search warrant in the killing of Yeardley Love, the 22-year-old University of Virginia lacrosse player and Cockeysville resident who was killed May 3. Her estranged boyfriend, George Huguely, has been charged in her death.
As the critics charge that this year's decline in homicides - which follows sustained drops over the past two years - is attributable to the excessive snow that hit the Baltimore area, here's a piece from today's Columbus Dispatch discussing how heat affects crime:
Crime researchers and police both say that violent crimes rise with the temperature. But once the reading reaches a certain level - about 90 degrees - researchers have found that violent-crime rates drop.
"When it gets to the point of being unbearable, people don't fight, they withdraw," said James Alan Fox, a criminologist at Boston's Northeastern University who has studied the relationship between crime and temperature in Columbus.
Even though today's high of 94 degrees is expected to be the highest this week, Fox said he won't be surprised if violent crime increases this weekend, when temperatures are predicted to decrease slightly.
The nonprofit Community Research Partners, meanwhile, found that overall crime in Columbus is highest in the spring and dwindles in the late-summer months. Even when researchers looked only at crimes against people, they found that those crimes - including aggravated assault, kidnapping and voyeurism - were highest in June, when temperatures are traditionally lower than in the late-summer months.
USA Today had a similar article last week, saying FBI data shows that July and August were the top months for violent crime, including murders, nationally in 2008, the last year it collected monthly data. The murder totals do not include data from five states; the violent crime category omits six states.
Summers are more violent because "there are longer days, more parties, more people out cruising," says Santa Ana, Calif., Police Chief Paul Walters. "There are more incidents where gangs run into each other, more shootings and retaliations. It begins this vicious cycle of meltdown.
[UPDATE: The Sun's Brent Jones reports that Jeter was sentenced to 33 years in prison today, a ruling that drew applause in the courtroom from the victim's mother.]
City prosecutors sent out a press release yesterday announcing a murder conviction and praising police for their gathering of evidence. They billed the case as "just like a scene out of CSI":
"Baltimore, MD – July 7, 2010 – Darnell Jeter, 45, of the 5000 block of Walther Avenue, found guilty of second degree murder and carrying a deadly weapon on May 11, 2010 after a jury deliberated four hours, will be sentenced tomorrow, July 8, 2010 at 9:00 AM before Baltimore City Circuit Court Judge Emanuel Brown in Room 215 Mitchell Courthouse.
Prosecutors relied heavily upon the excellent police investigation prepared by veteran detectives in the Baltimore Police Department Homicide Division. The investigation led to a DNA hit from evidence recovered under the victim’s fingernails, Jeter’s fingerprints and blood on the murder weapon that helped identify the defendant and secure the conviction. There were no witnesses to the murder that occurred in a vacant dwelling in 2007 and homicide detectives had only one lead from witness interviews -- an individual with a street name of “New York”.
Detectives were able to learn that an individual nicknamed “New York” had lived for a brief period of time in the second floor apartment where the murder occurred. Darnell Jeter was later identified as “New York” in a photo array and the individual who lived on occasion in the second floor vacant apartment at 1202 Treeleaf Court where the murder occurred.
On March 25, 2007, the victim, Theresa Parker, 39, was found unresponsive on the second floor of a vacant dwelling at 1202 Treeleaf Court, in the Somerset Projects. An autopsy revealed that Parker sustained 17 blunt force trauma injuries, 16 of those to the head. Additionally, the victim sustained injuries to the neck, and petechial hemorrhaging to the eyes, which were consistent with asphyxiation.
Although Jeter denied living at the dwelling, crime lab technicians recovered CDs in a closet in the dwelling, and suitable prints which were later found to belong to Darnell Jeter. In July of 2007, after search warrants were secured to obtain swabs of Jeter’s mouth, DNA was removed for comparison to evidence removed from the crime scene and in February 2008, the DNA comparison was completed. Darnell Jeter’s DNA was found on the handle of a hammer believed to be the murder weapon and underneath the fingernails of the victim. The blood on the head of that hammer was found to belong to the victim, Theresa Parker.
Darnell Jeter has an extensive criminal record from New York State that includes seventeen prior convictions dating back to1983. Additionally, Jeter was convicted in Maryland of failure to register as a sex offender in 2007. He was found guilty of violating probation in November 2009 and sentenced to 18 months in prison.
Assistant State’s Attorney Rita Wisthoff-Ito of the Homicide Division prosecuted this case."
Continuing the attack on guns, Baltimore police announced this morning three more arrests in two separate incidents in West Baltimore.
A raid on a rowhouse in the 1800 block of N. Monroe St. led to one man arresed and the seizure of a handgun and suspected drugs. A car stop in the 1100 block of N. Fulton Ave. led to the recovery of a stolen handgun and two arrests. That was made by the Regional Auto Theft Task Force.
Just a few days ago, city police showed 76 guns seized in a little over a week. A photo by The Sun's Gene Sweeney Jr. is at left, showing Police Commissioner Frederick H. Bealefeld III flanked by Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake and Maryland U.S. Attorney Rod J. Rosenstein.
There were cheap .38s, pump-action shotguns, a few long guns modified to resemble assault weapons, and a replica of an M-16. There were hunting rifles more appropriate for the wilds of Western Maryland. Tiny guns that could fit in a purse or pocket. Weapons that could belong to a militia. These are the guns seized by Baltimore police officers in the past 10 days.
Authorities put them on display at police headquarters to highlight crime reductions and a surge in weapon seizures that has netted a total of 1,164 illegal firearms this year. Meanwhile, the 99 people killed in the first six months of this year is the fewest over the same time frame in the past quarter-century.
Pig tails, sauerkraut, and the state's attorney's race
Not to be forgotten with former federal prosecutor Gregg Bernstein announcing his candidacy for state's attorney and Patricia Jessamy hitting back to defend her record, there's a third candidate who filed to run for Baltimore's top prosecutor position on Tuesday: Sheryl A. Lansey, a West Baltimore attorney.
Just days after police announced he would oversee important reforms in the Baltimore police department's sex offense unit, Maj. Scott Bloodsworth has filed retirement papers.
Bloodsworth had been in charge of the city's Southern District since 2008, and his move last week to oversee the special investigations section came at a time when city officials have vowed to change how the department investigates sex crimes. The special investigations section also includes citywide robbery, check and fraud, missing persons and child abuse units.
Bloodsworth, a 24-year veteran, filed his retirement papers Tuesday, his first day in charge of the section. A district major brings significant responsibility - community members have your cell phone number and aren't afraid to use it all times of the day. With the Federal Hill and Cherry Hill within his boundaries, Bloodsworth's job included dealing with business owners and affluent residents as well as those dealing with persistent drug dealing and violence.
Anthony Guglielmi, the department's chief spokesman, said that Bloodsworth expressed reservations about the new position. Police Commissioner Frederick H. Bealefeld III offered him his old job in the Southern District back, and asked that he take some time to think about it. But Bloodsworth had his mind made up and wanted to spend more time with his family, Guglielmi said.
Bloodsworth, a Baltimore native, released a statement through the department calling it a "high privilege and honor" to police the streets where he grew up. "As I reflect on my career and obligations as a father I came to the realization that there could be no more opportune time to retire. Leaving the Southern District seemed a logical time to leave the Baltimore City Police Department."
"He's a proven leader, and that's why he was chosen," Guglielmi said. "He could restructure that unit and make sure it got the attention it deserved. This has been a problem with the agency for 10 years and past administrations would audit it and let it go back to where it was. We needed someone to systematically change the way we do business."
Jack Baker, a longtime community activist who leads the Southern District Police Community Relations Council, said he spoke with Bloodsworth at length on Friday and the commander put no stock in rumors that he was forced out. "He just didn't want what they were offering downtown," Baker said. "The only regret he had was that he was really going to miss the cops and all the neighbors."
I don't like publishing a rumor we can't substantiate, but this one won't quit: community leaders say the scuttlebutt is that bar owners were upset about an April visit to the Cross Street area by Council President Jack Young as he got ready to introduce a bill increasing fines for quality of life offenses. They say Colleen Martin Lauer, a Locust Point resident and political fundraising consultant, helped make calls to City Hall urging that Bloodsworth be ousted.
Asked about the accusation, Lauer was stumped. "Of course not," she said. "I wasn't making any calls. I don't even know that the bar owners are upset. I would have never done that."
UPDATE: Brian McComas, of the Federal Hill Hospitality Association, just called to vehemently deny the charge as well. He had high praise for Bloodsworth, said they speak on a regular basis, and said no one had ever "contacted anybody in reference to Maj. Bloodsworth."
"I don't like the connotation that the hospitality industry is behind getting him thrown out when he was the one we worked with for the increased security plan for Federal Hill, to the tune of $75,000 to $100,000 a year." He's referring to a new weekend deployment around the Cross Street area in which bar owners pay into a pool to have extra officers positioned around popular nightspots.
But the rumor has legs. A letter is circulating the community demanding a meeting with Bealefeld and Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake over their concern that Bloodsworth was transferred "not because of his qualifications but rather his successful efforts to enforce laws that pertain to bars."
The letter expresses "full faith and confidence" in Acting Maj. Margaret Barillaro. "However, we fear that she will be unable to respond to our concerns if her job security is tied to the will of individuals with political connections as opposed to performance," it concludes.
Here's Bloodsworth's full statement:
"It has been my high privilege and honor to serve for the last twenty-four years as a member of the Baltimore City Police Department. I grew up in Baltimore and had the privilege of joining the same ranks of men and women who protected me in my childhood. I was blessed to have the opportunity to spend nearly two and a half decades working to protect the families of this great city and I have no regrets about my service.
The last two years of my career have been as the District Commander of the Southern District. I could not have asked for a better command experience. I have been fortunate to work with some of the finest and most dedicated police in the city. I have been equally lucky to find that the citizens of the Southern District are some of the finest, hardworking, caring and supportive citizens that any District Commander could be lucky enough to serve.
I was recently offered the opportunity to return as a commander in the Detective Division. However as I reflect on my career and obligations as a father I came to the realization that there could be no more opportune time to retire. Leaving the Southern District seemed to be a logical time to leave the Baltimore City Police Department. I would like to take this opportunity to publicly thank Commissioner Bealefeld and his command team for the faith and confidence they have entrusted me with these last four years."
A man who authorities say bragged to an informant about a recent East Baltimore killing has been indicted on federal robbery, drug distribution and firearms charges, which could ultimately end up netting him more prison time than the murder charge in state court. The city homicide unit's beleaguered clearance rate takes a hit, but it's all the same to investigators if the suspect is off the street and another example of how some cases get closed without a murder arrest. Here's how The Sun's Peter Hermann leads off the piece:
He went by the name "Preacherman," according to federal law enforcement authorities, and he made his living on the streets of East Baltimore robbing drug dealers and selling the stolen merchandise himself.
It's a perilous way to spend one's day. Someone once dared rob "Preacherman," and, according to a federal indictment unsealed last week, he bragged to a police informant that he shot and killed the robbery suspect, Donte Vandiver, on Belnord Avenue on May 24.
The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration says in court documents filed last week that "Preacherman" is 27-year-old Tyrell Smith. Agents arrested him June 22 after a stakeout and a midafternoon car chase through several city neighborhoods east of Patterson Park that ended in Highlandtown.
It was one of those theatrical-looking police operations that get a neighborhood talking but rarely make the news, despite a flood of cops and a helicopter that pursued the speeding car even as an occupant threw a loaded handgun onto Pratt Street, spilling seven 9 mm bullets onto the sidewalk.
Baltimore police homicide detectives are at this hour on Cuthbert Avenue in Pimlico investigating a body found in the street. Police have few details at this moment, and it's not yet clear whether this is a homicide.
Somewhere there is a pile of oddly pilfered things from the Baltimore area: light poles, the doors to the downtown courthouse, Cal Ripken Jr.'s No. 8 statue. Oh wait, that one was recovered, and the three young men called morons by Baltimore's police commissioner were convicted.
Police trying to make someone sing a little "Jailhouse Rock" for the heist need all the help they can get. Although the stolen Elvis is 7 feet tall and something less than subtle in a white suit and sideburns, detectives at the White Marsh precinct say they're essentially without a lead. They are not sure when the crime occurred. There were no witnesses. All that's left are Elvis' shoes, still bolted to the roof where the thieves left them. And they aren't even blue suede.
Diner owners Dimitrios and Maria Pigiaditis are shrugging, too. Then again, they aren't big Elvis fans. Though the statue has done well for them, luring in travelers who stay to grab a bite after shooting photos in front of it, they inherited it from the diner's previous owner — who purchased the figure for $1,500 from a Harford Road antique shop. Maria Pigiaditis doesn't even have a favorite Elvis song and couldn't remember whether the statue she's seen every day for years has sideburns.
"I mean, I like Elvis," she says wanly, her voice trailing off.
Black Guerrilla Family members indicted, RICO-style
The Black Guerrilla Family gang - you remember, the ones the federal authorities claim were feasting on shrimp and salmon, puffing on fine cigars and sipping Grey Goose while directing drug deals and killings from behind bars, a la Goodfellas - are back in the headlines, with state and local prosecutors announcing a racketeering indictment against its top leaders. The indictment renews some already-released allegations as well as some new ones, and adds another corrections official to the mix, charging that she helped smuggle contraband.
The Sun's Tricia Bishop reports:
"Alicia Simmons, 34, is accused of smuggling cell phones and heroin into prison for incarcerated members of the powerful Black Guerrilla Family, which court documents say has used such connections for years to live luxuriously behind bars and maintain mafioso-type control of its widespread criminal organization.
Simmons is the fifth Maryland prison guard implicated in the far-reaching scheme, which goes back to 2006 and includes a total of 37 defendants charged since last year."
The 23-page indictment unsealed Tuesday supersedes last year's version and builds on it. It describes the BGF as a sophisticated paramilitary operation that kept a "treasury," made motivational T-shirts (slogan: "Revolution is the Only Solution"), held meetings in Druid Hill Park, developed a gang manual, conducted counter-surveillance on law-enforcement agents and paid off prison workers like Simmons with cash and debit cards.
Gregg Bernstein, a former federal prosecutor, formally announced today his candidacy for Baltimore State's Attorney today. Sun reporter Jean Marbella had an detailed writeup about the race in yesterday's paper, which you can find here. Below, I've pasted the press release for the campaign announcement, which was held in Charles Village near where reputed gang leader Donatello Fenner was gunned down. (Bernstein was introduced at the event by defense attorney Warren Brown - I didn't know the two were so close when I spoke to Brown about Bernstein's rumored candidacy a few weeks ago. I had reached out to Brown more in terms of his experience having considered a run against Patricia Jessamy a few years ago)
Here's some quotes from the press conference, posted on the Maryland Politics blog (It's now updated with a response from Jessamy, who said Bernstein's stats are wrong and that partnerships with federal prosecutors are leading to convictions that the state prosecutors don't get credit for):
“I know I can do better,” said Bernstein, who spoke with his wife, Sheryl Goldstein, the director of the Mayor’s Office on Criminal Justice, and two sons at his side.
“I know my way around a courtroom,” said Bernstein, who has 30 years of trial experience as a prosecutor and defense attorney, “a place the current State’s Attorney has not been seen since she took office.”
As we noted before, Goldstein's role presents an interesting situation. Though she's a Dixon appointee, she currently works as Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake's crime czar and works on a daily basis with criminal justice stakeholders including the state's attorney's office.
Gregg Bernstein Announces Candidacy for Baltimore City State’s Attorney
Bernstein pledges to increase Baltimore’s conviction rate of violent offenders which is the lowest in State.
BALTIMORE, MD. (July 6, 2010) – Gregg Bernstein, a former federal prosecutor and partner at a major law firm, announced his candidacy for Baltimore City State’s Attorney today in Charles Village. Bernstein made his announcement in this normally peaceful neighborhood where only a few months ago, two men with long histories of violence met to settle a score which resulted in a day time murder. Both suspect, Byron Green, and victim, Donatello Fenner, had each been charged with murder twice before, and both of them walked free each time after all four murder cases were effectively dismissed. Bernstein criticized the current State’s Attorney — now in her 15th year in office and running for another four-year term — for not being effective in convicting violent criminals and having the lowest conviction rate in the State of Maryland. Bernstein cited the following statistics: • 50 percent of the people charged with murder in Baltimore are not convicted. • 53 percent of suspects charged last year with serious felony gun crimes — shootings, armed robberies and carjackings — were not convicted. • Over half of all suspects charged last year with carrying illegal guns had their cases dismissed, and the few who actually did go to jail served an average of just three months. • The “War Room,” a program initiated by the State’s Attorney’s Office to focus attention and resources on the City’s most violent and dangerous offenders, has a conviction rate of only 35%. • And, 80 percent of last year’s 6,566 district court domestic violence cases were stetted or nol prossed, which effectively means they were dismissed and only 1% of these defendants who were charged with committing acts of violence against their wives, girlfriends, and other intimate partners did any jail time.
Bernstein, who has 30 years of courtroom experience and is recognized as one of Maryland’s top trial lawyers, pledged to improve conviction rates – particularly for murder and gun crimes by focusing the resources of the State’s Attorney’s Office on prosecuting and convicting Baltimore’s most violent and dangerous criminals and being personally involved in prosecuting cases in the courtroom.
Bernstein said: “My focus and responsibility will be to reduce crime in Baltimore by making sure that the violent criminals who repeatedly have beaten the system, in part, due to the failed polices of the current State’s Attorney, are prosecuted and go to jail.
Instead of playing the blame game, I will work closely with police and other partners to make Baltimore safer and put an end to the current revolving door of justice that continues to put the city’s most violent criminals back on the streets.”
Bernstein was introduced by long time friend and successful defense attorney Warren A. Brown. Brown described Bernstein as a self-made man who grew up in Baltimore and supported himself since the age of seventeen. He described Bernstein as exceptionally caring, fiercely loyal, and enviably courageous. According to Brown, Bernstein is “doing this because he is genuinely dedicated to reducing the proliferation of violence in our city through the aggressive prosecution of criminals and at the same time, he will eliminate the senseless prosecution of many of our citizens for minor offenses. He understands both the impact that violent criminals have on the quality of life here in Baltimore … as well as the impact of a criminal record for a minor offense on an individual’s chances of securing a job.”
Bernstein, will run as a Democrat for State’s Attorney in the upcoming Democratic Primary Election scheduled on September 14, 2010.
This is somewhat old news, but it's following up on a reader tip I received a few weeks ago. According to federal court papers, agents from Immigrations and Customs Enforcement raided the VIP Hookah Bar in Little Italy on June 23 and have zeroed in on owner Fawzi Shehata as they investigate allegations of marriage fraud for the purpose of evading immigration laws.
The bar, located in the 900 block of Eastern Ave. between two rowhouses inhabited by a 98 year old woman and an 86 year old woman, had been the source of many neighborhood complaints, operating without even having an occupancy permit. The front door advertised belly dancers, but Shehata claimed it was a coffee shop and there was not actual belly dancing going on. Its lack of permits came to light at an October community meeting with police and city officials, but it apparently stayed open. I'm not immediately clear on whether they gained the necessary paperwork.
Court papers indicate that ICE agents suspect Shehata illegally obtained a green card and committed marriage fraud by marrying U.S. citizen Angelica Alshade in Durham, N.C. in 2006. But the papers show he has been living with his Egyptian ex-wife and the mother of his five children in an apartment above the bar. The records show that ICE agents received a tip that Shehata is also being sought on a warrant in Egypt after being convicted of embezzlement. Agents conducted surveillance on the hookah bar in April
Prince George's cop pleads guilty to breaking into bank
The Maryland U.S. Attorney's Office just announced that a former Prince George's County police officer pleaded guilty to breaking into a bank. Edward Lee Smith Jr., 42, used his marked police car to drive an accomplice to a SunTrust Bank in Temple Hills.
Prince George's County Police Chief Roberto L. Hylton said in a statment, “I absolutely will not tolerate wrongdoing by any member of this agency. Bad cops have no place in our profession; they tarnish the good work that is being done by the rest of our employees. I am very appreciative of the hard work that the United States Attorney’s office did to ensure the swift prosecution of Mr. Eddie Smith.”
Here are some of the details from prosecutors:
According to Smith’s plea agreement, on June 9, 2009, Smith, a uniformed Prince George’s County Police Officer met with Earl Blake in Prince George’s County and told Blake that he had a job for him.
Smith drove Blake in his marked police cruiser to the SunTrust Bank located at 4625 Old Branch Avenue in Temple Hills, Maryland. Smith provided Blake with a black bag containing an electric grinder/saw and other materials and instructed Blake on how to cut open the ATM safe.
Blake entered the SunTrust Bank through the front door which was unlocked. Although not on duty, Smith stayed in the area of the bank. At approximately 3:30 a.m., the bank alarm company received a fire alarm notification. Members of the Prince George’s County Fire Department responded and saw a Prince George’s County police cruiser sitting on the side of Beach Road, adjacent to the bank.
The police cruiser followed the fire engine into the bank parking lot and Smith advised the firemen that he had checked the building and it was secured.
Firemen smelled the odor of burning metal and moments later one of the firemen saw Earl Blake inside the bank. Blake fled through the rear bank door. Smith ran around the rear of the bank as if to pursue Blake, but he returned moments later and left the scene without speaking to the firemen or contacting his dispatcher.
Blake was subsequently arrested by other Prince George’s County Police Department officers who also entered the bank and recovered an electric grinder/saw and observed damage to the ATM located in the rear of the bank. The ATM contained approximately $40,540 which Smith and Blake intended to steal.
Smith faces a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison. U.S. District Judge Peter J. Messitte has scheduled sentencing for October 18, 2010 at 9:30 a.m. Co-defendant Earl Blake, age 53, of Capitol Heights, Maryland, pleaded guilty to the same charge and is scheduled to be sentenced on August 12, 2010 at 9:30 a.m.
John Crowder, a sophomore basketball standout at Our Lady of Mount Carmel High School, was shot and killed early this morning in Northeast Baltimore's Coldstream Homestead Montebello neighborhood.
At 17, Crowder was drawing interest for his basketball skills as he struggled to overcome the loss of his mother and the pull of street life. As a sophomore, he averaged 18 points per game and 11 rebounds, and was preparing for a July tour with the Nike Baltimore Elite AAU team. He told The Sun's Recruiting Report blog that he had been contacted by college programs including Maryland, Clemson and St. Joseph's.
Crowder's story goes deeper. Check out this story from the Dallas Morning News, where Crowder was profiled in 2008 as one of the top eighth graders in the Dallas area. With his parents out of the picture and with trouble all around, he was sent to Dallas, where he was taken in by a coach as he struggled to perform academically. Here's an excerpt:
John was born and raised by his grandmother on Baltimore's gritty east side. His mother died of cancer when he was 2. His father was long gone by then.
It wasn't long before John was running with the wrong crowd. Street life brought only trouble. He can recite a litany of juvenile run-ins with the law. He has witnessed, he says, both older brothers writhing on the ground after being shot in drug deals. One of his best friends was murdered. He was resigned to a similar fate. Few escape Kirk Avenue.
But when you grow to be a head taller than all the other boys on the street and exhibit adult skills with a basketball, people notice.
I'm not clear on why Crowder returned to Baltimore, but he played his freshman year at Towson Catholic before that school shut down and he had to transfer to Mount Carmel.
Crowder is the seventh juvenile killed this year in the city. One of his Baltimore coaches told Sun reporter Annie Linskey that coaches were trying to get him out of Baltimore for his junior year and gave this heartbreaking quote:
"There is nothing here for a kid with talent," said Vent. "You need to get them away from here so stuff like this doesn't happen."
[Photo via Cheryl Diaz Meyer - Dallas Morning News]
Southern District commander to lead special investigations
Continuing the ripple effect after The Sun revealed that city police have been dismissing rape allegations at an alarming rate, the police department on Friday announced that Maj. Scott Bloodsworth, the commander of the Southern District, will be shifted to fill a vacant position overseeing special investigations, a unit that includes the city sex offense unit.
Since 2008, Bloodsworth has led the Southern District, which includes Federal Hill, Cherry Hill, Pigtown and Westport. Like most district commander positions, it's an around-the-clock responsibility heavy on community relations, and from all accounts he was well-regarded. He'll now oversee child abuse, sex offense, missing persons, financial fraud, and the citywide robbery and pawn shop units.
Part of his job will include overseeing reforms for the sex offense unit, which is under heavy scrutiny. Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake ordered an audit and formed a task force to review how the department handles allegations of rape, while a hotline was created for victims who believe their case was wrongly dismissed. Lt. Thomas Uzarowski, who told me that the city's rape numbers were skewed because Baltimore has more people engaged in sex and trying to take advantage of services, had overseen special investigations in an acting capacity but retired two weeks ago, leaving the position open. Here's the department's statement on Bloodsworth's new gig:
Today, Baltimore Police Commissioner Frederick H. Bealefeld, III named Southern District Patrol Major Scott Bloodsworth to oversee the Department's Special Investigations Section which includes Child Abuse, Sex Offense, Missing Persons, Financial Fraud, Pawn Shop and Citywide Robbery units.
Bloodsworth, who was appointed Commander of the Southern District in 2008, has an extensive history in criminal investigations, patrol operations and community relations. He has served in various supervisory and patrol functions in the Eastern, Central, and Western Districts and worked within the Special Investigations Section from 2003 -2006. In addition, he brings a broad variety of investigative skills to the position including a background in narcotics, robbery, and shooting investigations.
The Police Commissioner touted his background and successful track record in reducing crime and improving relations between the police and the community.
"It's imperative that we entrust command of the Special Investigations Section to a proven leader who is capable of improving the quality of service we provide to the people of Baltimore," said Bealefeld. "Major Bloodsworth is a true professional who will work closely with advocacy organizations and partners to identify crucial needs and restore much needed integrity, competence and efficiency to the unit."
Bloodsworth's appointment will be effective Monday, July 5, 2010 and he will be a direct report to the Chief of the Criminal Investigation Division.
Deputy Major Margaret Barillaro will serve as the Acting Commander of the Southern District.
There were cheap 38s, pump-action shot-guns, a few long-guns modified to resemble assault weapons, and a replica of an M-16. There were hunting rifles more appropriate for the wilds of Western Maryland. Tiny guns that could fit in a purse or pocket. Weapons that could belong to a militia.
These are the guns seized by Baltimore police officers in the past 10 days. The photo was taken by The Sun's Gene Sweeney. It shows Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake at the podium, flanked by Police Commissioner Frederick H. Bealefeld III, Maryland U.S. Attorney Rod J. Rosenstein and ATF Special Agent in Charge Joseph Riel.
Authorities put the guns on display at police headquarters to highlight crime reductions and a surge in weapon seizures that has netted a total of 1,164 illegal firearms this year. Meanwhile, the 99 people killed in the first six months of this year is the fewest killed over the same time frame in the past quarter-century.
Bealefeld stared down at the arsenal displayed before him, the mayor, the federal prosecutor and the local head of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms.
“It certainly is impressive,” he noted, shaking his head. “It’s menacing, threatening.” But in reality, the city’s top cop was thoroughly unimpressed.
“We’ve all seen tables like this before,” Bealefeld said. “I’ve seen bigger tables. I’ve seen smaller tables. I’ve seen more guns.”
The commissioner basically admitted that the media show timed to the six-month mark of the year was a repeat performance. It proved, he said, “that we still have a hell of a lot of work to do.”
That was not a repeat performance were some of the upbeat crime stats. The 44 nonfatal shootings in June was the lowest number for the month since the department started keeping track in the 1970s. What nobody said was that it’s an achievement when the city averages 1.5 shootings a day.
Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake picked up a black 9mm Glock. She praised her federal partners and noted that despite the tough fiscal times, “we will continue to ratchet up the effort to go after illegal guns.”
Maryland U.S. Attorney Rod J Rosenstein said his office successfully prosecuted 206 people on gun charges in 2009 and has already targeted 131 people this year. Defendants in the federal system typically get 10 to 30 years in a prison far away from Baltimore and with no chance to be released early on parole or probation.
“We don’t celebrate that 99 people were killed this year, but we do celebrate the people who weren’t shot,” Rosenstein said.
City police say more than 1,000 guns seized this year, 76 in past 10 days
Baltimore's police commissioner, the mayor and the state's top federal prosecutor are having a news conference this afternoon to talk about guns. In particular, city cops have seized 1,164 illegal firearms from the streets, including 76 in the past 10 days.
The latest gun arrest came today on Garrison Boulevard in Northwest Baltimore. Police said a search of a house led them to a .38 caliber handgun, drugs and three arrests.
That, says the cop's top spokesman, Anthony Guglielmi, has helped bring homicide numbers through the first six months of the year to a 25-year low, with 99 recorded through the month of June.
In addition, police say the 44 nonfatal shootings in June is the lowest number since the department started tracking the figure in the 1970s. Sad though that we can more more than one person shot a day and still set a record low. There have been 190 non-fatal shootings this year.
"This is not a cause for celebration," Guglielmi told me, "but a cause for further action."
Police plan to display all 76 guns seized in the past 10 days at the news conference. It comes on a sad day, however, just hours after 16-year-old Renardo Brown was shot and killed on West North Avenue in Reservoir Hill earlier today.
Sad tale of Block murder ends with death, guilty finding
Takira Leray Johnson-Bey had talked her mother, Angela Jackson, off the street and into treatment. Then, the daughter surrendered her future for a few quick bucks dancing naked on a stage on Custom House Avenue.
Then, in Nov. 2008, Johnson-Bey was fatally stabbed after a fight between two strippers on The Block. On Wednesday, a woman was found guilty of involuntary manslaughter in connection with the stabbing, and sentencing is set for September.
I visited Angela Jackson shortly after her daughter was stabbed. By then, she was off drugs and counseling other addicts. It was a sad irony that her daughter, the one she credited with setting her straight, the one who had once danced at the Baltimore School for the Arts, fell into trouble herself.
Here is part of that story published last year:
The mother was a heroin addict and a prostitute.
Her daughter sometimes danced at the Baltimore School for the Arts and graduated from Edmondson High. The mother was diagnosed HIV-positive three years after she gave birth.
Her daughter wanted to be a child care provider and work with the deaf.
The mother escaped the streets, got married and now, at 46, counsels drug users and distributes condoms and AIDS prevention pamphlets.
Her daughter, 27, was killed last week - stabbed during a fight that started a inside a club on The Block, where she was known as Candy and had stripped for money after giving up her steady job at a bank because it didn't pay enough.
Takira Leray Johnson-Bey had talked her mother, Angela Jackson, off the street and into treatment. Then, the daughter surrendered her future for a few quick bucks dancing naked on a stage on Custom House Avenue.
"When she died, I was angry with God," Jackson told me while raising money for a funeral service from which she has already cut the limo and beautician to save a few hundred dollars. "God told me, 'If you stop doing drugs, stop tricking, you'll be safe.' I did all that - I got a job, got married, got better - and God still took my daughter."
Jackson was the subject of one part of a series published last November in The Sun tracing the roots of the HIV epidemic in West Baltimore. Her picture appeared on the front page, an example of a woman who escaped a life of back-alley sex, disease and a $2,000-a-day heroin and cocaine habit.
Shortly before she died, Johnson-Bey told her mother she wanted to get out: "She was tired of the lifestyle. It's not easy to get out of the lifestyle. It's like the Mafia: Many people want to keep you in. There are only two ways out - handcuffs or death."
Peter Hermann started covering news for The Baltimore Sun in 1990, first in Anne Arundel County and, starting in 1994, reporting on the Baltimore Police Department. In 2001, he was assigned to Jerusalem as the Baltimore Sun's Middle East correspondent. He returned in 2005 as an assistant city editor overseeing crime coverage. In 2008, Peter returned to the beat as a daily reporter and blogger. A recent BBC report featured him in a segment on the harsh realities of covering crime in Baltimore.
Coverage will focus on crime trends, problems in neighborhoods in the city and elsewhere, profiles of victims and police officers and try to offer readers a fresh perspective on one of the most vexing issues facing Baltimore and its future.
Contributing to this blog is Justin Fenton, who joined The Sun in 2005 and has covered the Baltimore City Police Department and the criminal justice system since 2008. His work includes an investigation into Cal Ripken Jr.’s minor league baseball stadium deal with his hometown of Aberdeen, a three-part series chronicling a ruthless con woman, coverage of the killing of five Amish children at a schoolhouse in Nickel Mines, Pa., and a job swap with a British crime reporter to explore differences in crime-fighting.
A special report looking into how city police handle rape cases led to sweeping reforms that changed the way sexual assaults are investigated in Baltimore. He was recognized as the best reporter in Baltimore by the City Paper in 2010 and by Baltimore Magazine in 2011.