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August 31, 2010

Feds look to seize $10 million from Blackwell

Federal authorities are trying to seize $10 million from reputed drug kingpin Steven “J.R.” Blackwell, who was indicted along with two others on federal heroin distribution charges last month.

The brief court filing in U.S. District Court for the first time indicates the scope of Blackwell’s alleged drug empire and links him to two real estate companies that own property in East Baltimore and a home along the Elk River in Cecil County that was purchased for $740,000.

Authorities have labeled Blackwell, 26, a key player in a violent drug feud that began with the abduction of his two younger brothers and included a quadruple shooting outside an appliance store and a shootout at a backyard cookout that injured 12 people, including Blackwell.

Despite his stature, Blackwell hadn’t faced serious charges since he was 17 years old. He was picked up in New York last week after being indicted along with co-defendants Tahirah Carter, 34, and Joy Edison, 24, whose roles have not been spelled out.

Court papers and state business records show that Blackwell and Edison are linked to two real estate companies, JJM Realty LLC and J. Edison Properties, which own property in the Oliver, Berea and Johnston Square neighborhoods that were purchased between Aug. 29, 2008 and January 6, 2009.

State records show that JJM is registered in Blackwell’s name for the purpose of “buying, selling and renting properties,” while J. Edison properties dissolved last year after failing to file proper paperwork.

The properties listed in the federal court filing are:

-936 E. Biddle St

-1403 E Federal St

-2400 E Oliver St

-2618 E. Hoffman St

-2608 Llewelyn St

City records also link an additional property to JJM Realty: 2629 E. Oliver St

According to the Baltimore Housing web site, most of the properties appear to be vacants.

Posted by Justin Fenton at 4:28 PM | | Comments (2)
Categories: East Baltimore

Harris trial: Security guard sticks to his story under questioning

A security guard who identified two suspects in the killing of former city councilman Kenneth N. Harris stuck to his story Tuesday during pretrial motions, even as defense lawyers tried hard to rattle his recollection of the events, The Sun's Nick Madigan reports.

In his second consecutive day on the witness stand in Baltimore Circuit Court, the guard, Germyn Murray, insisted that he knew the two of the men seen leaving the scene of Harris's murder in a surveillance video were Charles Y. McGaney and Gary A. Collins. He had known them for months, he said, because they often hung around the Northeast Baltimore strip mall where Harris was shot and had gotten into trouble there for loitering and disorderly conduct. He described the two men as "thugs."

Trial underway in Harford for attack that cost city officer his eyesight

In Harford County, a trial is underway in a May attack that left Baltimore Officer Jermaine Cook without sight in his left eye. Cook testified last week, according to The Aegis:

Baltimore City police detective Jermaine Herman Cook said he may never be able to see out of his left eye again.

Since the off-duty officer was attacked on his way home to Joppa early in the morning of May 6, he has undergone three surgeries and likely faces a fourth.

Cook testified Thursday afternoon he was assaulted by James Aaron Kimble during an unprovoked attack in which Kimble allegedly called Cook racial slurs.

Kimble's friends testified that Cook escalated the argument and both men "had a chance to walk away."


Posted by Justin Fenton at 12:48 PM | | Comments (3)
Categories: Harford County

Another Dawson relative speaks out

Another relative of the Dawsons - the family of five children and their parents who perished in a fire set by a drug dealer in 2002 - contacted The Sun today to discuss the television commercial that is being aired by the campaign of defense attorney Gregg Bernstein.

The ad features a former employee of the state's attorney's office saying that the family died because of mismanagement in the prosecutor's office, while supporters of State's Attorney Patricia C. Jessamy held a news conference denouncing the ad and saying that it was exploitative and upsetting to the family. State Sen. Nathaniel McFadden said a statement would be issued on behalf of the family, which never occurred. Instead, I phoned one relative, Alice McNack, who said the commercial made "good points" and that the family has never received the answers to its questions (they filed a $14 million lawsuit in 2005 alleging that the city and state were liable). Other relatives could not be located.

But this morning, Novella Solomon, 55, a sister of Carnell Dawson who lives in Tulsa, Okla., called to discuss her reaction. She said the commercial brought her to tears and said the Bernstein campaign should have contacted relatives. But like McNack, she said a lack of response from the state's attorney's office is more disconcerting.

"The ad was upsetting, but what they did was more upsetting than the ad, by not being open," Solomon said. "The not knowing is worse than any commercial."

Certainly, family members will react differently, and we have not heard from Angela Dawson's side of the family. Solomon said that for her part, the city should have removed the children from the home after the first firebombing attempt. In early October 2002, two Molotov cocktails crashed through the family windows. At that point, the state's attorney's office said, a prosecutor met with the family and discussed entering the witness protection program and says that they declined, not wanting to leave their community. The former employee who appears in Bernstein's ad has claimed since 2003 that that never occurred and alleges a "cover up."

"Even if the parents didn't want to budge, they should have snatched those kids up," said Solomon, who said she was never able to visit Baltimore and meet her nieces and nephews until they perished in the fire.

She said the Bernstein ad brought back a flood of memories and was inappropriate, but she said the politicians who are now speaking up under the guise of protecting the family were disingenuous. "They moved on," Solomon said, "but we can't move on."


Posted by Justin Fenton at 11:24 AM | | Comments (3)
Categories: State's Attorney Campaign

Man fatally shot in Northeast Baltimore

The city's latest homicide came early this morning in Northeast Baltimore. Police report that the victim was approached by two people while entering an apartment building on Harris Avenue, in the Belair-Parkside community, about 12:35 a.m.

Reporter Liz Kay reports that the men got into a fight and wound up on the side of the building, where the victim was shot in the chest and the back. He was later pronounced dead at Johns Hopkins Hospital.

Map the city's homicides here.

The victim, identified as Nathaniel Augusto Santiago, beat murder charges twice in the 1990s, according to court records, but twice was indicted and convicted on drug charges in federal court in the past decade, serving sentences of 57 months and 70 months, respectively.

In West Baltimore, police reported that an officer spotted a man with a gun on South Carey Street and arrested the suspect with a loaded .38 caliber revolver.

Posted by Peter Hermann at 7:48 AM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Breaking news, Northeast Baltimore

August 30, 2010

Jessamy talks race, conviction rates, courtroom presence

State's Attorney Patricia C. Jessamy said on a radio appearance that she "hopes" race isn't playing a role in a defense attorney's challenge to her position, while maintaining that prison population and not conviction rates is the best way to gauge her office's effectiveness.

Race was a major theme when WEAA 88.9 FM hosts Marc Steiner and Anthony McCarthy turned the microphone over to callers. One asked Jessamy if "people are coming after you because most government spots are being taken over by minority women." The next referred to Jessamy as "dada," Swahili for "sister," and linked Gov. Martin O'Malley, Police Commissioner Frederick H. Bealefeld III, and her chief challenger, defense attorney Gregg Bernstein, as part of a "white male supremacy" plot "because they think they ought to be in charge." Another scolded Steiner for a "tinge of arrogance" in speaking to Jessamy, which he said was not present during interviews with Bealefeld and Bernstein last week. And finally, yet another asked if Bernstein was playing to racial fears and if African Americans should be concerned if he is elected.

Jessamy initially balked on addressing the questions specifically, but did offer this: "I'm hopeful that this has nothing to do with race. I remain hopeful in that regard, and we'll see where the votes come out."

Other notable moments included:

Jessamy on conviction rates, after an incredulous Steiner asked how she could justify not tracking outcomes of cases: "I don't do conviction rates. I think conviction rates are smoke and mirrors. ... You can have a 98 percent conviction rate. If nobody's going to prison, what does it matter when it comes to violent offenders? The numbers we get are numbers of individuals who are serving time in prison, for having committed violent crimes."

On whether she has culpability in the poor relationship with police: "If you want a state's attorney who does not speak the truth, and who covers up for issues and problems with the police department, you don't have that in me. ... If a state's attorney makes a statement that is not always on the same page as the police department, the media than makes it a big deal.  There's always going to be tension."

Could her office do anything better? "There's always things you could do better. We've worked very hard to address a number of issues and a lot of challenges. Mostly what we've been impeded by is [a lack of] resources."

On why she hasn't tried a case or sat in on a trial to observe her prosecutors in action: She called that "showboating" and said her presence would be a distraction. "I become the distraction, and you don't want ... the attention focused on what those attorneys are presenting, not distracted by who's sitting in the back."

On the group of defense attorneys supporting Bernstein: "I don't know why the criminal defense bar wants to control the state's attorney's office. ... I think the public needs to ask the question why is the criminal defense bar is trying to get rid of a prosecutor who is sending 60 percent of the commitments to the Department of Corrections."

Posted by Justin Fenton at 6:07 PM | | Comments (11)
Categories: State's Attorney Campaign

New Bernstein ad targets one-witness cases

Baltimore State's Attorney hopeful Gregg Bernstein's latest commercial features the mother of slain Cherry Hill resident Angelo Dangerfield, who was fatally shot in November 2009 while walking his dog. Dangerfield had been a youth leader in his neighborhood, and worked for the city housing agency. Police arrested two men in his case, but prosecutors dropped the charges five weeks later. A spokeswoman told the CityPaper "This is a single-eyewitness case, and post-arrest investigation has been unable to develop sufficient corroboration to enable us to proceed at this time.”

The ad features Dangerfield's mother, Doris, lamenting that prosecutors dropped the case. "If they thought these were the ones who shot my son, why let them go? Someone is getting away with murdering my son," she says.

The policy of refusing cases with only one witness is an unofficial one, and one veteran homicide investigator told me that there are exceptions. But City State's Attorney Patricia C. Jessamy didn't argue when a shooting detective asked her about it at a recent forum. "It doesn't do anybody any good to take cases to trial without sufficient evidence, because then they can never be tried again," Jessamy said at the event. Police contend that in many cases, a crime is witnessed by only one person and therefore additional witnesses may not exist.

As for the quote featured in the commercial about "violent predators" that is attributed to The Baltimore Sun, I can't find any such statement appearing in the 7/29 or 7/30 edition.  that's a paraphrase of a Ron Smith op-ed.

We're told that Jessamy has filmed some commercials, though the campaign has not responded to a question about when those will begin airing. We'll post them here as well when they are unveiled.

In a press release announcing the release of the commercial, Bernstein's campaign cites a 2007 New York Times article that said Jessamy has "all but refused to file charges in single-witness situations": "As State’s Attorney, Gregg Bernstein will end Ms. Jessamy’s policy of automatically rejecting single-witness cases. Bernstein promises to review all single-witness murder cases personally and to take witnesses at their word when weighing the decision to prosecute those charged with murder. He also plans to strengthen Baltimore City’s witness protection program to help inspire confidence in potential witnesses to come forward and testify without fear of retribution."
Posted by Justin Fenton at 3:30 PM | | Comments (1)
Categories: State's Attorney Campaign

Child rapist wants judge to close loophole to overturning his sentence

Convicted child rapist John Joseph  Merzbacher has filed an appeal to close a loophole in a recent court ruling that requires he be given a fresh chance at freedom, despite his four life sentences, The Sun's Tricia Bishop reports.

On July 30, federal court judge Andre M. Davis ordered that a court must now offer Merzbacher a 10-year plea deal that his attorneys never properly presented before his 1995 trial, violating his constitutional rights. But Davis added one seeming caveat that has Merzbacher nervous.

"Before Merzbacher gains full relief, a judge of the [Baltimore] circuit court must express a willingness to carry out the undertaking," Davis wrote in a memorandum opinion accompanying his order.

In a notice filed last week, Merzbacher said he intends to appeal that provision "to the extent that it states or implies that a judge … [has] the discretion not to approve the plea agreement."

Posted by Justin Fenton at 3:05 PM | | Comments (0)

DNA in Harris case was not improperly obtained, will be allowed at trial

Over the strenuous objections of a defense lawyer, a Baltimore Circuit Court judge presiding over the trial of three men accused of killing former City Council member Kenneth N. Harris ruled this morning to admit DNA evidence that prosecutors say links one of the men to the crime, The Sun's Nick Madigan reports.

The judge, David Ross, listened to more than 90 minutes of arguments from both the defense attorney, Jason E. Silverstein, who represents defendant Charles McGaney, and a prosecutor, Cynthia M. Banks, before concluding that police detectives had not acted improperly when they sought a search warrant for the DNA evidence without telling the judge who granted it specifically which case the evidence was intended to support.

[For more Sun coverage of this case, click here]

McGaney, 22, and his co-defendants, Gary Collins, 22, and 17-year-old Jerome Williams are charged with first-degree murder, first-degree assault and various robbery and weapons counts in the killing of Harris, who was shot during a robbery outside a jazz club in a strip mall on Havenwood Road in Northeast Baltimore on Sept. 20, 2008. Harris had stopped at the club to borrow a corkscrew and use the bathroom.

In pre-trial motions today, the defense argued that DNA evidence that gave Baltimore police a key break in the investigation was obtained under questionable circumstances. At issue is whether detectives acted properly in obtaining McGaney's DNA through a warrant in an unrelated case.

Posted by Justin Fenton at 2:01 PM | | Comments (3)
Categories: Courts and the justice system, Kenneth Harris trial

Teacher returns to classroom for first time since former student killed her son

Theresa Waddell will never forget the bright boy with troubled eyes who sat in her kindergarten class during her first year as a teacher. She drilled home the message that he could grow to become anything he wanted.

He would grow to murder her son.

On Monday, Waddell, 59, will stand before a kindergarten class for the first time since her son was killed.

Read more from The Sun's city schools reporter Erica Green here.

[Photo by Sun photographer Kenneth K. Lam]

Posted by Justin Fenton at 12:30 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Schools

Bank robber sought in Baltimore County

Baltimore County police just issued this alert about a bank robbery last week in White Marsh:

Baltimore County Police need the public’s help identifying a man responsible for robbing the Wachovia Bank on August 25 at approximately 4:04 p.m. in the 8800 block of Belair Road, 21236.

The suspect is described as a black male, 30-40 years old, 5’8” tall, with a medium build and medium complexion. Detectives say that the suspect entered the bank and walked up to a teller producing a note that demanded money. The teller gave the suspect an undisclosed amount of cash, and the robber walked out of the bank.

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 Those contacting Metro Crime Stoppers can remain anonymous and might be eligible for a cash reward of up to $2,000. 

Posted by Peter Hermann at 11:25 AM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Baltimore County, Breaking news

Trial for accused killers of Ken Harris begins today

Three young men accused in the fatal shooting of a former Baltimore city councilman are set to go on trial Monday.

Kenneth Harris was shot and killed in a robbery outside a jazz club in September 2008. He served on the council from 1999 to 2007.

Charles McGaney (seen at right) and Gary Collins, both 22, and 17-year-old Jerome Williams are charged in Harris' death. Williams was 15 at the time of the slaying but faces trial as an adult.

The three were linked to the crime in part through DNA  evidence. But defense attorneys accuse police of cutting corners in their investigation and obtaining DNA through false pretenses. They've filed motions seeking to have the evidence thrown out.

Arguments for that motion and others are expected to start today.  -AP

[Photo by The Sun's Jed Kirschbaum]

Rivieri speaks out about skateboarding video

Baltimore Police Officer Salvatore Rivieri called into WBAL's Kendel Ehrlich Show and spoke for the first time about his confrontation with the skateboarding teen that got him fired last week. He didn't talke about specifices -- the police union has filed its notice of appeal -- but he did say he was devastated by his firing.

"We were blindsided," the 19-year veteran said (listen to the complete interview).

The former officer didn't take phone calls but did read a statement noting that the YouTube video did not show everything, including his first warning to Eric Bush to stop skateboarding on the steps of the Maryland Science Center at the Inner Harbor, and him handing back the skateboard to the youth after the incident had concluded. The video also didn't show, he said, the two shaking hands or the officer talking to Eric's mother on a cell phone.

Rivieri was fired last week after a disciplinary panel cleared him of using excessive force and discourtesies during the Inner Harbor incident three years ago that was captured on video and viewed by hundreds of thousands of people. It shows Rivieri berating and pushing the teen during a heated exchange in which the officer felt the youth had disrespected him by ignoring his orders and calling him "dude."

People supporting Rivieri

Officer fired (and video of the incident).

Posted by Peter Hermann at 7:28 AM | | Comments (23)
Categories: Confronting crime, Downtown, Top brass

August 29, 2010

Man shot by officer has long record

Here is some updated information on the man shot earlier today by a Baltimore police officer. It was provided by the department's chief spokesman, Anthony Guglielmi:

This morning at approximately 230am, BPD responded to Agusta and Rokeby Avenue for report of a suspicious person. Upon arrival, police witness two individuals standing next to a parked car. As officers approach the individuals for questioning, 26 year old Steven Grant flees the location and leads police on a foot chase where he eludes capture for a short time. Grant was later captured approximately 5 blocks from the scene and police are still searching for a weapon.

The second suspect, 30 year old Jimmy Lucas (left) remains at the scene and brandishes what appears to be a 22 cal. carbine rifle with banana clip (ballistics testing pending to clarify weapon cal.). An officer gives a verbal command to drop the weapon immediately, after no response from the suspect, multiple shots are fired in an effort to incapacitate the threat to police. The weapon was recovered.

Lucas was transported to an area hospital where he is currently on life support. Officer involved has been placed on routine leave pending the investigation of the incident by BPD Homicide section.

Steven Grant 5/21/84

8/6/01 - Handgun
5/14/05 - Handgun /CDS
8/18/05 - CDS
10/22/05 - Handgun
3/11/08 - CDS
5/7/08 - CDS
2/17/09 CDS

Jimmy Lucas 4/24/80

9/6/98 - Unauthorized Use
9/7/98 - Hindering
8/22/99 - Unauthorized Use
12/12/99 - Disorderly Conduct
3/26/00 - CDS
12/27/01 - Disorderly Conduct
1/17/02 - CDS
3/13/02 - CDS
4/12/02 - Theft
4/23/02 - CDS
8/8/03 - CDS
1/1/05 - Handgun
6/2/10 - Domestic
POSSIBLE WARRANT - 6/27/10 Baltimore County

Posted by Peter Hermann at 11:28 AM | | Comments (16)
Categories: Breaking news, Police shootings, West Baltimore

Baltimore officer shoots man in Southwest

A Baltimore police officer shot and critically wounded a man early today in Southwest Baltimore. Here are some initial details from city police spokesman Kevin Brown:


Please be advised that at approximately 2:35 am this morning officers responded to a suspicious person call for service within the area of the intersection of Rokeby and Augusta Streets in the Southwest District. Officers engaged two armed suspects. During the course of the incident an officer fired upon and struck one of the suspects. He was transported to an area hospital and being treated (critical condition). The other suspect was also taken into custody. Sound will be given by the Director tomorrow morning at the BPD HQ Press Room at 10am.

Posted by Peter Hermann at 7:11 AM | | Comments (1)

Guest goes on "stabbing rampage"

Baltimore police have charged a man with stabbing several guests at a reunion for Walbrook High students this weekend. One man died in the attack at an arena on Annapolis Road in South Baltimore.

But many questions remain -- what the dispute about (something current or something out the past) and whether the dead man, or any of the wounded people were targets or bystanders. Reporters Jessica Anderson and Julie Bykowicz talked with the aren's manager and with the dead man's sister, but didn't learn many details.

Perhaps today or Monday, when police charging documents become available, we'll learn more. Both the suspect and the man who died have extensive criminal records. James L. Dixon, 28, was charged with first-degree murder and several counts of attempted murder in connection with the stabbings.

Posted by Peter Hermann at 7:05 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Breaking news, South Baltimore

August 27, 2010

Arrest report says 14 year old murder suspect wanted help with anger

Relatives of 14-year-old Arteesha Holt, charged as an adult with fatally shooting a man in Southeast Baltimore, told The Baltimore Sun on Wednesday that the girl had a violent, uncontrollable temper and that they had sought help to no avail. Mother Raichelle Johnson said she was told that her daughter would have to commit crimes, or Johnson would have to terminate her parental rights in order to get the help that Holt needed.

Johnson encouraged me to fact-check her claims, though juvenile and social services records are sealed. But a charging document from one of Holt's earlier arrests helps support her story. Police who were called to Booker T. Washington Middle School encountered Holt, who refused to calm down and screamed expletives. Afterward, both the girl and her mother said she needed help, according to the Investigative Voice:

"The officer spoke to Artesia’s [sic] parent Mrs. Micelle [sic] Johnson who stated that her daughter needs some help from the juvenile justice system, to help with her behavior that’s out of control. I also spoke it suspect Artisan [sic] Holt who informed me that she feels as though she need some help in reference to her attitude [and] that she feels that she can’t really control."

Posted by Justin Fenton at 5:11 PM | | Comments (9)
Categories: Southeast Baltimore

Pastor pleads guilty in plot to kill disabled man

A 34-year-old Baltimore pastor who worked with the developmentally disabled pleaded guilty Friday to his role in a conspiracy to kill a blind man for life insurance money.

Kevin Pushia (at right) faces life in prison in the death of Lemuel Wallace, who was found in a Leakin Park bathroom shot multiple times in the head and back in February 2009. Prosecutor Robin Wherley said Pushia confessed to taking out multiple life insurance policies in Wallace’s name, then paying a hit man $50,000 to kill him.

That money had come from the treasury of a small East Baltimore church where Pushia was a pastor.

Pushia, who had worked as an operations manager for the Arc of Baltimore, confessed after police serving a search warrant found a notation in his planning calendar for Feb. 5, the day after Wallace was killed, that read, “L.W. project completed,” prosecutors said.

“Mr. Pushia made some poor decisions, and got himself in a very difficult position,” said defense attorney Russell Neverdon outside the courthouse. “His plea was an effort to purge himself, emotionally and spiritually.”

Sentencing was not disclosed at Friday’s hearing in Baltimore Circuit Court. A co-defendant, James Omar Clea, is scheduled to stand trial on Nov. 8.

Posted by Justin Fenton at 1:28 PM | | Comments (5)
Categories: Courts and the justice system, East Baltimore, West Baltimore

Fired officer in skateboard incident gets support

The Baltimore police officer fired this week for berating and pushing a 14-year-old skateboarder three years ago at the Inner Harbor has supporters. Residents from Greektown to downtown are rushing to his defense, as his union prepares a lawsuit.

Officer Salvatore Rivieri had been cleared by an internal police panel of using excessive force and discourtesies, but convicted of administrative charges of failing to write a report. The panel recommended that he be suspended five days, but Police Commissioner Frederick H. Bealefeld III disagreed and fired him.

The union argues that Bealefeld, even though he has the right to increase the punishment, abused his authority by turning a technical violation into a firing offense, and that he fired the officer not for failing to write the report but for his conduct at the harbor three years ago -- conduct for which he had been acquitted.

Rivieri's actions has stoked a furor. His father went on WBAL-Radio's Clarence Mitchell show and blasted the officer as out of control and defended his son for calling the the officer "dude," saying "he's just a child. But many others side with the officer, saying his stern lecture was just what Eric Bush needed:

Rosalind Ellis who lives at the Inner Harbor: "I cannot understand that with all the stuff that's going on in the city that the police commissioner would get involved with skateboarders. I'm very upset because I have personal dealings with these skateboarders, and they are frightening and arrogant."

Fallston's Kim Cowie who said Rivieri helped her daughter and her sick dog: "Officer Rivieri came over, got water out of his cooler and asked if she needed help. Apparently not seeing her mother, who was trailing 20 feet behind, "he offered to help get the dog to the vet. He was very concerned there was a child alone with a sick dog."

On Thursday, the Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 3 handed out a memo from 2008 that raises some questions. It shows that Rivieri was suspended in February 2008 after the video went on YouTube and then appears to have been cleared several months later and told he wouldn't face any internal charges that could result in his firing.

Police officials declined to comment on the memo. Read it for yourself here:


Fax 000000436
Posted by Peter Hermann at 8:10 AM | | Comments (8)
Categories: Confronting crime, Downtown

August 26, 2010

City police union calls firing of cop unfair

The union representing Baltimore police officers vowed to sue the department over what they call an "abuse of power" by the commissioner who fired the officer who berated a skateboarding teenager at the Inner Harbor three years ago.

Salvatore Rivieri was terminated months shy of being able to retire and collect a full pension. He is the officer who was captured on videotape screaming at 14-year-old Eric Bush, and then shoving him to the ground when the youngster ignored his demands and repeatedly called the cop "dude."

A three-member police panel heard evidence and testimony at a hearing last month and cleared the officer of the most serious charges of using excessive and unnecessary force and discourtesies. They found him guilty of failing to file a report and recommended he be suspended for five days.

But Commissioner Frederick H. Bealefeld III upped the punishment to termination. Union officials said Rivieri was called to headquarters from patrol and fired him after a 2-minute hearing in the commissioner's office. He had to surrender his gun and call for a ride because he could not drive back in his squad car.

For more:

The president of the Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 3, Robert F. Cherry, and past president Gary McLhinney accused Bealefeld of bowing to public pressure, threatened to sue and to seek new laws in Annapolis next year to curtail the discipline authority of the commissioner.

Cherry and that while the commissioner has the power to change punishment, he contended that going from a few days suspension to termination "is an abuse of his authority." He noted that Rivieri was fired shortly after the video surfaced in February 2008 and that the internal investigation concluded in October of that year.

Union leaders released a Nov. 7, 2008 memo from Col. John P. Skinner, the chief of patrol, in which he notified department commanders that "Officer Rivieri would not be facing termination-based findings."

Rivieri was then returned to full duty and assigned to the Southeast District patrolling the Greektown community. A new investigation was then launched and the department filed administrative charges against Rivieri that included using excessive and unnecessary force, the same charges for which the trial board acquitted him.

The Baltimore Police Department released this statement on the union's allegations:

"The Baltimore Police Department has no comment in response to the FOP press conference as we do not publicly discuss personnel actions. When it comes to internal discliplinary actions, the BPD is guided by the law and we remain committed to holding ourselves accountable to the people of Baltimore."

Posted by Peter Hermann at 1:22 PM | | Comments (33)
Categories: Breaking news, Top brass

Jessamy camp calling attention to Bernstein's defense clients

A day after a group of politicians called a news conference to denounce defense attorney Gregg Bernstein's campaign commercials featuring the Dawson family (read coverage of the event here and here), an advisor to State's Attorney Patricia C. Jessamy is now calling attention to Bernstein's past criminal defense work.

This morning, Larry S. Gibson, a former aide to Kurt Schmoke who is working with the Jessamy camp mass e-mailed a 2006 Sun article that noted that Bernstein was the defense attorney for one of the eight co-defendants in a 2006 firebombing of a North Baltimore community activist. The subject line of Gibson's e-mail reads: "He who throws stone..."

Looking at the online court records, Bernstein was court-appointed to represent Andre Wilkins, who pleaded guilty to driving a getaway car for the men who threw Molotov cocktails through the window of Edna McAbier. That generally means that the defendant sought a public defender, but because another co-defendant already had a public defender, others were given court-appointed private attorneys so as to receive independent defense counsel. There's about 100 attorneys among the felony panel that can be appointed.

Wilkins received more than 20 years in prison, and in the article Bernstein is quoted saying that Wilkins testified against others and should have received a sentence closer in length to another co-defendant.

Some commenters on this blog, and of course Jessamy's supporters, have raised the question of whether an attorney who has spent the bulk of his career helping accused criminals game the system or beat charges is the best to fix what ails the state's attorney's office. Bernstein was a prosecutor with the U.S. Attorney's Office for four years, but that was 20 years ago. Since then, he's been largely a white collar defense attorney and securities litigation, but has also handled criminal cases, petty and large. (The Sun's Annie Linskey reported Thursday that he's currently representing Sen. Ulysses Currie, the powerful Prince George's County legislator facing a federal probe.)

A future story will look more in-depth at this as an issue, but what do you think? Can a defense attorney improve the state's attorney's office?

Posted by Justin Fenton at 10:35 AM | | Comments (20)
Categories: Courts and the justice system, State's Attorney Campaign

Gunman steals engagement ring in Roland Park hold-up

Even the criminals act differently in upscale neighborhoods.

After holding up a couple on a Roland Park street and stealing a diamond engagement ring in the middle of the afternoon, the gunmen made his get-away in -- a mini-van.

Sort of like car camouflage in this suburban-like neighborhood of North Baltimore. But no less scarry for the victims, a 30-year-old man and a 28-year old woman.

The Sun's Jessica Anderson reports today that they were walking in the 100 block of Longwood Road about 1:30 p.m. Tuesday when a man wearing a ski mask and wielding a silver handgun approached them:

"Give it up. Where is the money," he told the couple, police spokesman Donny Moses said. The man handed over his wallet with about $40 in cash and credit cards and the woman gave up her purse, including her diamond engagement ring and a set of earrings, Moses said. The robber walked to a burgundy minivan and drove off, he said. Police said they have leads that they believe will lead to arrests.

This attack almost got lost in the shuffle of crime this week. I found an e-mail this morning from the Roland Park list-serve (in addition, the Roland Park community web site discusses a crime wave in the communty):

Hello RP Friends

A very scary and sad event happened today that I wanted to alert you all to, and to ask that you pass along the word for all walkers to be on alert, and perhaps stay inside the next few days or keep a low profile (or ride a bike instead of walking).

Today at 1:30pm at the intersection of Longwood and Club, in broad daylight, (25 yards from my front door), my next door neighbor’s son and his new wife were held up at gunpoint.  They were walking to Eddie’s. The assailant is an African American man wearing a black face mask pulled halfway down who got out of a moving car and pulled a large gun on them and told them to “hand it over”. The robber stole his wallet and her pocket book (which had her engagement ring in it). Police came to the scene, somewhat surprised.

The car as it turns out was stolen. The police told us that since the assailants are still at large and not caught, it is very likely that they will return to the same neighborhood over the next few days to repeat. That was new news for me re the expected pattern.

So, for all walkers and neighbors, please please be on alert and pass the word to your neighbors to be aware and smart.

Posted by Peter Hermann at 8:10 AM | | Comments (5)
Categories: Confronting crime, North Baltimore

A neighborhood COP walk, then a robbery

The neighborhood Citizen On Patrol walks have become a signature of the Baltimore Police Department's efforts to engage residents in the fight against crime.

One of the most prolific walkers, and most vocal, Stephen C. "Steve" Herlth Sr., sent this e-mail out today recounting an unfortunate incident after a walk in South Baltimore's Morrell Park Wednesday night:

Last night The Southwest District Police Community Relations Council's Citizens on Patrol had just completed their walk in the Community of Morrell Park, my home community. As in most cases, when we come together for a walk, the "Players" in the community see us gather, get on their Cell Phones and alert each other.  For that forty-five minutes or hour, the neighborhood becomes quite, and the players disappear.  Last night was no different.

The walk itself was one of the better ones in Morrell Park for some very unique reason, one of which was we had several residence approach us, gathered and presented information. Others accepted and read the upcoming walk notification.  One resident even join up with us during the walk. This is why I like having the District Commander, Major Anthony Brown and his new Deputy Major Frederick Stewart join us. They both have the natural gift of talking to people in a way that promotes participation.

Well last night, maybe about an hour after our walk, and all of us went home, Southwest responded to an attempted Armed Robbery. Southwest was quick in its response, follow through, and apprehension of the subjects involved, and "Yes" a hand gun was involve that later turned out to be a "B-B" Gun, a "DUMMY GUN".  Which we know, when you're scared to death, if you think the Gun is real, it is!

Now, I am sure that someone out there will find fault somewhere in what the Great Southwest did, or didn't do, they always do, but not from this person. To me, it was a great example how the various efforts of Baltimore City Police responds to it residents needs. I am proud of the men and woman of the Southwest, and I am equally proud of the Command Staff of Major Tony Brown and Deputy Major Frederick Steward.

Great Job last night, guys, great job!

Posted by Peter Hermann at 8:00 AM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Breaking news, Confronting crime, South Baltimore

The mind of an alleged killer

Anyone wondering what's in the mind of an alleged teen-aged killer must read Justin Fenton's story today: "A troubled past, then a killing."

The mother of 14-year-old Arteesha Holt gives a candid assessment of her daughter, charged with opening fire on two men who police said laughed at her youthful appearance when she tried to hold them up. Police said she pulled the trigger once on a silver .32 caliber revolver; the bullet grazed on man's head and hit his companion in the center of his forehead, killing him.

Now another child is in jail on murder charges. Justin found the girl's mother who noted her daughter's troubled past. In a city that seems numb to murder, this one chills. Justin wrote:

Arteesha Holt wasn't like most girls her age. A tomboy who liked playing football and basketball, relatives say she also had an explosive temper and was prone to uncontrollable outbursts.

Once, she destroyed her family's home, slinging an ashtray across the room, tearing pictures from the wall and kicking out a heating vent, all because her infant nephew stepped on a bowl of strawberries. The girl's mother says she tried repeatedly to get her daughter help through the juvenile justice system, to no avail.

The girl's mother, Raichelle Johnson, 39, said she was horrified by the allegations. Speaking from the porch of her Southwest Baltimore home, she said she worried for her daughter and sought help, but never anticipated "in a million years" the situation she faces now.

"I don't condone my child taking a life — if she took this man's life, then she needs to be prosecuted," said Johnson. "But she's still a child. She needed help, and when we asked for help, they wouldn't give it."

Johnson said she ran a strict house, often creating tension between her and her rebellious daughter.

"In my house, there are rules," she said. "You have to clean up, can't cuss. A child has to be a child, like children should be."

Something was wrong with Holt, however, her mother said. Her rage often got bottled up, erupting with terrifying results. Though she was a good student, she began having trouble in the classroom. She was shifted from school to school and charged with disturbing the peace.

"Arteesha is … ," Johnson paused, searching for the right words. "Unstable."

Posted by Peter Hermann at 7:41 AM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Confronting crime, East Baltimore

August 25, 2010

Politicians, Dawson relative react to Bernstein campaign ad

On Wednesday afternoon, a group of politicians and community members gathered to call on the campaign of Gregg Bernstein to withdraw a television commercial that invokes the killing of a family of seven in an intentionally set fire in 2002. The ad featured a former employee of the state's attorney's office who said that the deaths resulted from "mismanagement" of the witness protection program, a claim police and prosecutors have vigorously denied. The officials on Wednesday denounced the ad as distasteful and disrespectful to the family, and there's a robust debate to be had about where the line is to be drawn in campaign ads and whether the deaths should be brought up in political debate.

But one aspect of the press conference stuck out to me. Those who spoke repeatedly invoked the surviving family's pain and heartbreak over the tragedy. But it quickly became clear, however, that no one had spoken to the family about the substance of the commercial itself. That's an important point, because it cannot be inferred that the family would necessarily be upset - the claims made in the commercial are actually some of the same ones raised by surviving relatives in a $14 million lawsuit filed against State's Attorney Patricia C. Jessamy and other city and state officials, who they claim did not do enough to protect the family as it squared off with neighborhood drug dealers. The suit was dismissed when the courts ruled that the city and state could not be held liable.

Though State Sen. Nathaniel McFadden said the family was 'very, very upset' about the commercial, when pressed by reporters, he called on the director of the Dawson Family Safe Haven Center. She said she hadn't spoken to Angela Dawson's adult daughter since viewing the commercial over the weekend, but said "you can imagine" how they would feel.

I couldn't reach the daughter, Lakesha Bowles, who may very well be upset about the ad, and several phone numbers for other relatives were disconnected. But I did reach Alice McNack, sister of Dawson family patriarch Carnell Dawson, and she said she wasn't troubled by the commercial. In fact, she said she it "makes some good points" and that she still believes city officials didn't present the Dawsons with viable options for witness protection. She had stronger comments for those expressing outrage on behalf of the family.

Because this campaign has generated a lot of interest, I'm going to cut and paste some of the quotes I gathered when reporting the story that appears in Thursday's paper:

State Sen. Nathaniel McFadden: "We have all seen many poltical ads and know that ads sometimes can be rough and can stretch the truth. But there are limits. The recent ad by Gregg Bernstien steps over the line. It's offensive, it's insensitive, and it's unacceptable, and it must be pulled from the air. When? Now. it must be pulled from the airwaves now."

"The family is absolutely distraught. It brings back memories, and the family is very, very upset. We may have a written statement later. Why use the family as a political football?"

Del. Curt Anderson: "It tells me one thing about this race. That this guy Bernstein is probably in the race just to win. He'll use anything he can to win this race. it also tells me he doesn't car about Baltimore City, he doesn't care about our families, he doesn't care about how the streets have been tore apart by this incident and others like it. This man simply wants to win. That's not the candidate I want.

"The police department needs a check and balance. We can't have a police commissioner and state's attorney who are buddies. Because then, the police department runs unfettered. We need someone who's been checking the police department, like Pat Jessamy, who continues to protect all of our rights, not just the rights of some of the people."

Alice McNack, Carnell Dawson's sister: "We felt more should've been done for our family when they were calling for help. It wasn't until they were deceased that all these things started happening. We're appreciative for the city turning that home into a safe haven for children - that's a good thing that came out of the tragedy. But I think there's always going to be politicians who will piggyback for their campaigns. There's nothing we can do about that."
On viewing the commercial: "I don't have an opinion. It's not upsetting me. When I go up there and drive by the house, that's when I relive it."
"It makes some good points. The lady who worked there, I think she knew what she's talking about."
On the Wednesday news conference: "Nobody should be saying what they think we feel. Each one of us feel a different way about this. For them to say this is what the family feels, that is wrong."

State Sen. Joan Carter Conway: "My personal opinion when I first saw the ad was that it unconscionable. There's certain things you don't do. There was no regard for the family. ...Do people think they are not human? These memories as tragic as they are will take them to the grave. for someone to politicize an issue is unconscionable. it needs to be taken off of television and every media forum that's there.  The Bernstein campaign owes the family an apology. "

Statement from the Bernstein campaign: “On Monday, the Bernstein Campaign released two ads – the DiTanya Madden ad on television and radio and the Marge Shipley radio ad -- that highlight the shortcomings of the Stateʼs Attorneyʼs Officeʼs Witness Protection Program and the critical need for improvement and change. DiTanya Madden, Patricia Jessamyʼs former Witness Protection Coordinator, approached the Bernstein campaign with her compelling story about how she resigned from the Stateʼs Attorneyʼs Office in protest because she believed it failed in its duty to protect the Dawson family. Surviving members of the Dawson family filed a multi-million dollar lawsuit against the City in 2005 because they believed that not enough had been done to prevent the tragedy. In addition, Marge Shipley, the mother of Carl Lackl, and Kim Underwood, his sister, also approached the Bernstein Campaign to share their story of how Mr. Lackl was murdered to prevent his testimony and was never informed about the potential danger he was in or placed in the Witness Protection Program. Ms. Shipley and Ms. Underwood have been vocal advocates for change. Both of these tragic stories underscore the real need for new leadership and a better Witness Protection Program. Until witnesses believe they are safe and protected, too many will refuse to testify and Baltimoreʼs low conviction rate will persist. The Bernstein campaign stands behind all three of these brave women and their stories and has no plans to pull any of its ads.”

State Sen. Verna Jones: "It's really a sad sad occasion, when you have to deal with someone who is so insensitive, that supposedly wants to be of service. he wants to just lock em up and throw the key away. That is not the type of person we need in such a key position as state's attorney. Pat Jessamy has been doing a very very good job to not just be smart on crime but also sensitive to the needs of our community. ... This is an individual that we do not want to come to Baltimore. We have an overincarceration of young men and women from the streets of baltimore city, that arent given their due process."


Posted by Justin Fenton at 9:46 PM | | Comments (10)
Categories: Confronting crime, State's Attorney Campaign

Blackwell, reputed drug kingpin linked to retaliatory kilings, indicted by federal authorities

Steven Blackwell, the alleged East Baltimore drug kingpin, has been indicted by federal authorities. Court papers filed last year show that the abduction of Blackwell's younger brothers may have set off a wave of retaliatory shootings and killings, including a shooting at a cookout last summer that left 12 people injured. Police sources said at the time that Blackwell had been targeted but was uninjured. Last year, Mayor Sheila Dixon chided federal authorities for taking too long to build a case against Blackwell. Here's the press release from the U.S. Attorney's Office:

Defendants Allegedly Participated in Heroin Distribution Conspiracy Operating Since 2003

Baltimore, Maryland - A federal grand jury has indicted Steven Blackwell, age 26, of Elkton, Maryland; Tahirah Carter, age 34, of Cockeysville, Maryland; and Joy Edison, age 24, of Elkton, for conspiracy to distribute and possess with intent to distribute heroin.  The indictment was returned on August 11, 2010, and unsealed today upon the arrest of the defendants.

The indictment was announced by United States Attorney for the District of Maryland  Rod J. Rosenstein; Special Agent in Charge Richard A. McFeely of the Federal Bureau of Investigation; Special Agent in Charge Rebecca Sparkman of the Internal Revenue Service - Criminal Investigation, Washington, D.C. Field Office; Baltimore City State’s Attorney Patricia C. Jessamy; and Baltimore Police Commissioner Frederick H. Bealefeld III.

“This investigation has been one of our highest priorities,” said U.S. Attorney Rod J. Rosenstein.  “Federal prosecutors and agents are working closely with Baltimore City police and prosecutors and focusing resources on suspects believed to be involved in the city’s most serious crimes.  Anyone who joins a criminal drug distribution network is liable to be prosecuted for conspiracy and held accountable for all foreseeable criminal conduct of other participants.”

Baltimore Police Commissioner Frederick H. Bealefeld said, “Our partnership with the U.S. Attorney's Office and the tenacious work of many Baltimore police officers and FBI agents over the last two years has led to the indictment of Steven Blackwell on drug conspiracy charges.  This indictment represents a milestone achievement in the fight against violent crime in Baltimore.” 
        According to the indictment, Blackwell, Carter and Edison have participated in a conspiracy to distribute heroin in Maryland, New York and the Dominican Republic since December 2003.  The indictment further alleges that during the time of the conspiracy the defendants have distributed and possessed with intent to distribute more than a kilogram of heroin.
        Blackwell was arrested on Tuesday, August 24th in New York and had his initial appearance in U.S. District Court in New York today.  He is detained pending removal to the U.S. District Court in Baltimore.  Carter and Edison were also arrested on August 24, 2010 and each had an initial appearance in U.S. District Court in Baltimore today.
        The defendants face a maximum sentence of life in prison for the drug conspiracy. 
        An indictment is not a finding of guilt.  An individual charged by indictment is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty at some later criminal proceedings. 
        United States Attorney Rod J. Rosenstein thanked Baltimore City Assistant State’s Attorneys Tony Gioia, Michael Studdard and Tim Lake, the U.S. Attorney’s Office in the Southern District of New York, the New York offices of the Drug Enforcement Administration and Federal Bureau of Investigation, and the Maryland State Police for their assistance in this investigation.  Mr Rosenstein commended Assistant United States Attorneys James G. Warwick and James T. Wallner, who are prosecuting this Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force case.
Posted by Justin Fenton at 3:33 PM | | Comments (5)
Categories: Courts and the justice system, East Baltimore

Police union fights back for fired officer in Harbor incident

The president of the Baltimore police union, Robert Cherry, lashed out at the city's police commissioner who today fired the police offer who three years ago berated a 14-year-old skateboarder at the Inner Harbor.

The incident was capture on video and posted to YouTube (video posted on earlier blog). A police disciplinary panel had acquitted officer Salvatore Rivieri of the most serious charges, using excessive and unnecessary force and discourtesies. The panel instead convicted the officer of administrative charges of failing to file a report and recommended a five-day suspension.

Commissioner Frederick H. Bealefeld disagreed and upped the punishment to termination. His office declined to comment further. But Cherry had a lot to say:

“It’s outrageous,” Cherry said. “It’s well beyond the punishment that should’ve been meted out. … This is the mechanism to police the police. The trial board is judge and jury. They have seen this video over and over again. Officer Rivieri took the stand and testified and was cross-examined by city lawyers.”

Cherry said that what Bealefeld did was akin to a “jury coming back with a verdict of acquittal and the prosecutor saying, ‘Hell no, put him in the chair and electrocute him.’ That’s what the commissioner just did.”

The union president said that “whether you agree or disagree with Sal’s tactics, he didn’t curse, he didn’t beat this kid. He gave the kid his skateboard back and called his mother.” Cherry also noted that neither Bush nor his mother filed a complaint until seven months after the July 1, 2007 encounter, after the video appeared on YouTube.

“Obviously the trial board saw something different than the police commissioner,” Cherry said.

Cherry later sent this statement:

The FOP has worked diligently with the BPD over the years to ensure that our disciplinary process for police officers is fair and equitable. There is a process in place to "police the police" and in this instance the departmental trial board - members of the BPD selected from a list and agreed upon by both the PC's legal team and the police officer - listened to all the evidence and returned a verdict of not guilty on all the serious charges, finding Police Officer Sal Rivieri guilty of failing to submit a police report and recommended 5 days loss of leave.

For the PC to increase the punishment to termination is an abuse of his discretion and not only does it end the career of a 19 year veteran who was out there doing his job, the PC's decision sends the wrong message to all our police officers who are expected to aggressively keep our streets safe but cannot expect to be treated fairly and not discriminated against in any disciplinary proceedings. We will appeal the decision of the PC on behalf of Police Officer Rivieri.

Baltimore cop who berated skateboarder fired

Baltimore Police Commissioner Frederick H. Bealefeld III this morning fired the city officer who was caught on video berating and pushing a 14-year-old skateboarder at the Inner Harbor three years ago.

A department spokesman confirmed the personnel action but refused to comment further. The spokesman said the officer, Salvatore Rivieri, was told of the termination during a meeting with Bealefeld at 9:30 this morning at headquarters.

Last month, a three-member police panel called a trial board held a hearing and found Rivieri, a 19-year veteran, guilty of failing to issue the youth a citizen contact receipt and failing to file a report, but not guilty of using excessive and unncessary force and uttering a discourtesy.

The panel recommended that Bealefeld suspend Rivieri for several days. But Bealefeld has the discretion to up the penalty, and he opted to fire the officer whose actions were displayed on video and seen around the world.

Here's more from the most recent Baltimore Sun story:

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."

Posted by Peter Hermann at 12:29 PM | | Comments (138)
Categories: Breaking news, Confronting crime, Top brass

Teen-aged murder suspect not linked to gang, police say

Baltimore police said this morning that the 14-year-old girl charged with killing a man in a robbery earlier this month is not a member of a gang. Authorities had initially believed the killing was linked to a gang initiation.

But department spokesman Anthony Guglielmi told reporters at a news conference that the motive in the killing of Jose Rodolfo Gonzalez-Coreas is robbery. Police describe a stunning sequence of events, saying the suspect opened fire when one of the victims laughed at her as she pointed the gun at him.

"They didn't take her seriously because of her age," Guglielmi said. Police arrested and charged Arteesha Holt (seen above) with first-degree murder and several other crimes. They also charged her 18-year-old brother, Shawn Palmer (in the photo above), with being an accomplice to murder for allegedly helping her escape from the neighborhood and by taking the silver .32 caliber revolver off her hands.

Guglielmi described the shooting as heinous. "It speaks to the guns that are out there and the frustrations we in law enforcement have at trying to deal with all this."

The victims in his case were Latinos, two of several who have been attacked in recent weeks in Southeast Baltimore. One of the latest attacks was committed, police say, by a mentally disturbed man who told detectives he hated Mexicans. Guglielmi said the killing involving the girl was during a robbery and not a hate crime.

Young female murder suspect fired shot after robbery victim laughed, police say

[UPDATE: Here's the story that ran in print today, including interviews with the suspect's family members, who say she had an uncontrollable temper and needed help.]

The 14-year-old girl charged with fatally shooting a man during a robbery attempt earlier this month fired her gun when one of the victims laughed at her because she was so young, according to police charging documents filed this morning.

Prosecutors, in seeking the young suspect be held without bail, described Arteesha Holt (left) in court papers as a "flight risk and a danger to the citizens of Baltimore." The young girl is charged with first-degree murder, armed robbery, using a handgun in the commission of a violent crime and several other offenses.

Police have said the girl may have tried to rob two men on Linwood Avenue on Aug. 13 as part of a gang initiation. The victims were among three Latino men killed in recent weeks in a spate of crimes that has shaken the community in Southeast Baltimore.

A rally was held in Patterson Park on Tuesday following the beating death of 51-year-old Hondouran Martin Reyes. The suspect, a mentally disturbed man, told police he beat Reyes with a board because he hated Mexicans. Police have classified that killing as a hate crime.

The Aug. 13 shooting involving the 14-year-old suspect occurred in the 100 block of North Linwood Ave. about 9:40 p.m. Police said an officer was flagged down by Wilmer Bonilla, 26, who needed help. The officer found Jose Rodolfo Gonzalez-Coreas, 43, lying on the front steps of a rowhouse with a gunshot wound to the head.

Bonilla told police, according to the charging documents, that he and Gonzalez were sitting on the steps when a young girl armed with a silver handgun approached and announced a robbery. "Because of the age of the suspect the victims began to laugh at which time the suspect fired one shot grazing the victim Wilmer Bonilla's head and striking Jose Coreas in the center of his forehead."

The victim was rushed to Johns Hopkins Hospital and was on Aug. 17 was listed as brain dead. Police said he was kept alive so that doctors could harvest his organs. He was pronounced dead Aug. 20 at 5 a.m.

Police said they identified Holt as a suspect because she had told several friends and bystanders about her involvement and that her 18-year-old brother had helped her escape from the neighborhood. But she gave the gun to her brother, according to police, and he kept the .32 caliber revolver in a black bag.

Police said the brother showed the gun to people and later was seen by police officers carrying the bag. Officer stopped the brother and arrested him on a handgun violation. They said investigators later linked the gun to the shooting.

Prosecutors said in court documents that the young Holt has a pending juvenile burglary case.

Posted by Peter Hermann at 8:35 AM | | Comments (72)
Categories: Breaking news

August 24, 2010

14 year old girl charged in fatal shooting

Breaking late: Police have picked up and charged the 14 year old girl sought in connection with a double shooting in Southeast Baltimore that left one man dead. The girl has been identified as Arkeesha Holt and is being processed at Central Booking, police spokesman Donny Moses told The Sun's Jessica Anderson.

The double shooting was an attempted robbery, and police say the men laughed when the girl demanded money. She then shot both, killing one. Police said in the days after the shooting that the incident may be gang related, and it was the first time police acknowledged a growing trend of violence against Latinos. Since then, a 51 year old Latino man has been killed and leaders are rallying against the violence.

We'll be gathering more details tomorrow. 

Posted by Justin Fenton at 11:35 PM | | Comments (4)
Categories: Breaking news, Southeast Baltimore

Prosecutors take part in commercial shoot

A number of high-level assistant state's attorney's spent part of Tuesday in a photo and television commercial shoot for their boss' re-election campaign, the campaign confirmed.

The shoot took place at the law offices of Larry Gibson, a few blocks from the courthouse. Marilyn-Harris Davis, a spokeswoman for the campaign of Patricia C. Jessamy, initially told The Sun on Monday that only "community coordinators" had taken part and did so before the work day began. But after being pressed, she said Tuesday morning that prosecutors had indeed were involved but that all did so on their lunch break.

"Everybody who participated volunteered, either before work hours or during their break," Harris-Davis said. She said there was nothing inappropriate about the employees taking part in the campaign. "Every politician I've worked with, I have volunteered on their campaigns. I don't think its inappropriate at all."

A spokeswoman for the State's Attorney's Office did not return an e-mail seeking comment referred questions to the campaign; Gibson and I traded phone calls and I was unable to connect with him Monday afternoon. 

Earlier this month, Jessamy called for an investigation of Police Commissioner Frederick H. Bealefeld III into whether he had solicited support for challenger Gregg Bernstein while on-the-clock, saying that his behavior was questionable and raised issues about his integrity.

Prosecutors and police are constitutionally protected in their right to exercise support for a candidate on their own time, though the prosecutors' involvement in their boss' campaign may raise questions about whether they were pressured to participate and whether it was appropriate to schedule the shoot in the middle of a work day.

A source said that among those who participated were prosecutors in the homicide, narcotics, misdemeanor, and shooting units.
Posted by Justin Fenton at 12:26 PM | | Comments (25)
Categories: Courts and the justice system, State's Attorney Campaign

Retired top cop Bolesta dies

The "Gentleman of Headquarters" is gone.

That was my opening line on a story in 1999 when Joseph R. Bolesta Jr. retired at the age of 58 as the the longest serving cop on the force at that time. He served 33 years under four mayors and six police commissioners.

He died Thursday at age of 69.

My opening line still holds: The Gentleman of Headquarters is gone.

Joe Bolesta was one of the first senior police commanders I met when I started covering the department in 1994, and he was always ready to share, was never shy and offered articulate commentary. At the time, the department was blowing up internally with charges of racism and pickets and open dissent on command and City Hall.

Bolesta stayed above the fray. He patrolled the street during the 1968 riots, helped build the modern SWAT team, ran the budget, hired recruits and once, after suffering two heart attacks, joined young beat cops on patrol and stood in the street to direct traffic around a fender-bender (Baltimore Sun photo above from 1995). He gained notoriety for pulling a body out of the bear pit in the zoo in the 1970s.

I profiled him in 1999: He was proud of his profession. In describing his job, he reverts to the old vernacular, when you weren't just a police officer, you were "a po-lice" -- a term that veterans utter with reverence, recalling the days of long overcoats and call-box keys, when a cop was as important to a neighborhood as the parish priest.

Frederick N. Rassmussen wrote Bolesta's obituary in today's paper. A Mass of Christian burial will be held 10 a.m. Wednesday at St. John Roman Catholic Church, 43 Monroe St., Westminster.

Posted by Peter Hermann at 7:56 AM | | Comments (2)
Categories: Confronting crime, Top brass

Victims of crime: Speak Out

The Governor's Office of Crime Control and Prevention is giving victims of crime a chance to speak out. This is another in a series of forums being held around the state -- the first was on the Eastern Shore.

Tonight's is in Howard County. Officials say they've been surprised by the candid remarks and suggestions being made. Here is the information about tonight's event:


Metro Th Flyer 2010 PDF
Posted by Peter Hermann at 7:44 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Confronting crime, Howard County, Top brass

Police to address attacks on Latinos

City officials are planning a news conference in Patterson Park to address growing concerns by Latinos that they are being targeted. The latest victim is Martin Reyes, who was beaten to death with a board. His cousin was shot in the forehead in July.

The attack on Reyes (left) appears to be by a mentally unstable man who has been arrested and charged and told police he hated "Mexicans." All the victims have been Honduran. Police think some of the victims were robbed because they are easy targets -- carry cash, are walking home late at night from work and are scared of immigration.

The Sun's Nick Madigan found this out about Reyes:

Reyes, who had spent most of the past decade in Baltimore, had six children, most of whom remained in Honduras. One daughter was adopted, and another, Norma, lives a few blocks from the room he rented in a rowhouse on Kenwood Avenue. His 35-year-old son-in-law, Pedro Concepción Diaz Aguilar, shared his space.

"When he was in Honduras, he liked to work with cattle and horses, in agriculture," Diaz Aguilar said Monday as he tried to raise money to send Reyes' body home. "And he dealt in grains and beans — wheat, coffee, frijoles — which he'd buy and resell. He'd move a lot of stuff. Here, it was different. We'd work together, remodeling kitchens, making cabinets — laborers' work."

Another Honduran who knew Reyes said he was "calm and humble," and a good friend. "He never interfered with anybody," said Eberto Funez, 42, who has been in East Baltimore for four years. "When he died, he was just coming from visiting a relative, and unfortunately his number came up."

Miguel Gutierrez, 33, said he had known Reyes since he was a child growing up in the same village, San Antonio, in La Paz, near Honduras' border with El Salvador. Gutierrez said he had come to Baltimore six months ago from Houston at Reyes' urging, and had lived with the older man for a time until he found his own place.

"He's known me since I was a baby," Gutierrez said. "He was always a gentleman, and gave me good advice. He'd say I shouldn't go around drinking, and that I shouldn't be out in the streets."

Here's how the suspect, Jermaine Holley, was out of jail at the time of the killing:

At the time of the killing, Holley, 19, had been ordered to appear in court on charges that he had violated his probation in a case stemming from an arrest in June 2009, when police saw him selling three capsules of heroin at East Fayette and East streets. Courts records show the probation violation was triggered by an April arrest on a drug-distribution charge and in June for failing to pay a taxi fare. Court records show he also failed to report for drug treatment and tests.

The court records show that Holley failed to show for his probation hearing July 13 before District Judge L. Robert Cooper. The judge issued a warrant ordering Holley's arrest, but the suspect's mother, Angela Graham, told the court that Holley had been picked up by Baltimore police three days earlier on an emergency protective order and sent to Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center to meet with a counselor for his schizophrenia.

The judge rescinded the arrest warrant and issued a summons for Holley to appear in court Aug. 5, according to court records. It is unclear whether that hearing took place. Holley's trial on the probation violation and the most recent drug-distribution charge was scheduled Sept. 7. Police described Holley as mentally unstable and said he might have stopped taking his medication before Reyes' killing.

August 23, 2010

Bernstein releases first television ad

UPDATE: Is that Police Department spokesman Kevin Brown appearing at the :22 mark in a generic police uniform? Story about campaign ad and police cameo here.

In a scathing television advertisement released today by the Gregg Bernstein campaign, the former witness protection coordinator for State's Attorney Patricia C. Jessamy says "people are getting away with murder, and it's because Patricia Jessamy fails to convict them." The ad shows images of the Dawson family funeral, and says that "we lost five children and their parents because the state's attorney's office mismanaged" the witness protection program.

The ad quotes DiTanya Madden, who made the same claims in 2003, contending that the office failed to do all it could to protect the Dawsons, the family of seven who police said were killed in a retaliatory arson in East Baltimore.

We've asked the Jessamy campaign for a response, but she was quoted at the time calling the allegations untrue and saying the Dawsons declined to be relocated by her office - an offer made after an earlier attempt on the family's lives. The Dawsons were killed in an October 2002 house fire that police believe was set because the family complained to authorities about drug dealing in their Oliver neighborhood.

According to a 2003 Sun article, Madden, who quit her job after seven years as the witness security coordinator for the state's attorney's office, called a news conference to say that Angela and Carnell Dawson - the mother and father in the household that included five children - were never referred to her unit for protection.

"I'm a specialist in that field, and it never came by my desk," said Madden, who was a police officer for 12 years. "If [Angela Dawson] had come to me, I can guarantee I would have gotten her to take some protection."

Former Sun reporter Allison Klein reported at the time:

The reason the family was not referred to Madden is that the Dawsons did not want to move from their home, according to Assistant State's Attorney Kate Moxley. She had dealt with the family when they were being harassed and assaulted by neighborhood drug dealers.

Moxley said she offered the Dawsons relocation assistance after the first time their home was set on fire in October.

"I asked if they would be interested in witness protection and told them it would entail being relocated, and they said they would not be interested," Moxley said.

Because the Dawsons declined, Moxley said, she did not fill out an application form to get them into the witness protection program. 

In the Bernstein ad, Madden says of Jessamy: "She's an intelligent woman, she's sweet, she has a good heart. But Baltimore City doesn't need sweet. Baltimore city needs strong."

Surviving relatives filed a $14 million lawsuit saying officials failed to adequately protect the family, but the suit was dismissed, with the Court of Appeals ruling that state and city officials were not liable for the deaths.

Posted by Justin Fenton at 3:45 PM | | Comments (19)
Categories: State's Attorney Campaign

Three dead this weekend, two hurt in prior incidents

A series of bloody weekends has had police on the offensive, stepping up patrols, increasing deployments and holding regular meetings among commanders. The updated homicide count from the weekend suggests not much changed, though only one of the killings actually occurred this weekend.

-Martin Reyes, 51, was fatally beaten early Saturday in the 200 block of N. Kenwood Ave, the latest in a series of apparently unconnected attacks on Hispanics. Jermaine Holley, 19, confessed to the crime, saying he "hates Mexicans," though court records show he has a history of schizophrenia and was hospitalized and receiving treatment as recently as last month.

-Another Hispanic man who was the victim of a recent attack two weeks ago succumbed to his injuries over the weekend. He has not been identified yet, but police are searching for a 13- or 14-year-old girl who attempted to rob the victim and another man, who was shot and survived. Police said last week that the robbery try may have been gang related.The incident happened in the 100 block of N. Linwood, not far from where Reyes was attacked.

-Police also added the death of Contray Davon Merchant, 29, who was assaulted on Aug. 6, 2007 in the 5100 block of Queensberry Ave. in Northwest Baltimore. Police spokesman Kevin Brown said Merchant died on May 17 of this year, with an autopsy concluding that his death was related to that incident.  He's the third victim this month who was injured in a previous month or year.

Posted by Justin Fenton at 1:18 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Southeast Baltimore

How race may factor in state's attorney campaign

In case you missed it this weekend, Peter Hermann spoke with voters and political observers about the role race may play in the campaign for city state's attorney.

At a small gathering of local merchants at a restaurant on Greenmount Avenue, Patricia C. Jessamy was among friends who nodded in agreement as Baltimore's state's attorney spoke not only of locking up criminals, but of understanding "underlying factors" that lead to crime and of keeping police in check.

All but one of the dozen merchants at the meeting were black, as is Jessamy. When talk turned to her Democratic primary challenger, attorney Gregg Bernstein, who is white, the group agreed that he seems interested in "prosecuting everybody," even though he has never said those words.

As Jessamy and Bernstein wrangle over who should serve as top prosecutor in an all-too violent city, the debate at one level concerns conviction rates, management ability and successful trials. Below the surface, however, the discussion is infused with race, as is often the case in Baltimore, where six in 10 residents are black and the city's jail is packed with young black men locked up for drugs and other crimes.

Columnist Dan Rodricks, who hosted the first true debate between the two candidates this month, also wrote a column asking whether a change in the top prosecutor can truly change the circumstances.

Posted by Justin Fenton at 1:12 PM | | Comments (2)
Categories: State's Attorney Campaign

Police say 13-year-old girl suspect in shooting

Baltimore police are searching for a 13-year-old girl who they suspect in a robbery and fatal shooting in East Baltimore. Authorities say the attack, in which a second person was shot and wounded, was one in a string of incidents targeting Hispanic men in recent weeks.

The Sun' s Scott Calvert reports this mornig that police say the girl tried to rob two men Aug. 13 in the 100 block of N. Linwood Ave, about a block north of Patterson Park. When the men resisted, police say the girl shot them both. One of the men died Saturday.

This latest case comes after a 19-year-old man was arrested and charged with beating to death 51-year-old Martin Reyez with a wooden board because, he told police, he had a hatred toward Mexicans. Jermaine R. Holley has been charged with first-degree murder.

Above, The Sun's Colby Ware captures Officers Henry Yambo and Javier Conve visiting Patterson Park resident Joey Tichnell to brief him on the recent beating.

Cavert reports today that the suspect could've been behind bars at the time of the killing:

Holley was ordered jailed last month after failing to appear for a probation violation stemming from a 2009 case, according to court records.

In July 2009, Holley was sentenced to three years' probation for misdemeanor drug charges. In April, he was picked up on a new drug charge and in June for failing to pay taxi fare.

On July 13, Holley failed to appear in court for the probation violation. District Court Judge L. Robert Cooper issued a bench warrant ordering that he be held without bail. Within days, the judge recalled the warrant. It was not clear Sunday whether Holley spent any time in jail or why Cooper recalled the warrant.

Posted by Peter Hermann at 7:26 AM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Breaking news, Confronting crime, Southeast Baltimore

August 21, 2010

Hispanic men targeted

UPDATE: Baltimore police announced an arrest in the beating of an Hispanic man early Saturday and ruled the attack a hate crime. Police said the suspect told police that he "hated hispanics."

Baltimore police and neighborhood residents took to the streets this evening in Southeast Baltimore after the overnight beating death of an Hispanic man, the latest in a series of similar attacks.

The unidentified man was beaten with a piece of lumber on North Kenwood Avenue. From the story by The Sun's Childs Walker:

Police are examining five violent incidents from the past few weeks, including a fatal shooting last weekend, said police spokesman Anthony Guglielmi. He said officers are not looking for direct links between the crimes so much as reasons why Hispanics might have been targeted.

Criminals might believe some Hispanics are easy targets because of possible language barriers or a reluctance to call the police, Guglielmi said. He said residents who are concerned about their immigration status should not be afraid to call the police.

"Our message to the community is to call us. This is not an immigration issue. It's just a public safety concern. There's a lot of misinformation in the community that if people call us, immigration will become involved," he said.


Posted by Peter Hermann at 6:08 PM | | Comments (9)
Categories: Breaking news

August 20, 2010

Baltimore police commander off to Athens for marathon

The Baltimore Police Department's chief of patrol, Col. John Skinner (left), has been selected to represent Baltimore in the 2010 Athens marathon in Greece. This years race marks the 2,500th anniversary of the Greek Battle of Marathan.

The Oct. 31 race "commemorates the legendary journey of Greek messenger Pheidippides in 490 BC from the Marathon Battlefield to the city of Athens, Greece," according to a statement from the city. Piraeus is the Port of Athens and Baltimore’s Sister City in Greece.

You can follow Colonel Skinner’s journey to Athens on the Baltimore-Piraeus blog at Upon his return, Colonel Skinner will speak at a school and other organizations about his experience in Greece.

Here is the rest of the statement from Baltimore City Hall:

“During the interview process, we were very impressed with John’s desire to be an example to every day Baltimoreans. He spoke about how this would be his first marathon. The Baltimore-Piraeus Sister City Committee is excited to sponsor a runner in this historic event and link Baltimore and Greece. There are not many 2,500 year old events that are celebrated and still relevant in today's global culture like marathons,” said Baltimore-Piraeus Sister City Committee Chair, Diane Homberg.
Skinner was selected from a pool of applicants because of his longtime dedication to public safety and commitment to community service. He is a 17 year veteran of the Baltimore Police Department and has served in a variety of operational and supervisory capacities.

Currently he commands the agency’s Patrol Division and oversees all uniformed men and women of the Police Department. Over the last three years, Skinner has been credited with fostering better relations between police and the community through his dedication to transparency and developing cohesive partnerships with community groups.

“It’s a huge honor for me to represent the city of Baltimore in this historic race,” Skinner said after being selected to compete. His trip takes place from October 27 to November 3.

During the past few months, Skinner has also organized approximately 60 City police officers to take part in the 2010 Baltimore marathon.

“I want to thank the Baltimore-Piraeus Sister City Committee for their commitment to support fostering better relations between Baltimore and Greece,” said Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake.  “I know Col. Skinner will represent both the city and the police department well.”

“Colonel Skinner’s ascension through the ranks of the Baltimore Police Department is a testament to his intelligence, dedication and commitment to service,” said Baltimore Police Commissioner Frederick H. Bealefeld.  “Most recently, he has embraced competitive running as not only a wellness tool, but also a way to build camaraderie and morale among the people he commands.  The men and women of the Baltimore Police Department are very fortunate to have Colonel Skinner represent us and the city in this significant international running challenge.”

While in Greece, Colonel Skinner will have an opportunity to meet the Mayor of Piraeus and shadow a Piraeus, Greece police officer for the day.

About Baltimore Piraeus Sister City Committee:
Founded in 1982, the Baltimore-Piraeus Sister City Committee motivates and empowers private citizens, municipal officials and business leaders to build long-term global interactions.

Posted by Peter Hermann at 3:12 PM | | Comments (1)

Anne Arundel police seek help in 7-Eleven slaying

Anne Arundel County police are seeking help in identifying the people responsible for the Aug. 9 slaying at a 7-Eleven store in Glen Burnie. Youssef Kamal Erian Attia was gunned down as he tried to flee from three men who had entered the store, police said.

The robbery occurred about 3:30 a.m. in the 7700 block of Baltimore Annapolis Blvd. Police said they found Attia with what appeared to be gunshot wounds to his upper body. Here is a statement from police and pictures from the hold-up:

Information Sought 7-Eleven Homicide
Posted by Peter Hermann at 2:08 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Anne Arundel County, Breaking news

Department of Juvenile Services releases report dealing with Cheltenham teacher death

An investigation by the Office of the Inspector General into the death of Cheltenham Youth Facility teacher Hannah Wheeling found that staff failed to properly monitor the youth held there, ignored the fact that Wheeling's vehicle was still in the parking lot after hours, and allowed Wheeling to obtain a key without proper authorization.

Wheeling, of Bel Air, was raped, beaten and strangled in February, her body found outside of the secure facility's doors. A 14-year-old, who was 13 at the time, has been charged as a juvenile in connection with the crime. Prince George's County prosecutors are seeking to have him tried as an adult.

The report lists a number of problems within Cheltenham and the Murphy Cottage where Wheeling taught reading without staff supervision. It recommends staff increase the frequency of unannounced audits of log books, installation of video cameras around the facility, better communication among staff when youth are observed in unauthorized areas, and confirmation that staff have left the facility at the end of their shifts, among other suggestions.

In a press release, DJS said that since Wheeling's death it has:

•    Terminated 2 staff members, demoted a high-level administrator, suspended a supervisor and suspended a program manager.

•    Increased the frequency of its own random unannounced audits of security procedures to ensure compliance at DJS facilities. Cheltenham alone has been subject to 3 audits in the last 5 months with a successful outcome for each audit.

•    Provided safety and security training to non-direct care workers, including teachers, nurses, and behavioral health staff in partnership with the Maryland Professional Employees Council.  Additionally, DJS continues to work cooperatively with AFSCME and AFT Healthcare to enhance employee safety.

•    Re-trained all direct-care staff at Cheltenham on security policies.

•    Implemented a new policy Statewide that requires department heads at facilities to confirm that all employees who are not relieved at the end of their shifts have exited their work location.
Posted by Justin Fenton at 1:19 PM | | Comments (2)

Man, 19, charged in fire death of next door neighbor

A 19-year-old Baltimore County man has been charged in the death of his 61-year-old next-door neighbor, who was found dead in a fire last week, police said.

Police say Jeremy Dale Richards, of the 3100 block of Gartside Ave. in the Windsor Mill area, robbed Minnie Pearl Robinson and then set her home on fire. He was charged with first-degree murder and denied bail, police said.

Police and fire fighters were called to Robinson’s residence on Aug. 12 at about 12:15 p.m. for a fire. Fire crews extinguished the flames and found her body in the living room. The state medical examiner ruled her death a homicide on Thursday, though the cause had not yet been determined.

Richards does not have a prior criminal record as an adult, according to court records.

County police scheduled a press conference for 12:30 p.m. to discuss the case.

Posted by Justin Fenton at 12:06 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Baltimore County

Prosecutor candidates debate in front of black officers

The candidates for city state's attorney squared off again on Thursday night, this time in front of a group of black city police officers. Most question-and-answer sessions with the candidates have been general in nature, but the cops had specific questions about how they do their job - including a policy in which prosecutors won't charge a case with only one witness, and a notorious list of officers who are barred from testifying in court.

Incumbent Patricia C. Jessamy and Gregg Bernstein, a defense attorney, have by now settled on key themes in these appearances. Jessamy avoids talk of specific numbers but reiterates that the high number of people in prison from Baltimore is evidence that her office is putting people away. She touts programs she has started, and says that the notion that she doesn't work well with police commissioners past and present is media hype.

Bernstein, who is in a better position with no record to scrutinize, has punched holes in just about every point Jessamy tries to make. He says she is out of touch, alienates partners and doesn't acknowledge any responsibility for the shortcomings of her office. He says that in many of the areas where he feels the current state's attorney comes up short, he believes he can do better by getting in courtrooms, identifying priorities, and securing funding.

Bernstein last night played to the crowd, a group of officers affiliated with the Vanguard Justice Society. Throughout his speaking time, he appealed to the officers that they would know from their own experiences that Jessamy's depiction of the prosecutor's office didn't match up with the reality on the ground. He noted an incident last year in which prosecutors sought a warrant for an officer who failed to come to court, and pointed out that a significant number of the officers on the "do not call" list were minorities. Several times, he said that Jessamy - or more often, her spokesperson - are on television denigrating the work of officers.

Jessamy was calmer and noticeably less agitated with Bernstein's remarks than in their previous appearance on WYPR. She refrained from calling him a "liar," as she did some eight times in that debate, and struck a solemn yet firm tone when addressing issues that related to police misconduct and police investigations. She didn't back down or tease cops with the notion that her positions might change.

She said she had worked with the police department to set up a better system for notifying officers of when they have to come to court and scheduling court dates on their off days. But when officers fail to show at crucial hearings, she said, drastic steps may be necessary to preserve the case. "We should expect no less from police witnesses," she said.

Western District detective Tashawna Gaines asked Jessamy about her policy of not taking cases involving one witness. I've heard this complaint often; even in cases where there is only a shooter and a victim involved, detectives say prosecutors tell them that the victim's identification and testimony is not enough. Detectives say that in many cases, that may be as good as it gets. Jessamy said the difference between police establishing probable cause, and prosecutors winning a conviction, is very different.

"It doesn't do anybody any good to take cases to trial without sufficient evidence, because then they can never be tried again," Jessamy responded. "When a prosecutor says 'We need this and this and this, it's trying to get the best cases to get the best results. I think it's constructive tension."

Bernstein slammed Jessamy in his rebuttal, saying that while some cases may not be strong enough, a blanket policy is unacceptable. He said a prosecutor has to "have the courage" to take a shot on a tough case that they believe in and send a message to violent offenders.

He again brought up that her office does not have voice mail or Blackberry smart phones. Jessamy said that was an issue of funding but also defended both, saying that she prefers people who call her office to speak with someone rather than have the ability to leave potentially cryptic messages. She also said Blackberries were not allowed in courtrooms by rule, but as a Blackberry owner I can tell you that they are most certainly allowed in court - just not allowed to be used. She was likely referencing a proposal floated during the legislative session that was not adopted.

With at least one of the members of the "do not call" list - Sgt. Louis Hopson - looking on, Jessamy said "it's not done lightly." She said officers who have proven to be untruthful cannot compromise cases. Critics, including the Fraternal Order of Police and Commissioner Frederick H. Bealefeld III, have contended that prosecutors use the list to manage the police department. Bernstein said Jessamy is acting as "judge, jury and executioner," making her own determination and imposing her own punishment. "If she believes those officers violated the law, it's her obligation to prosecute them," Bernstein said. The list is an "easy way out," he said.

Jessamy stood firm: "We cannot use officers where's there's documentation that they have lied. I don't know what more we can do," she said. "We try very hard to be as fair as we can be." 

The issues that affect prosecutions in Baltimore run the gamut. Witness intimidation, lack of courtrooms, shaky police investigations, unprepared state's attorneys and strategic postponements by defense attorneys (Jessamy noted that Bernstein, as a defense attorney, was part of the latter). In every area, Bernstein says he can do better. After the debate, some officers I spoke with said Bernstein will find out quickly that many of the issues can't be changed by a state's attorney or require money that the office just doesn't have.

But those I spoke to also seemed ready to see if someone can do the job better. That was Bernstein's closing remark:: "After 15 years .. it is time to let someone else take a shot at this," he said.

Posted by Justin Fenton at 8:09 AM | | Comments (22)
Categories: State's Attorney Campaign

August 19, 2010

Man charged with impersonating police

A Baltimore County man has been arrested and charged with impersonating police after a joint investigation by city and county police departments.

County police on Thursday morning conducted a raid on the home of Darrell E. Lyles, 24, of Ferns Way in Nottingham, and found a slew of police-related equipment, including badges, ID cards, bulletproof vests, and lights that he had installed in a refurbished police vehicle.

Also among the items seized was a laptop computer that was installed on the center console of the vehicle, similar to police cruisers.

Lyles had asked a city company to install the lights on his vehicle, but employees grew suspicious and contacted city police, said Anthony Guglielmi, chief spokesman for the Baltimore Police Department. Detectives are investigating what police work Lyles might have conducted using the equipment.

“Even a police officer would’ve pulled over if this person pulled behind them,” Guglielmi said at a news conference.

Court records show Lyles has faced similar charges before. In November 2008, in Baltimore County Circuit Court, he was sentenced to probation before judgment after being charged with possessing a handgun and impersonating a police officer, records show.

ID cards seized in this week’s raid indicated that Lyles worked for a security company called Dwell International. A phone number for the company appeared to be disconnected Thursday.

Posted by Justin Fenton at 3:31 PM | | Comments (3)
Categories: Baltimore County

Former city police detective sentenced to prison for duping DEA

A former Baltimore police officer was sentenced to 20 months in federal prison for orchestrating a scheme to get kick-backs from his undercover informant. Authorities said Mark J. Lunsford embelished his informant's record to get bonuses which he then split.

The 40-year-old detective, who resigned from the force last year, pleaded guilty to the crimes, which include stealing a watch from a raid that retails at $18,000 and having his informant sell it in New York for $4,200.

Here is a statement from the Maryland U.S. Attorney's Office:

U.S. District Judge William M. Nickerson sentenced Mark J. Lunsford, age 40, of Sykesville, Maryland, today to 20 months in prison, followed by three years of supervised release, for stealing Baltimore City Police Department funds, submitting a false claim to DEA for an informant award and stealing a diamond watch that came into his custody as a DEA Task Force officer. 
The sentence was announced by United States Attorney for the District of Maryland Rod J. Rosenstein and Special Agent in Charge Richard A. McFeely of the Federal Bureau of Investigation. 

“Officer Lunsford committed an egregious breach of trust, but it should be noted that thousands of honorable police officers who work to promote public safety and confidence share our dismay when a law enforcement officer violates that trust,”  said U.S. Attorney Rod J. Rosenstein.

More details from the statement:

According to Lunsford’s plea agreement, Lunsford, a former Baltimore City Police Department (BCPD) detective and DEA Task Force Officer (TFO), began handling a DEA confidential human source (CHS) in around 2007.  Lunsford also opened the source as an officially designated source of the BCPD.

Lunsford admitted that in 2008, he provided false information to other law enforcement personnel indicating that the CHS had provided him with a telephone number being used by Suspect-1.  Although the CHS had been involved earlier in the investigation that ultimately led to the prosecution of Suspect-1, the CHS did not know Suspect-1 and did not have Suspect-1's telephone number; another informant provided Suspect-1's telephone number to Lunsford.

Based on Lunsford’s information, an affidavit was provided to a state court judge in support of an application for a wiretap of Suspect 1's telephone, which was granted.  That investigation eventually resulted in the federal prosecution of Suspect-1 and several other individuals for drug and related charges.

At the conclusion of the wiretap investigation, Lunsford arranged for the CHS to receive a $10,000 cash award using funds provided by the BCPD. In order to obtain this cash award, Lunsford fraudulently exaggerated the CHS’ involvement in the Suspect-1 investigation, including falsely reiterating that the CHS had provided Lunsford with Suspect-1's telephone number, thereby enabling the investigators to obtain a wiretap on that phone.

The $10,000 cash award was to be paid in monthly installments of $1,000.  Instead of giving the CHS all $10,000, Lunsford kept a portion of the award funds for himself with the CHS’ consent. On July 10, 2009, Lunsford told the CHS that he had the last installment to provide to the CHS.   That same day, the CHS, who was cooperating with investigators, recorded an in-person meeting with Lunsford during which Lunsford gave the CHS $500 in cash and kept $500 for himself.

Indeed, in a recorded conversation that took place between Lunsford and the CHS a few days earlier, the CHS asked Lunsford: “Me and you are the only ones that know we split that ten grand, right?”  Lunsford answered, “Oh yeah, nobody knows.”  Later in the conversation, Lunsford reiterated, “Don’t nobody know nothin’ about that money...but me and you.”

In a July 14, 2009 meeting between Lunsford and the CHS that was recorded by the CHS, Lunsford showed the CHS a photo of Suspect-2 and briefed the CHS on the case Lunsford was currently working on Suspect-2. The CHS had never met Suspect-2. During the meeting, Lunsford told the CHS that he had a real informant working the Suspect-2 case for him, and that Lunsford hoped to seize all of Suspect-2's assets when he arrested him.

Lunsford explained that he intended to credit the CHS with providing the information leading to Suspect-2's arrest and the subsequent seizure of Suspect-2's money and assets.  Lunsford explained, “If I get him when he comes back from New York, you know, it’s thirty grand or forty grand to [expletive] buy the kilo, you know, or maybe a lot more than that but anything he’s got in that [expletive], I’m jammin’ this [expletive] toad up, man. [Expletive] it. ‘Cause that counts as money. That counts as you [expletive] givin’ me [expletive] and they got these [expletive] assets; therefore, I can get money off of that.”

When the CHS asked, “And nobody else, you know, it’ll just be our case?,” Lunsford answered, “Ain’t nobody on this [expletive] [expletive].” Lunsford said the CHS would then be able to receive a payment based on Lunsford's representation of the CHS' involvement in the case.  On August 2, 2009, Lunsford arrested Suspect-2 and on August 18, 2009, Lunsford requested that DEA provide an award to the CHS of 20 percent of the seized funds (which would be approximately $3,498).  In the section of the form in which Lunsford provided the justification for the award, Lunsford falsely wrote that the CHS had provided intelligence that resulted in the execution of the search and seizure warrant in the Suspect-2 case.

On September 9, a DEA supervisor who was cooperating with the investigation made a monitored telephone call to Lunsford, during which Lunsford falsely stated that the CHS had helped with the case. On September 21, as part of the FBI undercover investigation, DEA gave Lunsford a check for $3,498 payable to the CHS.

Lunsford told the CHS that he would give the check to the CHS in the presence of a DEA agent, and that Lunsford and the CHS would divide the proceeds later.  Lunsford met with the CHS and gave the CHS the check at 10:00 a.m. on September 22, in the presence of a DEA agent.  At 3:45 pm on September 22, Lunsford again met with the CHS and at the direction of the FBI, the CHS gave Lunsford $1,700 in cash (in 17 pre-recorded $100 bills).

Those 17 pre-recorded bills were recovered in Lunsford’s home when a search warrant was executed there on September 23, 2009.
On June 16, 2009, the CHS provided the FBI with a high-end diamond watch, which Lunsford had obtained in the course of his duties as a TFO. The watch was a rose-colored, stainless steel "AQUA MASTER" diamond watch, hereafter referred to as "Watch-1".

Watch-1 belonged to Suspect-3. On June 17, 2009, a jeweler appraised Watch-1 at approximately $18,000 (retail) and $4,200 (liquidation).  In a conversation between Lunsford and the CHS recorded on July 1, 2009, Lunsford discussed the sale of Watch-1 with the CHS.  Lunsford told the CHS that Watch-1 belonged to Suspect-3, who Lunsford said had “just pled out to nineteen years federal.”

On July 14, 2009, the CHS recorded an in-person meeting with Lunsford, during which the CHS gave Lunsford $1500 in currency that belonged to the FBI, which the CHS told Lunsford was half of the proceeds of the sale of Watch-1.  In reality, CHS had not sold Watch-1, but had turned Watch-1 over to the FBI.

After receiving the $1,500 from the CHS, Lunsford said, “and [expletive] it.  It’s beautiful.”  The CHS said, “we took fifteen hundred each. [Expletive] it,” and Lunsford answered, “Free [expletive] money.”

According to Lunsford’s plea agreement, Lunsford stole other items, including a stainless steel "FREEZE" diamond watch, which Lunsford told the CHS he had taken during the arrest/search of Suspect-2.

A jeweler subsequently appraised the retail value of the watch at $3,750, with a liquidation value of $950. In addition, a Breitling watch was found in Lunsford’s bedroom closet during the execution of a search warrant, which belonged to Suspect-4, who was arrested by other DEA agents and TFOs on April 28, 2009, in Baltimore City.

On June 16, 2009, the CHS provided the FBI with items of clothing that Lunsford had given to the CHS as gifts. These clothes belonged either to Suspect-4 or to Suspect-5, who was also arrested by DEA agents and TFOs on April 28, 2009.  Both Suspect-4 and Suspect-5 are being federally prosecuted.

Lunsford also admitted that he filed false investigative and incident reports, and an affidavit in support of a criminal complaint indicating that the CHS had provided information on five separate defendants, when in fact, the CHS had provided no such information.

As part of his plea agreement, Lunsford also consented to the forfeiture of $46,600 seized during the execution of a search warrant at Lunsford’s home on September 23, 2009.

United States Attorney Rod J. Rosenstein thanked the Drug Enforcement Administration and its Office of Professional Responsibility for their assistance in the investigation, as well as the Baltimore City Police Department and the Baltimore City State’s Attorney’s Office for the cooperation and assistance they provided to the investigation after Lunsford’s arrest.  Mr. Rosenstein commended Assistant United States Attorney Jonathan Biran and First Assistant United States Attorney Stuart M. Goldberg, who prosecuted the case.

Update: Northwest vandalism being treated as a hate crime

Police now say that five incidents of vandalism in Northwest Baltimore - in which vehicles were spray painted with swastikas and "Hitler" - are being treated as hate crimes. Spokesman Anthony Guglielmi wasn't able to provide much details as to what changed in the investigation since the weekend when the graffiti was first reported, though he said investigators have surveillance tape of at least one of the incidents and have conducted additional interviews with the victims.

Arthur Abramson, the executive director of the Baltimore Jewish Council, said Wednesday that he had pressed the highest levels of the city police command staff to label these incidents hate crimes, and reporter Peter Hermann tells me that he received many emails this morning from residents expressing frustration that police hadn't done so.

A community meeting will be held tonight at the Jewish Community Center on Park Heights Avenue to discuss the incidents. 

Posted by Justin Fenton at 11:56 AM | | Comments (0)

Parole and probation catch one of their "Top 25"

In June, the state Department of Parole and Probation announced a new web site to help involve the public in tracking down their "top 25" offenders. It's one of the latest tools the state is using as it increases cooperation with local law enforcement agencies, and yesterday officials announced that one of the offenders on the list had been apprehended. Actually, the site shows that at least five have been captured this month.

On Monday, Kevin Frazier, 29, was arrested on a retake warrant that had been outstanding since February 2009. He was in the state's Violence Prevention Initiative and was released in November 2008 after serving about three years for possession of drugs with intent to distribute. He was indicted in February on new drug charges and is awaiting trial.


Frazier was not found through a tip from the public, officials say, but as part of an "impact zone" initiative with Baltimore police in response to recent crime spike that bolstered supervision efforts on those in the VPI program. Frazier was listed in the eastside initiative, though the parole and probation Warrant Apprehension Team found an address for Frazier in South Baltimore by contacting the Social Security Administration.

As part of BCPD’s recent impact zone efforts, DPP has bolstered supervision efforts on VPI offenders in these areas and also put extra emphasis on clearing older outstanding supervision violation warrants from these areas. This offender was out of the eastside focus.                                                          

You can see who else is being sought and who has been picked up here.

Posted by Justin Fenton at 11:32 AM | | Comments (0)

Prosecutors want to seize $22k from Pigtown drug suspect

According to federal court papers filed this week, law enforcement officials are trying to seize $22,000 found during a drug raid in Washington Village in March. City police detectives obtained a search and seizure warrant for a home in the 800 block of W. Cross St. and detained Artis McDaniel, 27. A search of the home turned up a half ounce of heroin, one ounce of cocaine, and $22,184 in currency, which federal agents say is proceeds from drug dealing.

Court records show McDaniel was charged at the state level with firearms and drug charges in connection with the March arrest. Those charges were dropped this week, but that appears to be because federal prosecutors agreed to take them. McDaniel was charged in late July in U.S. District Court with possessing drugs and a 9 mm Desert Eagle handgun.

Posted by Justin Fenton at 10:08 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: South Baltimore

Man in critical condition in Bolton Hill shooting

A 22-year-old man was shot overnight in Bolton Hill, police said, and he remained in critical condition after surgery.

The shooting took place shortly after midnight on the 1700 block of Park Avenue, that's just a couple blocks south of the Madison Park apartments, which the mayor and housing commissioner this week said would have its license revoked due to ongoing violence. Two people have been killed there this year.


Posted by Justin Fenton at 9:47 AM | | Comments (3)
Categories: Neighborhoods

Police to hold meeting over vandalism targeting Jewish residents

Police are holding a community meeting tonight to address concerns after vandals spray-painted swastikas and other offensive pictures and comments on vans owned by Jewish residents in Northwest Baltimore.

Five vans -- four white, one gray -- were vandalized this past weekend in two neighborhoods near Cross Country Boulevard. Police haven't made any arrests.


NW Public SafetyMtg
Posted by Peter Hermann at 7:22 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Breaking news, Confronting crime

Sex offender beats man; another man beats security guard

CORRECTION: I learned on Monday from state authorities that the suspect Myers (in the first case described below) had in fact been denied parole and had been released from prison after serving his time. The incorrect information about his parole status came from city prosecutors).

Two unusual cases before city courts on this week highlight the extremes some criminals will go.

In one, a registered sex offender beat a man in Fells Point who he mistakenly thought posted notices around the neighborhood about his record. It took one hour for District Judge Askew Gatewood to find Francis Myers, 46, guilty of second degree assault and sentence him to six months in jail.

Prosecutors said Myers repeteadly hit the victim in the head with a metal pipe. At the time, Myers was on parole for second degree rape and second degree sex offense, and had prior convictions for assault, arson, disorderly conduct, resisting arrest, and possession of a deadly weapon.

In another case, a good deed by a Johns Hopkins security guard to help a stranded motorist with a jump ends with the guard being beaten.

Prosecutors said the guard was helping the driver in July outside the Hopkins hospital emergency room. Egbert Spaulding, a taxi cab driver, stopped and offered to give the motorist a jump for $10. The guard told him it was being done for free, and authorities said Spaulding "became upset and attached the jumper cables to his car and pushed the jumper cables into the officer’s side while the car was still running."

The officer wasn't hurt. This week, District Judge Gregory Sampson convicted Spaulding, 56, of seond-degree assault and sentenced him to three years, with all but six months suspended, and to three years probation.

August 18, 2010

Police officer charged in Arundel dog park shooting

Prosecutors in Anne Arundel County have charged Keith Shepherd, 32, of Severn, a civilian police officer for the Army in Northern Virginia, in connection with shooting the dog Bear-Bear in a park in Severn.

The case attracted national attention, especially after county police initially closed the investigation without filing charges, outraging animal-rights groups and others. The officer was charged with misdemeanors -- animal cruelty and discharging a firearm within 100 yards of an occupied home.

To listen to the officer's 911 call.

For for details, read Andrea Siegel's account in The Sun and go to Jill Rosen's Unleashed blog for an interview with the dog owners.

Jessamy raised $46,000, has $38k on hand

State's Attorney Patricia C. Jessamy's fundraising totals are up, and show that she raised about $46,000 since her last report in January, leaving her with $38,000 cash on hand. That pales in comparison to challenger Gregg Bernstein, who raised about $220,000 in just a few weeks and announced his candidacy at the 11th hour.

Jessamy has never raised more than $130,000 in an entire election cycle (she has never really had to, either), though with a broad base of support - including among much of the political establishment - experts said it may not necessarily be too late to raise some last minute cash. The Democratic primary - in which the race will be decided - is Sept. 14. 

With both candidates' reports up, here's some quick observations:

-Jessamy received $2,000 from former Montgomery County Executive Doug Duncan, $2,000 from U.S. Rep. Elijah Cummings, $1,000 from Prince George's County State's Attorney Glenn Ivey, and $250 from State Sen. Catherine Pugh, a Baltimore Democrat. Sheila Dixon and former State's Attorney Stuart Simms are among those who bought tickets to her events.

-Bernstein's support came largely from the legal community, with a sizable portion coming from high-powered lawyers and law firms. He also received $2,000 from the Baltimore Police Fraternal Order of Police; and $250 from State Sen. Jim Brochin, a Baltimore County Democrat.

-Skimming through Jessamy's contributions, I also noted a number of employees of the State's Attorney's Office.

Posted by Justin Fenton at 1:04 PM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Courts and the justice system, State's Attorney Campaign

Track probation violators with e-mail

Tracking probation violators is now easier, and can be done through e-mail. Take a look at this release from the state prison system:

The Maryland Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services (DPSCS) is making it easier for citizens to provide tips about offenders found on our Most Wanted website.  Through a new dedicated email, the public can now help track down the Division of Parole and Probation’s (DPP) most wanted violators with the click of a mouse or a quick text message.  The email address - – can be found on the Most Wanted DPP Violators website.

The site, launched in June, contains individuals whose violation warrants have not been able to be served to date.  Photos, demographics and other known information about the Division’s top 25 outstanding warrants are highlighted on the page. A tip phone line, (410) 333-8732, is also still available. All information provided via phone or email will remain confidential.

More details:

While DPP does not issue violation warrants, which is done by the Maryland Parole Commission or the Maryland Court System, their Warrant Apprehension Unit (WAU) aids local authorities in capturing individuals for whom a warrant has been issued after violating the terms of their discretionary parole, mandatory release, or court ordered probation. The WAU is part of DPP’s Community Surveillance Enforcement Program (CSEP).

The WAU consists of roughly 40 men and women with special law enforcement training to execute arrest warrants.  Their main focus is VPI warrants, but they also work with warrant service task forces throughout the state.  Over the last two fiscal years the unit’s clearance rate (defined as warrants served, not adjudicated) has been 90%.

This latest effort is one of many new outreach tools the Department is utilizing to increase public safety awareness in Maryland.  Through an e-newsletter launched in May DPSCS is keeping stakeholders, such as our law enforcement and community partners, abreast of current initiatives. 

Social media outlets are also being used to encourage the public’s involvement in locating outstanding DPP violators.  Through Facebook and Twitter citizens can receive detailed highlights of some of our Most Wanted violators, updates on newly added violators, and follow DPSCS for news regarding other initiatives of the Department. 

DPSCS hopes to inform a broader audience of our public safety responsibility, one that each of us has a stake in improving.

Posted by Peter Hermann at 9:15 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Prisons

August 17, 2010

Family upset after charges dropped in McCann case

In October 2008, a teen runaway from Virginia was found dead outside a Southeast Baltimore housing project, a mysterious death that has raised many questions - investigators believe she died from a fatal ingestion of Bactine, used to treat pierced ears - but provided few answers. FOX Baltimore is reporting the following (because there's not a story URL, I'm posting the full text here):

The parents of a 16-year-old girl found dead in Baltimore are outraged that prosecutors have dropped charges in the case.
Annie McCann was found dead behind a dumpster in Southeast Baltimore after she ran away from her Virginia home in October 2009.
While police ruled the death a suicide, they charged 21-year-old Darnell Kinlaw with stealing and ransacking her car.
Daniel and Mary Jane McCann hoped for justice Tuesday at Kinlaw's court hearing Tuesday, but they were shocked by the outcome.
Prosecutors dismissed the charges due to lack of evidence.

Prosecutors sent me this response today:

"Darnell Kinlaw’s name surfaced while police investigated the unauthorized use of the vehicle driven by the late Annie McCann in November 2008.  That investigation was very thorough and included consultation with prosecutors in the State’s Attorney’s Office.  During that investigation police issued an arrest warrant for Kinlaw in October 2009; it wasn’t served until July 2010.  The police attempted to gather further evidence but were unable to do so.  The state, in consultation with police, determined this case could not proceed to trial due to the fact that the only evidence was uncorroborated testimony and therefore a NP was entered August 17, 2010 in case number:  2b01984817 State vs. Darnell Kinlaw (unauthorized use, etc).
The State’s Attorney’s Office personally contacted the McCanns informing them of this matter; the court did not list them as victims in this case (it was their vehicle in which the alleged unauthorized use took place.) The McCanns were unaware this case was pending until that personal contact from the State’s Attorney’s Office.  We also informed them what would happen in court, fully explaining why so that they would not be surprised at the outcome."

Click the tag for more of our coverage on this perplexing case.

Posted by Justin Fenton at 10:59 PM | | Comments (5)
Categories: Annie McCann

Recent city homicide victims identified

City police released the identities Tuesday of several recent homicide victims, including one previously unreported case:

•Isaiah Gordon, 20, was found at about 4:15 a.m. Sunday in the 400 block of E. Chase St. lying on the sidewalk and suffering from multiple gunshot wounds.

•Westley Lewis, 19, was shot to death just after 1 a.m. in the 2000 block of Robb St. Lewis lived on the 3900 block of Bayville Road, police said. •Shelred Carr, 58, was found dead in the 3400 block of Garrison Blvd on Aug. 12 after a woman flagged down an officer and said there was something wrong with her friend. A police spokesman said detectives were investigating a drug feud as a possible motive.

•Shawn Wright, 30, was fatally shot after midnight Aug. 11 in the 1600 block of N. Broadway. Police said Wright was standing outside when a man jumped out of a dark-colored minivan and fired several shots before fleeing.

•Franklin Spencer, 39, was also added to the city's homicide count. Spencer died in 2004 as a result of complications from a gunshot wound suffered in 1990. A tip in a different case prompted an autopsy on Spencer's body, and his death will count as a homicide for 2010.

Detectives had not made any arrests in the cases. Anyone with information was asked to call the homicide unit at 410-396-2100.
Posted by Justin Fenton at 10:12 PM | | Comments (0)

Swastikas found on cars in Northwest Baltimore

An alert was sent out recently by the Baltimore Shomrim group about swastikas spray painted on cars last weekend in Northwest Baltimore. Shomrim sent out this follow-up email tonight:

The community should be aware of the incidents over last Shabbos, where multiple cars were spraypainted with Swastikas.

Shomrim have been diligently working with the Police Department, the Mayor's Office, and the Baltimore Jewish Council on this issue.

As more details from the investigation become available, we will pass them along.

If you have more information, please contact us by email at, or by phone at 410 358 9999

Baltimore Jewish Life had additional details:

White vans seemed to be the target in at least 2 neighborhoods where they were spray painted with swastikas and Hitler as well as other profanities. spoke with Rabbi Gershon Grayman whose vans was one of those vandalized with the disgusting symbols of hate. "So, what would happen with those responsible even if they were caught? Even when a shul is firebombed it takes a tremendous amount of pressure to convict. I can't imagine much will happen in this case."

Posted by Justin Fenton at 6:49 PM | | Comments (6)

Three arrested in alleged rape of 12-yr-old at Woodlawn skate rink

A 24-year man and two unidentified teenagers have been arrested by Baltimore County police and charged with raping a 12-year old girl last weekend at Skateworks roller rink in Woodlawn.

Police said that Davon Perry and the two unidentified teenagers dragged the girl into a storage room, where the rape took place. The victim reported the incident to off-duty police officers who were working as security guards at the rink. Perry, who worked as a volunteer at the rink, was charged with first-degree rape.

Skateworks was nearly closed by the county in April because police had complained about rowdy crowds and disturbances at the rink, which was opened by a high school principal and three business partners in December 2008.
Posted by Justin Fenton at 5:59 PM | | Comments (2)
Categories: Baltimore County

Dedicated cops help secure murder conviction despite witness troubles

Even as the Baltimore's top cop and prosecutor fight over how cases are handled, the rank-and-file seem to carry on above the political fray. Here's a case in which the State's Attorney's Office won a conviction with the help of a retired homicide detective who came to court each day for more than two weeks to ensure the trial went off without a hitch.

Another police officer tracked down reluctant witnesses.

Here's a statement from prosecutors:

A Baltimore jury yesterday convicted Datwan Ramsey, 25, of the 1000 block of Radnor Avenue of two counts of first-degree murder, attempted first-degree murder and three counts of use of a handgun in the commission of a crime of violence. 

Motions began August 2, it took three days to seat a jury, testimony began August 12 and the state rested August 16. The jury deliberated two hours and reached a verdict the same day.

Judge John N. Prevas scheduled sentencing for September 28, 2010 at which time Ramsey faces a maximum penalty of three consecutive life sentences plus 63 years in prison.

On March 17, 2009 at 2901 Greenmount Avenue police responded to Yau Brothers Chinese carry out for a report of a shooting. Upon arrival they located Adrian Martise and Anthony Bailey inside of the location suffering from multiple gunshot wounds. Travis Williams was located outside suffering from multiple gunshot wounds. All three were transported to area hospitals; Mr. Bailey and Mr. Martise were pronounced dead shortly after their arrival and Williams survived.

Investigation revealed that the three victims were inside the carry out purchasing a bottle of water when Ramsey and an unknown codefendant pulled up and walked in the front door. Both opened fire on the victims firing at least 12 shots while they blocked the only exit. Mr. Martise and Mr. Bailey were each struck five times and Mr. Williams was struck two times. The investigation also revealed that the motive was an ongoing dispute over drug territory.

 The primary investigator, Detective Marvin Sydnor, has retired from the police department but returned to court each day of the more than two weeks it took to complete the case. The state sought court ordered body attachment warrants for two identifying witnesses to compel their appearance in court. The second detective on the case, Joseph Landsman, worked tirelessly with other police officers to locate these witnesses and bring them to court. Their thorough investigation and continued commitment to this case are yet another example of the cooperative efforts between the State’s Attorney’s Office and the Baltimore City Police Department to bring violent criminals to justice. 
Assistant State’s Attorney Tonya LaPolla of the Homicide Division prosecuted this case.

Posted by Peter Hermann at 3:31 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Breaking news, Courts and the justice system

Man found in trash chute identified; no new leads in investigation

The man found dead in a downtown apartment building trash chute has been identified as 30-year-old Harsh Kumar, a resident of the building's 16th floor. Kumar was found Aug. 12 on the parking garage level of the Park Charles apartment building in the 200 block of N. Charles St., and police say an autopsy suggests he fell from one of the top floors, down the trash chute and into the garbage compactor. Police said there were no other injuries on his body except those consistent with a fall.

Police spokesman Anthony Guglielmi said Kumar lived in the building with family members, who were on vacation at the time of the incident, causing the delay in anyone reporting him missing. The investigation is continuing, police said. 

It appears, based on a LinkedIn profile page and a check of records, that Kumar was an analyst with an IT company who attended Johns Hopkins. I've been unable to find contact info for his family. 

Posted by Justin Fenton at 12:18 PM | | Comments (7)
Categories: Downtown

Body found on Fayette Street downtown

Baltimore police are on the scene of a body at Fayette and Charles streets in downtown Baltimore. The call came out about 8:30 a.m. At t he moment, it's classified as a suspicious death. We'll update as more information comes comes in.

UPDATE: The body was at the bottom of a stairwell leading to the below-street level entrance to a florist shop on the south side of Fayette Street between St. Paul and Charles streets. Police tell me it's a 35-year-old white male. He was dressed in a jump suit and wearing a backpack. Police found his identification card.

At the moment, the death is listed as suspicous, though police say there is no obvious trauma on the body. An autopsy will determine the cause of death. Police had part of the sidwalk across from a side entrance to the Baltimore Circuit Court building taped off near an entrance to the Metro.

Posted by Peter Hermann at 8:40 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Breaking news, Downtown

Man gets life in murder

With all the talk of recanting witnesses and tough juries, here's a case from the Baltimore State's Attorney's office in which a 25-year-old man got life plus 40 years in prison for a 2007 murder despite a hung jury in the first trial:

At a sentencing hearing August 11, 2010 Judge John N. Prevas sentenced Tyres K. Taylor, 25, of the 4700 block of Creekside Court to life in prison for the 2007 murder of Robert Perlie, 16, plus an additional 40 years consecutive for use of a handgun in the commission of a crime of violence and conspiracy to commit armed robbery. Judge Prevas also sentenced Taylor to 80 years concurrent for two additional counts of armed robbery and two counts of conspiracy to commit armed robbery.

The state tried Taylor in January 2010 and the jury hung. Jurors convicted Taylor in a retrial on June 16, 2010 after hearing three days of testimony and deliberating two days.

For more details:

On May 17, 2007 at 2:00AM officers responded to a call in the 200 block of N. Dallas Street and found victim Robert Perlie Jr., 16, unresponsive and bleeding profusely from a gunshot wound to the head. According to audio taped police statements given by witnesses to detectives, three of whom later recanted on the witness stand at trial, including a brother and cousin of the victim, the group was hanging out in the Dallas Homes Projects in East Baltimore.  They decided to walk to the BP gas station on Fayette and Central to get some drinks. While they were at the gas station Taylor and co-defendant James Giles observed them buying a blunt and asked them where they could get some marijuana. They told Taylor he could purchase some from someone up at the Dallas Homes.

Perlie and his friends left the gas station and headed back to the Dallas Homes.  Unbeknownst to the boys, Taylor and Giles followed them in Giles’ car.  A short time after the boys returned to the projects Taylor and Giles drove the wrong way up Lexington Street and jumped the group; Taylor was armed with a semiautomatic handgun. Taylor and Giles then began going through the pockets of the group taking their property. Two of the victims managed to run away.  Taylor ordered Perlie and the other victim to lie onto the ground and Taylor stood over Perlie and shot him in the head.
 Taylor and Giles fled in Giles' car. While in the car Giles phoned a girlfriend from one of the victim's cell phones.  Police later traced that phone call and spoke to the Giles girlfriend and she led them to Giles. Giles gave a statement to police implicating Taylor in the crime.

James Giles previously pled guilty to conspiracy to commit armed robbery and use of a handgun in the commission of a crime of violence and was sentenced on July 23, 2010 to twenty years suspend all but five and three years supervised probation upon release.

Assistant State’s Attorney Joshua Felsen of the Homicide Division prosecuted this case.         

Posted by Peter Hermann at 8:22 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Courts and the justice system

Youth assaulted in Patterson Park

People packed an emergency community meeting in Southeast Baltimore Monday night to express their anger and fear over a series of attacks in and around Upper Fells Point. Packs of youths have robbed and assaulted several people in the past few weeks.

While police have made one arrest, they are searching for many more people, and detectives aren't yet sure how many are responsible. One attack is being investigated as a hate crime -- black youths said "[Expletive you, white boy," to a man he was beating.

Police have told us of five attacks since Aug. 2 but not all fit a pattern. In one, the suspects are white had a gun; most of the others involved eight to 10 teens who were not armed. One victim was a local real estate agent who recounted the assault and his feelings about living in Baltimore.

Last week, Bruce Robertson called me to ask why the assault on his son had not been reported.

Conner, 14, was attacked as he walked home from the Friendship Academy of Science and Technology Middle School on South Highland Avenue on Aug. 11, where he is attending a summer program.

This wasn't one of the attacks police told us about when discussing what's going on in Upper Fells Point, but it's close to the others.

Conner usually walks with is older brother but on this day, about 2 p.m., he was alone and carrying his backpack. He cut through the park when his father said four teens followed him, one wearing Ultimate fighter gloves.

"They told my son to empty his pockets," the elder Robertson said.

Conner gave the youth all he had -- 35 cents.

One youth, Robertson said, "cold-cocked my kid and fractured his nose."

The youths ran and didn't touch Conner's backpack, which had his cellphone inside. Conner used that to call his father who rushed to the park from work. Paramedics treated the young victim. Robertson said his son usually walks home through Canton Square -- "which seems a little safer" -- and while he returned to school the next day, "He's not going to go" through the park.

I pulled the police report and found it to be one page. Instead of classified as an assault and robbery, the officer wrote it up as a "common assault." There's no indication in the report that anything was taken. The one paragraph report states that Conner was walking home when a youth "approached fromt he side and punched him in the nose and then fled..."

Posted by Peter Hermann at 7:58 AM | | Comments (5)
Categories: Confronting crime, Southeast Baltimore

August 16, 2010

Bernstein has raised 200k

The chief challenger to Baltimore State's Attorney Patricia C. Jessamy announced Tuesday that he raised more than $200,000, a figure that experts say should continue to boost the visibility of a race that has been heating up.

Gregg Bernstein, a defense attorney and former federal prosecutor, raised $217,000 with contributions from about 450 individuals, his campaign said. The amount is more than Jessamy has ever raised in a full election cycle, according to campaign finance records, though Jessamy has faced only nominal opposition in the past. Jessamy, who would not release totals ahead of the deadline to file, will face Bernstein in the Democratic primary next month.

Read more here

Posted by Justin Fenton at 10:58 PM | | Comments (1)
Categories: State's Attorney Campaign

Housing commissioner moves to revoke apartment complex license

Baltimore officials are trying to revoke the license of an apartment landlord in the city's Reservoir Hill neighborhood and move residents out of the 202 units, a rare step aimed at stamping out drug activity and violence, The Sun's Jamie Smith Hopkins reports.

Baltimore Housing Commissioner Paul T. Graziano said he issued a notice late Monday of his intent to revoke the license of the Madison Park North Apartments in the 700 block of W. North Ave. A hearing is scheduled for September to determine the fate of the property and its residents, many of whom would be relocated with government assistance if the license is pulled.

Neighbors call the complex "murder mall," said Saundra Matthews, who lives nearby. "It's terrible," she said, listing off incidents in the area: robbery, fights, killing. "You've got to go there in the daytime."

Posted by Justin Fenton at 9:33 PM | | Comments (3)
Categories: Neighborhoods

Remington hostage situation

It wasn't one of the 13 shootings from the weekend that has police pushing officers to show more "urgency", but a hostage standoff in Remington generated some attention and now we've got the charging documents. The heavy response seems to be a function of both a report that a man had a gun but also that an off-duty officer reported it, generating a "Signal 13" call for officer in distress.

On 8/13/2010, at approx. 2245 hours, this officer responded to a signal 13 (Officer in Distress call) for the location of 2729 Miles Ave.  Raymond Ryan Shoemaker is a State Law Enforcement Officer that works for the Fugitive Recovery Unit.  Mr.Shoemaker observed an argument between the defendant: Leroy Alexander Collins (M/B/3-14-70) and the defendant's fiancee Brianna Maria Magee (W/F/9-21-86).  Mr.Shoemaker attempted to intervene before the argument turned into a physical altercation.  The defendant in return threatend bodily harm to Mr.Shoemaker stating that he would hurt him, then reached into his dip area making Mr.Shoemaker believe that the defendant possessed a gun.  Mr.Shoemaker never saw a gun, but believed through the statements and bodily movements of the defendant that he possessed a gun and would hurt him or the defendant's fiancee whom he was arguing. 

Mr.Shoemaker called 911 identifying himself as a State Law Enforcement Officer and followed the defendant, Brianna Magee, and a second male later identified as John Sykes (M/B/1-17-55) to the residence of 2729 Miles Ave.    Several officers responded to the signal 13.  Officer Sellman was first on the scene and spoke with Mr.Shoemaker who advised the defendant was in the dwelling of 2729 Miles Ave with Brianna Magee whom he had been arguing with and may be armed with a gun.  Officer Sellman saw the defendant through a basement window and advised other units including myself to cover the rear of the location.  Sgt Taylor acting as 5C09 responded to the scene and attempted to make contact with the defendant as well as other persons in the house.  No one would come to the door despite several attempts of knocking at the front door.    

I responded from the rear of the location to the front of the home to observe SgtTaylor attempt to contact persons inside the residence.  Lt.Miller 5A09 had also responded to the scene and did make contact with our defendant Leroy A. Collins through the basement window.  The defendant appeared intoxicated and could not be reasoned with.  Lt Miller, Sgt Taylor, and myself repeatedly asked the defendant to open the front door so that we could check the well being of his fiancee. He refused repeatedly. Because a domestic argument had been witnessed, and a visibly drunk defendant was believed in possession of a firearm we insisted that the defendant open his front door and allow us to speak with Brianna, his fiancee.  The defendant allowed Brianna to come to the basement window where I observed her through a spot light approximately 20 feet away.  She appeared frightened to me. I heard her say to the defendant, "Let me open the front door."  I heard the defendant say, "[Expletive] no, you're not opening that door."     The outer perimeter of the dwelling was made secure.  SWAT was called to make a forced entry into 2729 Miles Ave where the defendant who earlier threatened to assault Mr.Shoemaker had gone into and would not allow his fiancee to leave.  SWAT made entry at approx 0200hrs after repeated attempts to have the defendant come out peacefully, and allow Brianna Magee to come out.  Inside the dwelling were Brianna Magee, John Sykes, and the defendant.  All were transported to the Northern District for questioning, and the defendant was arrested and transported to CBIF.  Medic 3 and Engine 31 were on standby.  No serious injuries occurred. All events occurred in the City of Baltimore, State of Maryland.  

Statement of Charges ...did assault Raymond Shoemaker in the second degree in violation of CR 3-203, contrary to the form of the act of the assembly in such case made and provided and against the peace, government, and dignity of the state.   ...did unlawfully and intentionally detain Brianna Magee, in violation of the Common Law.   ...was intoxicated and did endanger the safety of RAYMOND SHOEMAKER AND BRIANNA MAGEE. 

Posted by Justin Fenton at 8:15 PM | | Comments (1)
Categories: North Baltimore

Baltimore County police face wrongful death lawsuit

The mother of an Essex man who was shot to death two years ago by Baltimore County police officers has filed a multimillion-dollar federal lawsuit against the county government and six members of the force, The Sun's Nick Madigan reports.

Gwendolyn Cann contends that her son, Taevon G. Cann, who was 25 at the time, died as a result of excessive force when officers fired more than 70 bullets at him at a gas station on Feb. 29, 2008.

"The barrage of bullets was so intense that they not only took his life but also destroyed his automobile," says the wrongful-death suit, filed last week in U.S. District Court in Baltimore. The suit contends that as Cann was "succumbing from his wounds, one of the defendants reloaded his weapon and shot Mr. Cann in the back of the head."
Posted by Justin Fenton at 7:14 PM | | Comments (3)
Categories: Baltimore County, Police shootings

Police make arrest in 1 weekend homicide

Police have made an arrest in one of the weekend's homicides, charging 21-year-old Dane Shives Jr. with a double-shooting that left one man dead in Brooklyn Saturday. The suspect is pictured here.

Officers were called at about 10:12 p.m. to the 3500 block of Horton Ave., near Garrett Park in Brooklyn for a double-shooting. Andre Graham, 27, was killed in the incident.

Police did not disclose a motive in the crime but charging documents could shed some light later today. 

Shives, of the 1600 block of W. Furnace Branch Rd., has a prior record in Anne Arundel County, where in 2007 he pleaded guilty to attempted armed robbery and received eight years in prison with all but a year and six months suspended and five years of probation. It was his first and only conviction.

Posted by Justin Fenton at 11:02 AM | | Comments (17)
Categories: South Baltimore

Another violent weekend

Another Monday, another death toll to tally on the streets of Baltimore: 13 shot, three dead.

Concerned about the violence, Police Commissioner Frederick H. Bealefeld III ordered his commanders to the streets and saturated neighborhoods with cops. The shootings, including two by his officers, continued.

Here's the opening of Annie Linskey's story in this morning's paper. It reads much like the opening to the story in Sunday's paper, and in stories in papers from the past several weeks:

Baltimore endured a bloody Sunday morning with three people shot and a fourth killed within two hours, police said. Later in the day a police officer shot a man in the leg, the second police-involved shooting of the weekend.

That meant 13 people were shot over the weekend — three fatally. Police Commissioner Frederick H. Bealefeld III plans to meet with commanders Monday morning to assess their violence prevention strategy.

The commissioner had pumped up police presence in the city's Eastern District and other hot spots on Saturday, after a series of shootings left two men dead and five others wounded Friday night and early Saturday morning.

The extra shifts were called amid a budget crisis that has caused deep cuts to all city departments and forced the police to vastly decrease overtime. Police commanders, who are not paid for overtime, were also put on duty throughout the weekend.

Tonight at the Southeastern District police station, worried residents of Upper Fells Point, Butcher's Hill and Patterson Park are to meet with police to discuss a series of beatings in the area. In some instances, groups of teens and young adults have robbed and assaulted people near their homes. The meeting is scheduled for 7 p.m.

August 15, 2010

City officer shoots man near Clifton Park; 2nd of weekend

Baltimore Police just sent out a Twitter message saying an officer has shot a man in the leg near Clifton Park, at the intersection of Belair Road and Erdman Ave. Details are scarce at the moment, but that would be the second police-involved shooting of the weekend. Police say no officers were harmed in tonight's incident.

Early Saturday, a 19-year-old man was shot three times by an officer after police say he pulled out a gun during a traffic stop near Gwynns Falls Park, police said. Ttwo officers from the Southwestern District were approaching the vehicle in the 1000 block of Ellamont Ave. about 1:30 a.m. to question three men when a passenger in the rear seat pulled out a gun. Both officers fired several shots at the vehicle in response, striking it as it sped away, police said.

Posted by Justin Fenton at 8:48 PM | | Comments (4)
Categories: Police shootings

August 13, 2010

Arundel police seek teens in robbery-killing

Police in Anne Arundel County are looking for three teenagers they believe were involved in a fatal shooting early Friday during a robbery gone awry.

Officers were summoned to the 100 block of W. Edgevale Road in Brooklyn Park at about 12:30 a.m. Friday to investigate a shooting. When they arrived, the officers discovered Eric Javonn Hill, 30, inside his car, with a gunshot wound to the upper torso.

Hill, of the 200 block of W. Edgevale Road, was taken by ambulance to the Maryland Shock Trauma Center in Baltimore. He was pronounced dead at 2:30 a.m.
Posted by Justin Fenton at 10:53 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Anne Arundel County

August 12, 2010

Analysis of prosecutor debate

[Towson professor Richard Vatz, who teaches rhetoric and communication, posted his analysis of the style and substance of the debate on the conservative Red Maryland blog. Check it out here.

The Daily Record also had a summary of the debate here

And of course the raw audio is here]

Baltimore state's attorney candidate Gregg Bernstein and incumbent Patricia C. Jessamy met face to face in their first extended debate Thursday, frequently trading barbs.

During WYPR's "Midday with Dan Rodricks," Jessamy called Bernstein a liar, while he called her ineffective and isolated. The candidates in the Democratic primary also tossed out various claims and statistics to support their candidacy.

The Sun took a closer look at their claims and put them into context to see how they held up under scrutiny.

Analysis: The figures may say more about Baltimore jurors than prosecutors.

The claim is based on a 2008 Abell Foundation study and report that looked only at the disparity in outcomes of jury trials from 293 cases in Baltimore and the four surrounding counties from July 1, 2005, through Dec. 31, 2006. It found "substantially fewer guilty verdicts" from city jurors than county jurors during that time. In the city, 23 percent of those tried were found guilty, compared with 53 percent in Anne Arundel, 41 percent in Howard and 40 percent in Baltimore County.

The report concluded that city jurors are less likely than county jurors to convict a defendant, which has also been reported in The Sun. City residents often distrust police and the court system in general, biasing them toward defendants. They're more likely to hand out a not-guilty verdict in criminal cases, and, according to area attorneys, grant large awards in civil cases.

Abell gave a wide range of reasons for the disparity, including prosecutorial discretion, but also "variations in the economic, demographic and attitudinal differences among those in the eligible jury pool in these jurisdictions."

Statement: Jessamy countered Bernstein's claim with statistics of her own: Baltimore City is responsible for about 37 percent of the crime in the state of Maryland, but more than 60 percent of those committed to the Department of Corrections for terms longer than a year come from Baltimore.

Analysis: For fiscal years 2007 through 2009, Baltimore City prosecutors were responsible for sending more people to prison than any other jurisdiction: 63 percent of the inmate population in fiscal year 2007, followed by 60.5 percent and 59.3 percent respectively, according to annual reports from the Maryland Division of Correction.

It's unclear where the 37 percent figure came from, but using judiciary numbers from fiscal year 2009, Baltimore circuit and district courts handled and closed 30 percent of the state's criminal case load (a total of 86,888 cases out of 289,617).

The numbers themselves hold up, but Jessamy's claim implies that the high Baltimore commitment rates are the result of lots of successful prosecutions, relative to the percentage of crimes committed in the city. But her statement doesn't present the full picture because it doesn't take into account the types of crimes that occur here.

Crimes committed in Baltimore are more likely to be violent than in other jurisdictions, meaning they carry prison penalties, whereas nonviolent or property crimes in most other places in the state might not. The violent crime rate in the city is almost three times as high as the state's rate, according to statistics from the Governor's Office of Crime Control and Prevention, which means the prisons are more likely to be filled with Baltimore convicts.

Statement: Jessamy said on the show she initiated a project that spread across the country to team up with federal prosecutors on gun cases.

Analysis: Federal prosecutors have disputed this, assuming she's referring to the Baltimore Exile project, which began in 2006 and was modeled on a Richmond, Va., program that began officially in 1997.

But Baltimore had its own gun prosecution program starting in 1994. It was called "Project Disarm" and involved state and city prosecutors and investigators working with federal counterparts to get armed repeat offenders off the streets. It eventually merged into the Baltimore Exile program.

Jessamy was heavily involved in Project Disarm, but it began when she was still a deputy state's attorney in 1994, not after she became state's attorney in early 1995. It's also doubtful that the idea originated in Baltimore. A federal program called Project Triggerlock was initiated in April 1991 to prosecute criminals with guns at the federal level.

Statement: After Jessamy called herself a "technology queen," Bernstein pointed out that Baltimore assistant state's attorneys don't have work-issued BlackBerrys or voice mail on their office phones.

Analysis: Bernstein's right: The prosecutors don't have work-issued BlackBerrys, though most pay for and carry their own personal digital devices. The phone system is maintained by the city, and most in the offices don't have voice mail. Prosecutors point to a lack of funds.

Statement: Jessamy has said a vote for Bernstein is a vote for "rubber stamp" oversight of police misconduct; Bernstein said he couldn't think of a "single instance in which she has successfully prosecuted a police officer."

Analysis: Bernstein says a better working relationship with police will not result in unfettered police misconduct.

A review of cases brought against police shows that prosecutors have won few significant punishments, but the reasons are complicated — evidence has gone missing, police investigations have been flawed, convictions have been overturned by higher courts or, more commonly, cases have been pleaded out in exchange for the officers agreeing to quit.

Jessamy's office dropped corruption charges against Officer Brian Sewell in 2001, a case made infamous after then-Mayor Martin O'Malley fumed that she didn't have the "guts" to try the case. Evidence went missing in a burglary at police headquarters, and charges against the officer accused of stealing files were also dropped.

One of the highest-profile cases related to a Southwest District unit accused of becoming a rogue operation implicated in a rape. Ultimately, one officer was acquitted of rape, criminal charges against others were dropped and the city approved a settlement and issued a rare apology to two of the officers.

Jessamy chose not to prosecute Charles M. Smothers, accused of shooting a man outside Lexington Market, and a grand jury would not indict a Housing Authority officer who shot an unarmed teen.

Most recently, Officer Tommy Sanders was acquitted by a jury in the shooting of an unarmed man in the back, and a jury acquitted an officer in an off-duty assault outside a barbershop. Officer Patrick Dotson, who fired his weapon outside a Canton bar, received 10 years with 18 months suspended.

Charges are pending against three officers accused of kidnapping and abandoning a teen in Howard County, while misconduct charges against an officer charged in a sting operation were dropped because of inconsistencies in the police investigation.

Statement: Bernstein said cases flagged by the War Room, a program created to track major offenders, have a conviction rate of 35 percent.

Analysis: Bernstein cites the findings of a report funded through an Abell Foundation grant and compiled by former War Room chief Page Croyder, who retired in 2008. Croyder is also Jessamy's chief antagonist and a frequent, often scathing, critic who says Jessamy's commitment to the effort waned and was whitewashed in official assessments.

Croyder's report was based on a review of the criminal histories of about 10 percent of more than 8,200 violent repeat offenders. It found that offenders in the program were convicted 35 percent of the time and that judges and parole commissioners revoked the probation and parole barely more than a third of the time, despite new convictions.

In a statement, Jessamy's office said that it was "based on a small sample of old cases which yielded unreliable data" and that conclusions can't be drawn about effectiveness without reviewing cases individually.

"To have a reasonable degree of scientific certainty, the study would have had to include a case by case analysis with the specific prosecutor who handled the case, and who was in the position to weigh all the factors necessary in order to arrive at the final result," the statement said.

Statement: Bernstein said prosecutors dropped 80 percent of domestic violence cases in 2009.

Analysis: The claim refers to misdemeanor cases handled in the 2009 fiscal year and was based on reports generated by the Maryland District Court, which the Bernstein campaign provided. Indeed, the reports showed that 80 percent of such cases were dropped in 2009 (though there were no comparisons to other jurisdictions). Prosecutors have repeatedly claimed that raw data fail to take into account the intricacies of why a case falls apart, that many victims invoke spousal privilege or that patrol officers who handle cases fail to gather sufficient evidence. Some cases are also placed on the "inactive" docket — effectively dropped — following participation in the domestic violence programs ordered by the court.

Posted by Justin Fenton at 10:20 PM | | Comments (6)
Categories: State's Attorney Campaign

Jessamy won't press for independent investigation of Bealefeld

She said it "wasn't about the signs," but with Police Commissioner Frederick H. Bealefeld III taking down his campaign signs for State's Attorney Patricia C. Jessamy's opponent, Jessamy is backing off her call for an independent investigation of whether Bealefeld was politicking while on the job.

WJZ caught Jessamy outside of the studios of WYPR, where she debated challenger Gregg Bernstein. We'll have an analysis of that debate later, but for now here's what Jessamy told reporters:

City State's Attorney Pat Jessamy says her feud is over with Police Commissioner Fred Bealefeld now that he has taken down the sign endorsing her opponent.

Mike Hellgren reports this is the latest development in a high-profile disagreement.

Bealefeld says he removed those signs endorsing Gregg Bernstein for state's attorney because this controversy has become too much of a distraction to fighting crime.

Earlier this week, Jessamy asked for an independent investigation when she said Bealefeld lied about approaching people about Bernstein. She said one of her supporters was approached by Bealefeld while he was in uniform and on duty.  Bealefeld denies the charges.

Now, Jessamy says since Bealefeld admitted the sign was a distraction, the dispute is over.

Posted by Justin Fenton at 3:15 PM | | Comments (4)
Categories: State's Attorney Campaign

Video of pot bust

Baltimore police on Wednesday showed off the fruits of a marijuana bust in Leakin Park. An observer aboard the Foxtrot helicopter noticed the plants and officers kept watch over the area for a month hoping to catch whoever was responsible.

They ultimately decided to cut down the 34 plants down. Here is some video shot by the police helicopter and shown on WJZ-TV:


Posted by Peter Hermann at 12:25 PM | | Comments (2)
Categories: Confronting crime, West Baltimore

Police investigating body in downtown trash chute

[UPDATE, 7:37 PM: Police say the body was that of an adult male, and there were no obvious signs of trauma or foul play. The state medical examiner will perform an autopsy. A resident said this note was tucked in his front door:

"Dear valued residents, Today an isolated incident occurred on the community that resulted in a death. We have no details at this time."]

Homicide detectives are investigating the discovery of a body found this morning at the bottom of a trash chute in a downtown apartment building. The body - it's not clear whether it's a man or a woman - was found in a trash compactor on the parking garage level of the Park Charles building in the 200 block of N. Charles, in the heart of downtown.

There's very little information - when I was on the scene, detectives hadn't moved the body and could only make out a leg - so it's too early to say whether this is a murder investigation or an accidental death. 

A resident of the building said the fire alarm went off twice this morning, in the 5 a.m. hour, and that at about 11 a.m. police were dusting for fingerprints on the trash chute on one of the floors. We'll post more as it becomes available. 

[I snapped this picture before they closed off the parking garage level.]

Posted by Justin Fenton at 11:51 AM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Downtown

He ate, he drank and skipped on the bill

Here's what Andew Palmer ate at Burke's Cafe on Light Street: Buffalo wings ($11.80) and nine Blue Moon draft beers: $40.05.

At Shucker's Restaurant on Thames Street: three glasses of Tanqueray gin ($18); two bottles of Corona ($7.50); 1 Johnny Walker Black Label scotch ($7.50); one Heinekin ($3.75); and one pound of steamed shrimp ($23.66).

Palmer did this for year, all over Baltimore, and he skipped the bill by pretending to have a seizure and being rushed to the hospital.

He often got arrested but rarely did he spend more than 90 days in jail. Finally this month, a prosecutor took note of his extensive record -- 89 arrests in Baltimore and beyond, more than 40 convictions -- and consolidated the cases into one theft scheme. Palmer pleaded guilty and got the maximum -- 18 months in jail.

Authorities only know about the place he got caught. How many restaurant managers did what the good folks at Ding How restaurant in Fells Point did when their customer went into "convulsions" when he got his $40 tab. Said prosecutor Scott Richman: "They didn't want to stick him with the bill as he was on his way out the door in an ambulance."

Here is the police charging document:

Fax 000000331
Posted by Peter Hermann at 7:34 AM | | Comments (2)
Categories: Crime elsewhere, Downtown, Neighborhoods

August 11, 2010

Police raid car wash, seize drugs, guns, boat

Baltimore police on Wednesday described a Reisterstown Road car wash as a front for drug dealers after they raided the business and a department spokesman said they seized more than two pounds of cocaine, weapons and a 24-foot power boat from the business.

Authorities said a “brick” of cocaine and $4,000 in cash were found in a hidden compartment of an office end table that could only be opened by placing two magnets on top. Police said they found five handguns, a MAC-11 assault pistol and a shotgun elsewhere in the car wash.

Police also took at least five vehicles and the boat, which spokesman Anthony Guglielmi described as a 2010 model that had been purchased with cash. Police said they might turn the case over to federal authorities for prosecution and begin asset forfeiture proceedings to keep the vehicles.

Four people including the owner of Celebrities Car Wash, located in the 6600 block of Reisterstown Road near a shopping plaza, were arrested and charged with drug offenses. The case was investigated by the Violent Crime Impact Division, whose officers this year have taken 500 illegal guns and $8 million in drugs off city streets.

Here is a statement from Baltimore police:

During the month of August the Baltimore Police Violent Crimes Impact Section received information from the community detailing illegal drug activity at  the Celebrities Car Wash located at 6619 Reisterstown Road.

Surveillance was established on the morning of 8/10 and at approximately 1355 hrs, detectives observed suspect Shawn Conley meet with Lloyd Green.  The two engaged in behavior that training and experience led the detectives to believe that a narcotics transaction was taking place. 

Mr.  Conley left the location and travelled to the 1000 Blk of E. Preston Street.  At the location he stopped and opened his vehicle's door where following plainclothes detectives observed what was believed to be cocaine in the side door assembly.  Mr. Conley was approached, arrested, and 3.5 grams of powder cocaine was recovered from the door, along with another 100 grams located in the middle console.  That and further investigation lead to the seeking, reciept, and execution of a search and seizure warrant at the aforementioned car wash. 

Recovered there was a furniture peice with a magnetically actuated hidden compartment, five hanguns, one MAC-11 assault pistol, drug packaging material, cutting agents, scales, 100 grams of heroin, 1,100 grams of powder cocaine, 73 grams of crack cocaine and approx. $4,000 in US Currency. 

Posted by Peter Hermann at 5:30 PM | | Comments (5)
Categories: Breaking news, Confronting crime, West Baltimore

Clerk of Court calls for Bealefeld to resign

Frank Conaway, the longtime clerk of court whose wife and children also hold elected positions in the city, issued a press release today calling for Police Commissioner Frederick H. Bealefeld III to step down for expressing his support for State's Attorney Patricia C. Jessamy's opponent.

In an interview, Conaway said Bealefeld was doing a good job as commissioner but said he was fearful that Bealefeld's views might intimidate voters. His statement was more forceful, saying Bealefeld "has demonstrated that he lacks the political impartiality, sound judgment, and honesty required of a police commissioner."

"He can influence people merely by being police commissioner and having that badge," Conaway said in an interview. "He has 3,000 policemen that he can influence, possibly. And on election day, each polling police has a policeman. That can be intimidating."

He said "at the very least," Bealefeld should step down until the campaign is over. "Then he can campaign for Mr. Bernstein all he wants to," Conaway said. 

Conaway's press release is below:

Frank Conaway, Clerk of the Circuit Court and Member of the Criminal Justice Coordinating Council Calls for Resignation of Police Commissioner Frederick Bealefeld

Frederick Bealefeld should step down as Baltimore City Police Commissioner.  If he does not, Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake should ask for his resignation.

Mr. Bealefeld has demonstrated that he lacks the political impartiality, sound judgment, and honesty required of a police commissioner.

Like the Clerk of the Circuit Court, the Maryland Constitution establishes the State’s Attorney as an elected independent office.  Local officials, especially police chiefs, are expected to work with whomever the voters in their wisdom choose.  A police commissioner does not get to select who he believes would be a suitable partner as State’s Attorney.

The recent reports of more then $7.2 million dollars in payments to citizens victimized by police abuse documents why it is important to have3 a prosecutor who is not a rubber stamp for the police department.  Otherwise, who would police the police?

Mr. Bealefeld has stepped far over the line of propriety.  He has lost the trust of a substantial portion of the citizenry.  He must leave.

Posted by Justin Fenton at 4:01 PM | | Comments (48)
Categories: State's Attorney Campaign

Bealefeld's signs come down

Police Commissioner Frederick H. Bealefeld III has taken down the campaign signs in his front lawn that prompted accusations of impropriety from the city’s top prosecutor, In a statement sent from his private email account, he called the situation “distracting” from the fight against crime. The signs were taken down Monday.

“The Baltimore Police Department's obligation is to prevent crime and apprehend criminals. We must constantly work to remain focused on public safety in our City. Current events distract from that core mission. My responsibility, as Police Commissioner, is first and foremost to the people I serve and I can not allow my focus to be shifted from that. Therefore, I will have no further comment on this issue.”

The Sun reported last week that Bealefeld had taken an unprecedented step last week by placing two signs for defense attorney Gregg Bernstein in the yard of his Southwest Baltimore home and releasing a statement that said police needed a “true partner” in the state’s attorney’s office. It's generally frowned upon for police chiefs to express political support, particularly in a race for a position that is an arm's-length partner of police. But many have praised Bealefeld for stepping out on an issue he knows better than just about anybody else. In an unscientific poll, 86 percent of Sun readers supported Bealefeld.

The his support for Bernstein angered City State’s Attorney Patricia C. Jessamy, who on Tuesday called a news conference asking for an independent investigation of whether Bealefeld was soliciting support for Bernstein on the job and questioned his integrity. Jessamy said her concern was not over the signs - which she maintained were "inappropriate" - but specifics about an interaction between Bealefeld and one of her supporters. She said settling the discrepancies was a matter of "truth and credibility."

Bealefeld said such a probe was unnecessary, and it was not clear what Jessamy's next move will be. The 15-year incumbent gave him a deadline of 48 hours to respond.

The Bernstein campaign, meanwhile, claims that it had to reorder signs due an "overwhelming response" from media coverage. They declined to specify how many signs had been distributed.

Posted by Justin Fenton at 2:47 PM | | Comments (20)
Categories: State's Attorney Campaign, Top brass

Meeting in Southeast District to discuss recent Fells Point robberies

Melissa Techentin, the ever-busy president of the Southeastern District Police Community Relations Council sent out an email last night announcing an emergency meeting in the district on Aug. 16 to discuss a rash of recent robberies in the Upper Fells Point area. Since our article, there's been at least one more robbery, though none of them seen to fit a particular pattern. The number of suspects varies, and in one case the attackers were white. But they've taken place in a very tight area and raised alarm in the neighborhood.

The meeting will be held Aug. 16 at the Southeastern District station at 5710 Eastern Avenue and will be led by Maj. Bill Davis. Here's Melissa's email:

"Over this past week, I have received many calls and emails concerning criminal activity in our district.  Many of the inquires have included violence against citizens, such as beatings, shootings and robberies, and destruction of business and personal property.
I felt that it was best to call for an immediate public meeting instead of waiting for the next public meeting that will be held in September.
Attached is the agenda, there will not be a public speaker as with the regular meetings. But, the Major and his staff will be on hand to discuss the incidents and the actions that the members of the Southeastern District Police are taking to address the serious issues that many people have concerns about.
Please cascade this email and the agenda to everyone in your community.  

Thank you,
Melissa Techentin"
Posted by Justin Fenton at 2:17 PM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Southeast Baltimore

Police unveil Foxtrot-aided pot bust on headquarters roof

I’ll spare you the “getting high” puns about going to the 13th story roof of the Baltimore Police headquarters see the fruits of a pot bust. I’ve heard of going out on the roof to smoke, but this is ridiculous. Tip your waitress. Try the veal.

Police said today that they were able to spot marijuana plants growing in a secluded area of Leakin Park using the Foxtrot helicopter, which officials say was almost grounded this year due to budget cuts.

Officers kept watch over the area for a month hoping to catch whoever was responsible, but ultimately decided to cut the plants down and snuff out the operation. There were 34 plants in all, with a street value estimated by a police spokesman in the range of $23,000.

Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake appeared at the press conference, on the helipad on top of the Baltimore Police headquarters building, and said the helicopter is still in the air because the city “confronted a [budget] crisis with honesty and shared sacrifice.”

Sgt. Thomas Poffenbarger said the Foxtrot unit does checks on the park and trails when not responding to calls. “Not all crime occurs on street corners,” he said.

Rawlings-Blake said the city considered grounding the unit and auctioning off the helicopters – there are four – to save money. “We’re happy to still be up in the air serving the city,” Poffenbarger said.

Here's a view of City Hall from the roof. 


Posted by Justin Fenton at 2:01 PM | | Comments (5)

Arundel police seek help in killing of store clerk

Anne Arundel County police have issued a flier seeking help solving the killing of a clerk at a 7-Eleven convenience store in Glen Burnie:

On August 9, 2010, at approximately 3:37 a.m., officers from the Northern District responded to the 7-Eleven store in the 7700 block of Baltimore Annapolis Boulevard in Glen Burnie for a shooting.

Officers located the victim, Youssef Kamal Erian Attia (left), who was suffering from an apparent gunshot wound. Through the investigation and evidence collected at the scene, officers and detectives determined that three male suspects entered the store and announced a robbery. The victim attempted to flee the store and was subsequently shot. The suspects fled the store on foot and were observed heading north on Marley Neck Boulevard. The motive appears to be robbery and the investigation is ongoing.  The suspects are described as:

1) Black Male, 5’09”, Black Shirt or Jacket, Pants, Medium/Dark 
    Brown Skin Tone, Thin, 19 Years Old, High Top Fade Hair Style,   
    Black Nike Backpack.
2) Black Male, 5’06”, Light Skin Tone, Jeans, Red Shirt or Jacket, 
    Pistol Grip Sawed Off Shotgun. 
3) Black,Male, Jeans, Black Shirt or Jacket, Armed With handgun.

If Your Tip To The Hotline Leads To The Arrest And Indictment Of A Felony Crime, you May Be Eligible For A Cash Reward Of Up To $2,000!!! If you have information on the above crime/suspect please call, email, or text: Metro Crime Stoppers Hotline Available 24-Hours A Day
Toll Free 1-866-7LOCKUP; Text “MCS plus your message” to CRIMES (274637); Phone Calls Are Not Recorded AND Callers Remain Anonymous


Posted by Peter Hermann at 1:28 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Anne Arundel County, Breaking news, Confronting crime

Man faked seizures to get out of restaurant tabs

City prosecutors say that for three months, 43-year-old Andrew Palmer dined and drank at city restaurants but never paid a tab - by faking seizures.

Palmer, of the 500 block of South Broadway pleaded guilty to one count of theft scheme on Aug. 3 and received 18 months in jail, the maximum sentence.

Prosecutors say Palmer dined at restaurants including Capital Grille, Burke's Cafe, Ding How Restaurant, Maisy's Restaurant, and Borinken Bar and Restaurant between April 26 and July 21. In each case, he feigned a seizure requiring the presence of medical personnel.

We're working to get the court file to figure out just how investigators caught on to the scheme. But these were hardly Palmer's first offenses - in fact, I'm not sure I've seen a criminal record quite this long.

According to the Maryland judiciary case search web site, Palmer has been charged with theft or other crimes an astounding 89 times, with at least 34 convictions, in jurisdictions including Baltimore City, Baltimore County, Prince George's County, Anne Arundel and St. Mary's.

And among those charges is "eating in a public place without paying" and "refusing to pay taxi cab fare." Almost all of the cases were for theft under $100, and when convicted he received jail stints of 90 days. His most serious crimes were committed in the early 1990s, when he was convicted of arson and later was sentenced to five years for robbery in Anne Arundel County.

Posted by Justin Fenton at 9:46 AM | | Comments (30)

Man shot on Broadway; city cops make more gun arrests

Baltimore police reported another homicide early today -- a man shot in East Baltimore's Oliver neighborhood. Officers responding to a report of a shooting in the 1600 block of Broadway found the victim suffering from a bullet wound to the back. He died later at Johns Hopkins Hospital.

In the department's ongoing war on guns, police said they arrested 29-year-old Curtis Shackleford on a charge of illegally possessing a loaded handgun. He was arrested in the 6800 block of Old Harford Road. And police said officers serving a warrant in the 4900 block of Frederick Ave. seized a rifle and suspected drugs. Three men were arrested.


Posted by Peter Hermann at 8:00 AM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Breaking news, Confronting crime, East Baltimore

August 10, 2010

Hotel shooting victim picked up by feds

The woman charged with shooting a man in the downtown Hilton hotel last week is out of jail. And the man injured in the shooting is in jail.

Harold Lee O'Neal was being sought by federal authorities after being indicted in February on weapons charges, records show. A federal grand jury handed down an indictment charging O'Neal with illegally possessing a loaded Hi Point .9 mm semiautomatic handgun with an obliterated serial number, and possessing heroin with intent to distribute. Another man, Marcus Garland Clark, was also charged in the indictment with possession of a loaded .25 caliber semi automatic weapon.

O'Neal has been ordered held pending a hearing. His girlfriend, Sharolyn Yarbrough, meanwhile has been charged with attempted first-degree murder in the Aug. 3 shooting at the city-owned Hilton. Records show that Yarbrough told detectives that she and O'Neal were fighting and struggling for the gun, but she refused to elaborate and was charged.

Records show bail for Yarbrough was set at $250,000, which she posted Aug. 6 and was released. The next day, a woman named Shawntra O'Neal sought a peace order against Yarbrough. 

Posted by Justin Fenton at 6:14 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Downtown

Mayor, city police union on Jessamy news conference on Bealefeld

City Hall reporter Julie Scharper has forwarded a statement from Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake praising Bealefeld's service and the "historic" crime declines during his tenure, but indicating that the mayor believes he's walking a fine line with his support of State's Attorney Patricia C. Jessamy's challenger.

"Statement from Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake regarding Police Commissioner Frederick H. Bealefeld, III:

Commissioner Bealefeld is an exceptional public servant dedicated to reducing crime and violence in Baltimore.  Throughout his tenure as Police Commissioner and during his nearly three decades of service rising though the ranks of the Police Department, Commissioner Bealefeld has demonstrated the highest level of integrity and professionalism.  The grandson of a Baltimore police officer, he was born in Baltimore City and has devoted his entire adult life to public safety and service, beginning his career patrolling the streets of West Baltimore.  In addition to ushering in an era historic reductions in violent crime, Commissioner Bealefeld has worked diligently to improve communication and build trust with the citizens he so passionately serves.

I have made very clear that individuals in my administration are to be focused on governing and that no one is to engage in political activities while carrying out their official duties.  I am confident that Commissioner Bealefeld will continue to serve with honor and distinction while working to reduce crime as he has done for 29 years as a proud member of the Baltimore Police Department."

The city police union, meanwhile, is backing the commissioner, particularly in regards to Jessamy's accusations that Bealefeld's support of Bernstein is an effort to sweep police misconduct under the rug.

City police union president Robert F. Cherry told me Jessamy’s comments were a “smokescreen.”

“For Mrs. Jessamy to make blanket statements that Bealefeld’s support of Bernstein is a rubber stamp for hiding misconduct is ludicrious,” Cherry said. “He has revamped internal affairs and removed officers that he thought were engaged in misconduct. If there’s one organization that knows that Fred Bealefeld doesn’t stand for police misconduct, it’s the [Fraternal Order of Police].”

The FOP has donated money to Bernstein's campaign, Cherry said, but he said the union has not endorsed a candidate and will go through an interview process with candidates at the end of the month. He said it was possible the FOP would not take a position on the state's attorney's race. 

Nevertheless, Cherry said he personally admired Bealefeld speaking up, though he wasn't sure "antagonizing" Jessamy was worth it.

"I admire and respect the political risks the police commissioner took in putting those signs up," Cherry said. "Like the criminals on the street, he's not afraid of political leaders who want to convince him to remain silent. ... On the other side, you don't want to antagonize your opponents."

Posted by Justin Fenton at 3:31 PM | | Comments (3)

Jessamy's opponent reacts to news conference

The campaign of defense attorney Gregg Bernstein just released this statement in reference to State's Attorney Patricia C. Jessamy's accusations today that Bernstein is a "rubber stamp" for the police department who is being improperly pushed by Police Commissioner Frederick H. Bealefeld III:

“If the issues facing the citizens of Baltimore regarding public safety were not so serious, Ms. Jessamyʼs continued attention on a sign on the commissionerʼs front lawn and conversations he may have had with other citizens would almost be comical. But it is distressing and disturbing that the Stateʼs Attorney would waste the publicʼs time and valuable resources by calling for some independent investigation of the commissionerʼs exercise of his first amendment rights. If there should be any independent investigation, it should be about the ineffectiveness of her office over the past 15 years.

Sadly, I do not find the Stateʼs Attorney's actions surprising in as much as she has spent the last 15
years engaged in political posturing whenever her performance has been questioned. She continues to refuse to accept any responsibility for the low conviction rates and inability to effectively prosecute and convict violent offenders, and she has been unable to have an effective working relationship with any police commissioner, including Commissioner Bealefeld. Rather than hold a press conference from her campaign headquarters to complain about a lawn sign, I would think she could make better use of her time given the serious issues facing our city.

I will continue to focus on the need to reduce violent crime in our city through strategic use of the State's Attorney's Officeʼs resources and through a cooperative working relationship with all branches of law enforcement, issues that I know based on my contact with citizens all over the city, they want to hear about, rather than wasting time on these kinds of sideshows.

--Gregg Bernstein, candidate for Baltimore City Stateʼs Attorney"

Posted by Justin Fenton at 3:27 PM | | Comments (5)
Categories: State's Attorney Campaign

Anne Arundel police need help in catching bank robbers

Anne Arundel County police are searching for bank robbers in a holdup this weekend in Glen Burnie:


Bank of America Robbery
Posted by Peter Hermann at 3:21 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Anne Arundel County

Jessamy questions Bealefeld's integrity, calls for investigation

Baltimore State’s Attorney Patricia C. Jessamy questioned the “integrity and credibility” of the city’s police commissioner Tuesday afternoon, calling for an independent investigation into whether Frederick H. Bealefeld III has solicited votes for her opponent in the Democratic primary while on duty.

At a news conference, Jessamy alleged that an interaction between one of her supporters and Bealefeld last month was an “overt action on the part of the police commissioner” to help elect “a rubber stamp of the police department.”

She said an independent investigation “will establish whether our police commissioner is a person of truth and veracity, or not. … We need a police commissioner who is truthful and honest.”

In a statement, Bealefeld said he “respectfully disagrees with the State’s Attorney’s characterization of recent events” and denied that he had “engaged in any prohibited political activities.” His spokesman said he would have no further comment.
Jessamy’s comments came days after she criticized Bealefeld for expressing support for her opponent, defense attorney Gregg Bernstein. Bealefeld placed campaign signs for Bernstein in the front lawn of his Southwest Baltimore home and said in a statement that police needed a “true partner” in the state’s attorney’s office.

The move was believed to be unprecedented by a top police official in Baltimore, and came after Bealefeld and Jessamy had appeared to have enjoyed a more cordial public relationship than his predecessors.

But behind the scenes, tensions have been simmering, and Bealefeld has charged that prosecutors too often blame police and fail to accept responsibility when violent, repeat offenders evade harsh punishment. Through a spokesman, he said his support for Bernstein is as a citizen and is in the “best interest of public safety.”

Jessamy has fired back, charging that Bealefeld’s support of Bernstein was an attempt to evade accountability for police misconduct.

“It’s very dangerous for a state’s attorney to agree to be a rubber stamp, and that’s what my opponent is running on,” Jessamy said Tuesday. “He’s going to be a rubber stamp for the police department. We don’t want a police state in Baltimore City. We deserve better.”

Fax 000000326

Poll: Should Bealefeld have publicly advocated for Jessamy's opponent?

With State's Attorney Patricia C. Jessamy scheduling a press conference this afternoon to hit back for the second time since The Sun reported that Police Commissioner Frederick H. Bealefeld is advocating for her opponent in the Democratic primary, we'd like to know what you think about this issue so far. This is, of course, not scientific.

Jessamy proposes fix for what she calls "Bealefeld credibility issue"

The nascent war between the city's top prosecutor and police commissioner continues this afternoon when Patricia C. Jessamy is expected to hold a news conference to "propose resolution to Bealefeld credibility issue."

That is the totality of her announcement. Jessamy's spokeswoman declined to even hint at what will be revealed at 12:30 p.m. What's interesting is that it appears Jessamy doesn't just plan to sling mud but she found a way for Commissioner Frederick H. Bealefeld to resolve whatever issue he might have.

So what is this? Jessamy campaign spokeswoman Marilyn Harris-Davis refused to say.

I asked police spokesman Anthony Guglielmi whether his boss has a "credibility issue" and he answered: "I do not believe so. I belivee he is widely respected among people of Baltimore. We're anxious to see what credibility issue he has."

Tensions erupted last week when Bealefeld put a campaign sign on the front lawn of his private house supporting Gregg Bernstein, Jessamy's challenger in the upcoming September primary. Jessamy countered that a police chief taking sides in an election was unprecended and inappropriate.

Jessamy's campaign put forth Billy Taylor, who said that Bealefeld asked him to meet with Bernstein. The campaign called the commissioner's approach inappropriate; the commissioner said he didn't do anything wrong and the solicitation was made while he was off-duty and by a private phone line. Taylor says there was no phone call and Bealefeld approached him while in uniform.

Taylor sent me an e-mail over the weekend saying that Bealefeld lied about the circumstances around the encounter. This is one possibility for the news conference.


Shooting victim becomes murder suspect

At first, the man with the gunshot wound to his leg claimed he had been shot in Columbia. That seemed plausible since we had walked into the emergency room at a Howard County hospital. Then authorities thought he had shot himself.

But police quickly that the man had actually been shot in Baltimore, and that he mght've shot himself while also shooting another person on Gorsuch Avenue back in 2008. On Monday, a jury convicted the "victim" of first-degree murder and he's due to be sentneced in October.

Here are the details from the Baltimore State's Attorney's Office:


Detectives from Howard and Baltimore Police Departments
Work Cooperatively to Solve December 2008 Murder

Baltimore, MD – August 10, 2010 – A Baltimore jury convicted Marquise Evans, 24, of the 1100 block of Gorsuch Avenue August 5, 2010 of first-degree murder, use of a handgun in the commission of a crime of violence, and robbery with a deadly weapon. The trial began on August 2, 2010, and concluded on August 5, 2010.  The jury deliberated approximately 1 ½ hours before returning a verdict.  Evans will be sentenced on October 14, 2010 by the Honorable M Brooke Murdock.

On December 19, 2008, in the 1400 block of Homestead Street, Thaddeus McCauley Jr. was found suffering from two gunshot wounds and died shortly thereafter. Found in the immediate vicinity of the victim’s body was his cell phone and a small bag of marijuana. Detectives learned that the victim was a marijuana dealer and just prior to his death the victim received multiple calls from a number affiliated with a home in Columbia, MD. 

Further investigation revealed that friends of Evans placed those calls to McCauley.  Testimony revealed that Evans wanted to visit his friends in Columbia, MD but did not have enough money to pay for a ride.  Evans suggested to his friends, testimony revealed, that they purchase marijuana and arranged a three-way conference call between Evans, his friends and McCauley’s cell phone number.

A short time after this call, testimony revealed that Evans called his friends telling them he had money and marijuana and the friends drove to Baltimore, picked him up, and went back to Columbia.  While at the house in Columbia, Evans passed out and his friends discovered he was suffering from a gunshot wound to his leg.  They took him to Howard County Hospital where medical personnel treated the wound and also notified Howard County Police.

Evans initially told Howard County Police that he was the victim of a shooting in Howard County. That claim was found to be false and Evans then claimed he was the victim of a shooting in Baltimore City.  Working cooperatively, detectives from both Howard County and Baltimore City Police Departments determined that the gunshot wound was consistent with a self-inflicted injury; Evans suffered a through and through injury in his right leg with the bullet located in his left leg.  Evidence showed that the trajectory of the bullet was downward from the bottom of where a pocket would be located on the right leg, through the side of the right leg and into the left leg which is consistent with a self-inflicted gun shot wound.

Baltimore Police then cross-referenced shootings in the Homestead neighborhood and it was discovered Evans’ injury appeared to be related to the same incident in which Thaddeus McCauley was fatally shot.  
Assistant State’s Attorney Richard Gibson of the Homicide Division prosecuted this case.

August 9, 2010

Prosecutors seek maximum, judge imposes minimum

A repeat offender with three prior handgun convictions and assault and drug distribution convictions - who was on parole when he was arrested for a felony drug crime - received the minimum mandatory sentence 10 years without parole from Circuit Court Judge David W. Young at a hearing Monday, city prosecutors announced.

In a press release, city prosecutors said that Assistant State's Attorney Staci Pipkin sought the maximum 20 years incarceration with the first 10 years without the possibility of parole for Leroy Johnson. Prosecutors said Johnson had been identified through the "War Room" program as a violent, repeat offender. 

Johnson was arrested by city police in November 2008 after he was observed in the 1700 block of  Darley Ave walking to a suspected drug stash near an SUV. Johnson was seen bending down, picking up a cup and removing suspected heroin. He walked back and handed an unknown male heroin in exchange for money. Officers recovered $1,150 from Johnson's pockets and three gel caps of heroin from the cup.

Prosecutors rarely highlight their frustration with judges through press releases, and the War Room has been under fire from critics for being ineffective. Today's release seems to indicate an effort from the state's attorney's office to highlight the hurdles they face in trying to secure meaningful jail time for repeat offenders.

Posted by Justin Fenton at 4:30 PM | | Comments (4)
Categories: Courts and the justice system, East Baltimore

Suspect in SW Baltimore beating remains free after victim dies

A 59-year-old Southwest Baltimore man remained free Monday after the man he was arrested and charged for beating with a baseball bat died over the weekend, police said.

Prosecutors have not yet upgraded charges against Walter Wayne Kelly Jr., who was charged last week with attempted first-degree murder in the Aug. 2 beating of 25-year-old Theodore Corwin. Corwin found bleeding from the head and taken to Maryland Shock Trauma center in critical condition, police said.
Court records show Kelly was initially held without bond by a District Court commissioner, but was released on his own recognizance by District Court Judge Askew W. Gatewood Jr. at a bail review hearing Friday.

On Saturday, Corwin died from his injuries, police said. Charging documents were not available Monday and police did not disclose a motive. As of Monday afternoon, the charges had not been upgraded and Kelly remained free.

A woman who answered the phone at his residence said he was outside doing work. She said the beating incident was “just heat of the moment. It just happened,” before hanging up the phone.

Kelly, of the 1800 block of McHenry St., does not appear to have a prior criminal record beyond a prescription drug charge that was dropped last fall. Police said Corwin, who had a long record, may have been homeless.
Posted by Justin Fenton at 4:24 PM | | Comments (5)
Categories: South Baltimore

Man shot by police gets 15 years in federal prison

This press release from the U.S. Attorney's Office came across our desks this afternoon about a police involved shooting from last January after two city officers were slipped a note from a woman - a corrections officers - that read "Help":

Baltimore, Maryland - U.S. District Judge William D. Quarles, Jr. sentenced Marcus Hill, age 29, of Baltimore, Maryland today to 15 years in prison followed by five years of supervised release for being a felon in possession of a gun.  At today’s sentencing, Judge Quarles found that Hill is an armed career criminal based on three previous convictions for felony drug offenses.

According to testimony at the three day trial, on January 13, 2009, two Baltimore Police officers were standing at the counter of a convenience store located at 4401 Belair Road in Baltimore when a woman entered the store carrying a gun.  The police officers determined that she was a corrections officer based on the gun belt and pants she was wearing.  The woman eventually made her way to the counter and as she left the store she passed a handwritten note to one of the officers that read “Help.”  The officers followed the woman out of the store.

Trial evidence further showed that the police officers saw the woman enter the passenger side of a car in which Hill was in the driver’s side.  The officers commanded Hill and the woman to show their hands.  The woman immediately got out of the car and complied.  Hill, however, moved around in the car as if reaching for an object on the floor.  Fearing for his safety, one of the police officers shot Hill in the stomach.  Hill continued to reach around inside the vehicle, refusing to comply with the officers’ commands.  The officer shot at Hill again, missing him.  Hill then showed his hands and was removed from the car. 

The woman gave a statement that prior to entering the store, she and Hill had been arguing in the car and Hill had taken her hand and pressed it against a hard object in his pocket which she believed was a gun.  So she asked Hill to stop at the store, where the police officers’ marked police car was parked, so that she could buy some bread.

Hill’s car was subsequently searched pursuant to a warrant and a loaded .22 caliber semi-automatic pistol was located just behind the front passenger seat.

United States Attorney Rod J. Rosenstein commended Special Assistant United States Attorney Christopher M. Mason, a cross-designated Baltimore City Assistant State’s Attorney assigned to Exile cases, and Assistant United States Attorney Bryan Giblin, who prosecuted the case.

Posted by Justin Fenton at 2:11 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Courts and the justice system

Woman slain in Harford had sought domestic violence protection

Harford County police said Sunday that a woman found dead over the weekend at her home in rural Street had been killed, and court records indicate that in late March she had sought domestic violence protection. Police have not given a motive in the crime or made any arrests.

Paramedics were called to the 1500 block of Clearview Drive, near the Pennsylvania line, about 9:20 p.m. Saturday for a possible cardiac arrest, but they contacted police as soon as they saw the woman, 52-year-old Deborah Elaine Burgess.

"What they found was not indicative of cardiac arrest," said Monica Worrell, a spokeswoman for the Harford County Sheriff's Office. "There was trauma to the body."

Records show that on March 28, Burgess filed for a protective order from Manuel Dixon Holmes Jr. The order was dropped when she failed to appear at a follow-up hearing on April 6. The Harford sheriff's office has not released any updates in the investigation or any indications that her death was related to a domestic dispute, but we'll post any updates here.

Posted by Justin Fenton at 1:45 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Harford County

Baltimore county officer loses gun in bar fight, police say

A Baltimore County police officer has been suspended with pay after he was arrested early Friday and charged with second-degree assault after getting into a fight at a city sports bar and losing his service weapon, authorities said Friday. A copy of the city police incident report, obtained today, offers a slightly different account.

According to county police, the officer arrived about 2 a.m. at Carlos O'Charlie's Sports Bar in the 3500 block of Eastern Ave. when he began arguing with another man. The two men went outside the bar and began fighting, police said. A copy of the incident report shows that the victim said the officer ran up to him and began hitting him. He said the fight was unprovoked and that he wanted to press charges.

At some point, the officer's gun came out of its holster and fell on the ground, according to Cpl. Mike Hill, a county police spokesman. Hill said an unidentified man picked up the gun and left the scene. According to the incident report, however, the officer said he "dropped the gun," indicating that he had pulled the weapon. A witness to the fight also called The Baltimore Sun to say that McClarin had pulled the gun and dropped it as others tried to restrain him.

City police were called and had to use pepper spray to subdue the officer, according to Hill and the police report.

County police would not identify the officer, but city police identified him as Parrish McClarin, 25, of Towson, pictured at right. He does not show up in the Maryland Case Search database as an arresting officer in any cases, despite six years with the Baltimore County Police Department. I'm trying to figure out how that's possible and if his name may be misspelled in these documents. McClarin shows up as the arresting officer in more than 50 cases since 2005.

Records show McClarin was released on $7,500 bail. 

Posted by Justin Fenton at 12:25 PM | | Comments (9)
Categories: Baltimore County, Southeast Baltimore

A Divine Endorsement

Another well known Baltimorean is backing the campaign of State's Attorney hopeful Gregg Bernstein, reports the Investigative Voice.

Placed prominently outside of director John Waters' Tuscany-Canterbury home is a lawn sign touting the candidacy of defense attorney Bernstein, "a firm endorsement from the man known for turning Baltimore’s pathological quirkiness into a foil for the absurd," the site reported. Waters, the director known for offbeat, offensive, and often bizarre comedic cult classics such as “Female Trouble,” “Polyester” and “Hairspray,” has rarely if ever ventured into city politics, though this one seems more personal than political. 

“He [Bernstein] is a good friend,” Waters wrote in response to an email from an IV reporter.

A controversy touched off last week when The Sun reported that Police Commissioner Frederick H. Bealefeld III had placed a Bernstein campaign sign in the front yard of his Southwest Baltimore home, wading into what many say is unprecedented territory here and elsewhere for a top law enforcement official but which Bealefeld believes is necessary in order to improve public safety in the city. Incumbent Patricia C. Jessamy has called it "inappropriate" and accused Bealefeld of using his uniform to play politics.

Do endorsements mean much? Probably not. But for those of you keeping score at home, here's how it breaks down at the moment:

-Jessamy has support from much of the city's political establishment. Gov. Martin O'Malley gave a surprise vote of confidence (given their tumultuous history), and her campaign web site features endorsements from state Sens. Nathaniel McFadden, Joan Carter Conway, Catherine Pugh; Del. Talmadge Branch, and City Councilwoman Belinda Conaway, among others. Rep. Elijah Cummings and Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown appeared at her birthday fundraiser last month.

-Bernstein has Bealefeld, Waters, Deputy Mayor Chris Thomaskutty (who we reported has a sign in the window of his home), and has formed a group of trial lawyers headed by prominent defense attorneys Warren Brown and Steve Levin.
Posted by Justin Fenton at 11:13 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Courts and the justice system, State's Attorney Campaign

Cars plow into pedestrians in Arundel, Western Maryland

Two horrific traffic accidents involving cars hitting pedestrians left at least three dead and several others injured over the weekend.

In Anne Arundel County, a car went off the road in Laurel and hit three members of the family who were taking a break from bicycle riding. The driver of the car was killed; the family remains hospitalized.

In Western Maryland, two family members were killed and a third injured when a car plowed into a group of people who had gathered by the side of a road after a church service

Here are details of the crash in Anne Arundel County from a police news release:

Type of Collision: Pedestrians Struck by Car  
Location of Incident: Russett Green W & Ridgemoor Dr.
 Laurel, MD 20724
Date & Time:  August 8, 2010 @ 1016 hours

Primary Investigator: Cpl. Kenneth Collier #1286
Police Case Number: 2010-729910

Motor Vehicle #1: 2001 Nissan Altima 4 door
Driver: Ramota Oluyemisi Koletowo B/F, 63 years old, 8304 Water Lily Way,  Laurel, MD 20724
Driver Injuries: Fatally Injured pronounced dead at the Prince George’s Hospital Center.

Pedestrians & Condition: Franz Reinhard Clementschitsch W/M  36 years old, 8054 Pennington Dr
Laurel, MD 20724

Serious but stable condition University of Maryland Hospital 
Susanne Clementschitsch W/F  38 years old
8054 Pennington Dr.
Laurel, MD 20724
Serious but stable condition Johns Hopkins Hospital Bayview

W/M 4 years old
Laurel, MD
Serious but stable condition Johns Hopkins Hospital Bayview

W/M 4 years old
Laurel, MD 
Uninjured in this crash 


On 8-8-2010 at approximately 1016 hours, the Anne Arundel County Police and Fire Departments responded to a report of a motor vehicle crash involving pedestrians in the area of Russett Green West and Ridgemoor Drive.  Officers located a 2001 Nissan Altima four upside down resting on its roof in the middle of the bike/pedestrian trail that runs parallel to Russett Green West off of the north bound shoulder of the roadway.

Officers and paramedics located the driver and sole occupant of the vehicle still belted inside the vehicle.  This subject was identified as Romota Oluyemisi Koletowo.  Ms. Koletowo was unconscious and was subsequently extricated from the wreckage.  Ms. Koletowo was transported to the Prince George’s Hospital Center where she was pronounced dead at 1200 hours.

There was a family of four pedestrians also involved in the crash.  These subjects were identified as Franz Clementschitsch, his wife Susanne Clementschitsch and their twin four year old sons.  Mr. Clementschitsch was found in the woods with life threatening injuries; he was transported to the Shock Trauma Unit at the University of Maryland Hospital by State Police Helicopter.  At the time of this press release he is in serious but stable condition.  Mrs. Clementschitsch was also seriously injured; she was transported to the hospital by helicopter, as was one of the twin boys.  He was transported by helicopter to the Johns Hopkins Hospital at Bayview.  The second son was uninjured in this event and did not need any medical assistance.

The Traffic Safety Section of the Anne Arundel County Police Department responded to the scene to assume primary responsibility for the investigation.  Preliminary investigation indicates Ms. Koletowo was driving her daughter’s 2001 Nissan Altima while traveling on Russet Green West from Route 198 going toward Ridgemoor Drive.  For reasons unknown, Ms. Koletowo traveled off of the right side of the roadway near the intersection with Ridgemoor Drive.  The Nissan traveled over the curb and struck a street light pole, dislodging it from its base.  The Nissan then traveled over the bike/walking path located at this location and into the grass between the path and the wood line.  The vehicle continued to travel through a rest area located next to the bike path.

Mr. Clementschitsch and his family had been riding their bicycles on the path but had stopped at the rest area to drink water.  The rest area consisted of two heavy stone benches and there was a large metal trash can bolted into a metal support.  Mr. Clementschitsch was sitting on the bench closest to the light pole Ms. Koletowo struck and he had his back turned to her.  Ms. Koletowo failed to maintain control of her vehicle and continued to travel off of the roadway.  The Nissan struck some small shrubs around the rest area and then struck the concrete benches and the trash can.  The Nissan also struck Mr. Clementschitscsh and his bicycle as he was sitting on a bench. 

Mr. Clementschitsch was thrown from his position into the woods before coming to a rest approximately 38 feet from his original position.  Mrs. Clementschitsch and her two sons were standing in the immediate vicinity of the park benches.  It appears both Mrs. Clementschitsch and one of her sons were struck by debris from the impact of the vehicle with the bench, bike and trash can. Evidence indicates the Nissan Ms. Koletowo was driving “ramped off” of the benches and trashcan and overturned coming to rest on its roof approximately 54 feet from the first bench she struck.  The Nissan traveled an overall distance of approximately 134 feet from the point that it left the roadway to the area of final rest. 

Ms. Koletowo was driving home from work when this crash occurred.  She had worked from 2300 hours on 8-7-2010 to approximately 0900 hours on 8-8-10 before attempting to drive home.  The investigation is continuing to determine if fatigue and/or some kind of medical emergency may have contributed to this accident.  It does not appear at this time that excessive speed or impairment by alcohol or drugs contributed to this crash.  This investigation is continuing.

Posted by Peter Hermann at 7:28 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Anne Arundel County, Crime elsewhere

August 8, 2010

Arrests, judges and justice

Today's stories on a crime meeting in Charles Village in the wake of the fatal stabbing of Johns Hopkins researcher Stephen Pitcairn and the Crime Beat column on yet another lenient sentence, this time for a man convicted of robbing a woman at knife-point at an ATM, prompted this response from a retired Baltimore police commander:

I read your article with great interest, as I did the companion article concerning the "Heated Meeting" on crime! As a retired Major who has commanded three Police Districts; the Central; the "Great" Eastern; and the Southern, I have first-hand experience concerning the frustrations covered in those articles! I have attended such heated meetings, and I have experienced the frustration of the citizens, as they vented those concerns!

I too, have shared the frustration of the officer who sees known violators, many of whom have displayed violent tendencies, "on the street", when they should be incarcerated. While I was a Sergeant and Lieutenant in the Districts, whenever we experienced a spate of "new" crime, the "good police officers", would immediately check to see if any of the known actors had been recently released from incarceration! In too many cases, these "recidivists" were the "new" problem!

In spite of all of the criticism of the Police, and "yes", I admit that in some cases it is justified, the fact of the matter is this: the Police are, by far, the most-productive arm of the Criminal Justice (Non)System! The proof is highly evident, unarguably, and indicting of the rest of "The System!"  Our Corrections Institutions are filled, to over-population, with "convicted" criminals, so much so that our judges must decide who they will release, to make room for new occupants!

That Incarcerated Population is a result of Police making arrests, and making good cases in support of those arrests! The jails can't hold them, the State's Attorney's are overwhelmed so much by their [Police Generated] case loads, that they are "dealing away" good cases! Similarly, the judges also are overwhelmed! The Police have literally buried the system!

I cringe when I hear Police Officers apologize to the Community for not being able to protect them!  The apologies should be coming from those judges and attorney's!  Pete, did you know that "The Court" has ruled that the Police have no obligation to protect individual citizens?  That is also a fact!  And that, in my opinion, is enough to support defense of the Second Amendment Right to Keep and to Bear Arms! The Court has more or less said that citizens are on their own, that their police have no obligation to be their personal body guards!

My two-cents worth!

Robert Di Stefano
Major (retired) Baltimore City PD
Abingdon, MD

Posted by Peter Hermann at 10:56 AM | | Comments (6)
Categories: Confronting crime, Neighborhoods, Top brass

More violence in Baltimore

Three people were killed in Baltimore Friday night into Saturday. Here is a compilation of additional violence this weekend from the Baltimore Police Department:

700 Blk of Woodrington Road:  @ approximately 1800hrs officers responded to an area hospital for a report of a shooting victim.  The victim (b/m 6/15/83) was being treated for a gsw to the left side of his forehead.  Robbery is the apparent preliminary motive.  No current suspects. 
3100 Blk of Jefferson Street:  @ approximately 2337hrs officers within the 500 Blk of No. Bouldin Street observed a victim (b/m 6/11/65) suffering from a gsw to his foot.  Further investigation revealed another individual (h/m 3/27/77) within a basement in the area was also shot (the torso and left arm).  Investigation determined the location of occurrence to be the 3100 Blk of Jefferson Street.  At present, no motive/suspects. 
3300 Blk of Powhatan Avenue: @ approximately 2307hrs officers responded to the location for a shooting call for service and discovered the victim (b/m 9/2/61) suffering from a gsw to the right leg.  Same was transported to an area hospital and at last check was in stable condition.  At present, no suspect/motive. 
100 Blk of So. Fagley Street (originally thought to have occurred 3800 Blk of Lombard Street): @ approximately 0256hrs officers responded to the Lombard & Fagley Streets for report of a shooting.  Upon arrival they determined the victim (male 8/20/89) had been transported to an area hospital.  There he was treated for a gsw to the right leg. At present, there is no suspect/motive.  
100 Blk of No. Kenwood: @ approximately 0155hrs officers responded to the location ad discovered the victim (h/m 6/20/68) suffering from
multiple gsw.  He was transported to an area hospital where he is listed in serious condition.  Robbery is the apparent motive, by two unknown black male assailants (no further detailed description).   

Posted by Peter Hermann at 10:54 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Breaking news

August 7, 2010

Police arrest one in Fells Point attack

Baltimore police have arrested one person in connection with an attack this past Monday in Upper Fells Point. So far, the suspect has been charged in one incident; police are still investigating whether he was part of a group of eight to 10 teens who attacked at least three men this week.

The suspect is identified as Leonard Copeland, 22. At the moment, he is being charged with one cont of first degree robbery. No details of how he was arrested or what evidence police have collected has been released.

The attacks have frightened residents in the area south of Johns Hopkins Hospital and west of Butcher's Hill and Patterson Park. Hopkins, which has an office in Upper Fells Point, sent out crime alerts warnig its employees.

One of the attacks has been classified by police as a possible hate crime.

Posted by Peter Hermann at 5:32 PM | | Comments (3)
Categories: Breaking news, Confronting crime, Southeast Baltimore

Details on three killed in Baltimore

Here is updated information on three slayings and other violence in Baltimore. The source is the Baltimore Police Department:

2800 Clifton Park Terrace:  8/6 at 22:25hrs, homicide was requested to that location for a report of a shooting victim.  The victim, Jerrod Lee Covel (m/b 12/3/89) was suffering from a shotgun wound to the chest.  He was transported to Johns Hopkins Hospital and was pronounced at 2301 Hrs.  At present, no suspect and/or motive.
Unit Blk of No. Shiply Street: 8/7 at 0032 hrs, officers responded to that location for a report of a shooting.  Upon arrival the victim, Martin York (m/b 6/23/65) was discovered suffering from a gsw to the back of his head.  Medics transported same to Shock Trauma where he was pronounced and 0114 hrs.  A present there is no suspect and/or motive.
700 Blk of Lennox Street: 8/7 at 0533 hrs officers responded to that location and discovered the victim (name will be released upon next of kin notification) suffering from a stab wound.  M/B born in November of 1985.  This case has not been input into the database so details are scant. 
2100 Blk of Homewood: 8/6 at 2246 hrs District detectives were summonsed to the scene of a confirmed shooting at that location.  The victim (m/b born August of 1992) was discovered to be suffering from multiple gsw to the abdomen.  He was transported to an area hospital.  At present, no suspect and/or motive.  No word on condition. 
2000 Blk of Bentalou:  8/7 at approx. 0515 hrs officers responded to that location for a cutting call for service.  No victim information as of yet.  He was transported to an area hospital and is listed in critical but stable condition. 

Posted by Peter Hermann at 10:21 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Breaking news

Three killed in Baltimore; violence in Arundel

Baltimore police report that three people were killed in the city overnight. We're awaiting details from the department, but here is some preliminary informaton.

About 10:30 p.m., an adult male was shot in the stomach at Clarence Avenue and Clifton Park Terrace in Northwest Baltimore. Homicide detectives were called to the scene.

Less than an hour lateer, Eastern District detectives were investigating a shooting at Kirk Avene and Homewood Street. Police said an adult male was shot in the stomach and was being treated at a nearby hospital.

About 12:30 a.m., police said an adult male was shot in the head at Shipley and West Fayette streets in Southwest Baltimore. Homicide detectives were investigating that shooting.

Shortly before 6 a.m., police said an adult male was stabbed in the upper body in the 2000 block of North Bentalou St. Detectives from the Western District were handling that case. And about 6:20 a.m., homicide detectives were at the scene of a man who had been stabbed several times in the chest in the 700 block of Lennox St.

Meanwhile, city police are reporting several gun arrests. Two men were arrested in the 2700 block of Wilkens Ave. with a loaded handgun and body armor, according to police. In the 1500 block of North Bond St., police said they arrested a man with drugs and a loaded handgun. Two men with a loaded handgun and ammunition were arrested in the 1500 block of East Monument St., according to police, and an alert citizen told officerws about a man with a gun at Liberty Heights Avene and Hilton Parkway.

Here are details of a shooting in Anne Arundel County:


SHOOTING                                                                                      HANOVER

 On Friday, August 6, 2010 at approximately 10:20 P.M, officers from the Anne Arundel County Police Department’s Western District responded to the intersection of Telegraph Road and Maryland Route 100 for a reported shooting and vehicle crash.  Upon arrival, officers learned Calvin Chi Man Yeung, a 40-year-old Asian male from Severn, Maryland, had been shot in the upper torso while sitting at the traffic signal.  After being shot, Yeung’s vehicle traveled through the intersection, crossed over the southbound lanes of Telegraph Road and struck the support wall of the Route 100 overpass. 

Detectives from the Major Crimes Section responded to the scene to assume responsibility for the investigation.  Yeung was transported by Anne Arundel County Fire Department personnel to the Baltimore Washington Medical Center where he died of his injuries.  It is unknown at this time, however, if Yeung’s death was the result of the shooting or the ensuing crash.  An autopsy will be performed at a later date to determine the exact cause of death.

The shooting suspect is described as a white male early 20’s, 5’09” to 5’10” tall, weighing 170-175lbs and having short light brown hair.  The suspect was last seen wearing a white short sleeve T-shirt and jean shorts.  The suspect is believed to have fled the scene in a dark red or burgundy 4 door vehicle. 

The motive of this incident, as well as any connection the victim had to the shooting suspect, remains under investigation.  No further information is being released at this time.  Anyone with information pertaining to this incident is urged to contact Detective Bryan Isaac with the Anne Arundel County Police Department’s Homicide Unit at 410-222-3413 or 410-222-8610. 

Posted by Peter Hermann at 9:53 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Anne Arundel County, Breaking news

August 6, 2010

Community Center worker arrested in sexual assault

A 21-year-old worker at a Northwest Baltimore community center was charged Friday with sexually assaulting a co-worker as they handed out fliers at an apartment complex advertising back-to-school events, according to city police.

Keith Jones-Samuels, whose address was not given, was charged with several sex offenses and was awaiting a bail hearing Friday night at the Central Booking Intake Center, said city police spokesman Kevin Brown.

Police said that the 18-year-old victim called police Aug. 5 and reported that the incident occurred the previous day. She told police that she and Jones-Samuels, who both worked at the Goodnow Community Center in the 5300 block of Goodnow Road, were distributing literature when he allegedly assaulted her.

Details of the attack were not released.

Posted by Peter Hermann at 6:51 PM | | Comments (5)
Categories: Breaking news

Arundel police release report in dog shooting

Anne Arundel County police just released a redacted copy of the police report into the fatal shooting of a dog at a Severn park. There are still many unanswered questions but police say the review should be concluded in the next 72 hours. Here is the police statement:

The Anne Arundel County Police Department is releasing a redacted copy of the initial police report into this incident. he incident report outlines the initial response and the initial investigation into the incident. A supplemental, initial investigative report is also being released, entailing a description of a briefing with the Anne Arundel County State’s Attorney’s Office regarding the facts of the initial report. Based on the information that the police department had at the time, officers marked the investigation closed, however, they contacted the State’s Attorney’s Office and requested a review of the initial facts in the case. After conferring with the State’s Attorney’s Office, based on the information at the time, officers were instructed not to file charges and subsequently marked the initial investigation closed.

Media inquires into the incident were made to the police department prior to the initial report being forward to the police department’s Central Records Section. Media accounts of this incident came to the attention of County Executive John R. Leopold, who immediately called the chief of police. County Executive Leopold directed the police department to ensure that a thorough investigation was conducted.

The initial police report was forwarded through the police department’s chain of command at which time commanders requested further inquiry into whether the off-duty federal officer was legally authorized to carry a firearm while off-duty in the state of Maryland. During the initial investigation, it appeared the off-duty federal officer was legally authorized to carry a firearm, however, during the follow-up investigation his legal authority to carry a firearm became questionable.

To date, investigators have conducted additional interviews, crime scene examination and have looked extensively into the off-duty federal officer’s employment and eligibility to carry a firearm off-duty in the state of Maryland. Investigators have been in constant contact with the State’s Attorney’s Office throughout this follow-up investigation and investigators have turned over documentation and information learned during the follow-up investigation into the incident. This has enabled the State’s Attorney’s Office to begin their legal review of the facts of this incident. The police department anticipates concluding its investigation within the next 72 hours and officially turning over the complete findings to the State’s Attorney’s Office, however, investigators will remain engaged with the State’s Attorney’s Office and will assist them with any further investigative needs.

The investigation into this incident is ongoing. The name of the off-duty federal officer and the 9-1-1 tape are not being released due to the open investigation. No additional information is being released at this time.

Here is the report:

Dog Shooting
Posted by Peter Hermann at 6:18 PM | | Comments (2)
Categories: Anne Arundel County, Breaking news, Confronting crime, Top brass

Another no-loitering (er, no-something else) sign

My Crime Scene article today and an earlier blog posting put up some pictures of innovative signs people are using to warn against sitting on steps.

William F. Zorzi Jr., a long-time Sun reporter and editor who left the paper several years ago, sent me one of his favorite images. It was taken in the 300 block of East Lafayette Ave., just one block from where a homeowner has positioned an air conditioning unit to dump water on people who sit on the steps.

Two people have been killed in the 200 and 300 blocks of Lafayette Avenue in the past two weeks. Here's the image (it was taken a few years ago, so it might not still be there).

Posted by Peter Hermann at 11:24 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Confronting crime

Jessamy blasts back at Bealefeld for supporting opponent

Baltimore State's Attorney Patricia C. Jessamy is blasting back at the city's police commissioner for putting up a campaign sign on the lawn of his house supporting her challenger in the Sept. 14 Democratic primary.

Jessamy, using her campaign office stationary, called Frederick H. Bealefeld III's foray into politics "unprecedented and inappropriate" and she said the "overt actions by a police commissioner to influence the outcome of an election can only led to divisiveness and distrust in the community."

The two top law enforcement officials -- Jessamy is elected, Bealefeld is appointed -- have feuded for years over policing strategies, quality of arrests and investigations and whether prosecutors are aggressive enough in pursing cases and jailing offenders.

Former federal prosecutor and defense attorney Gregg Bernstein is Jessamy's first serious challenger in eight years and its trying to tap into the frustrations of city crime and repeat offenders graduating to more serious offenses before they get serious prison time.

Jessamy took a swipe at Bealefeld in her statement, suggesting the commissioner is not focused on his job. "It is Mrs. Jessamy's hope that Commissioner Bealefeld will refocus his efforts on apprehending the perpetrators of crimes and assembling evidence to be presented in court and that he will leave the politics to others."

Here is Jessamy's statement:

Press Release August 06, 2010

Upper Fells Point attacks -- a victim's viewpoint

A series of attacks in Upper Fells Point, at least two involving groups of 8 to 10 youths who are beating and robbing people, has unnerved this Southeast Baltimore neighborhood. Police say they're investigating one attack as a possible hate crime -- one man shouted "[Expletive] you white boy" as he hit the victim.

But one of the people targeted, Mark Simone, also happens to be a real estate agent. I found that particularly interesting because he sells houses in the city, meaning he must champion it, and how he faces the same issues others have been complaining about -- whether the city is safe enough to inhabit.

Simone told me he still feels safe and he likes city living, but now he and his wife are considering getting a gun and that he no longer snjoys the same sense of security. Here's the full story on the beatings, and here is Mark Simone in his own words about living in Baltimore:

"It was the scariest moment I've ever had. ... We're not going anywhere. But we definitely don't feel as comfortable in our own home as we did before. … We had a sense of security here which is totally gone."

"Some people feel comfortable in different elements. That's the important part, for people to feel comfortable where they are living. ... I am passionate about Baltimore and I'm not going to let a group of kids change that.

"We've talked about getting a gun. I think we're going to get one now. These guys have my ID. They have my license. They know where I live. I'm not a big guy. There's not much I can do to defend myself without having a weapon.

"If people ask if I've been attacked, I'm not going to lie. But I'm not going to be a walking advertisement for the dangers of city living."

City cops seize more guns -- 4 at one house

Baltimore police announced this morning that officers have taken several more guns off city streets.

That includes fouur handguns seized at a rowhouse in the 1400 block of Grace Court in South Baltimore. One man was arrested in the raid. In a separate case, a patrol officer reported seeing a man holding a gun in the 1000 blokc of Leadenhall Street, between Federal Hill and Camden Yards. The man was arrested and police said the gun, which was seized, was loaded.

Posted by Peter Hermann at 8:01 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Breaking news, Confronting crime

Officer who shot dog in Arundel park says it was self-defense

The off-duty federal police officer who fatally shot a husky in a Severn dog park says he fired at Bear-Bear in self-defense and because the dog's owner "could not or would not" break up a fight with the officer's German shepherd named Asia.

That differs from the account given by the owner of Bear-Bear, who has said the officer opened fire too quickly in the crowded Quail Run community dog park. As was reported yesterday, Anne Arundel County police who at first closed the inquiry without charges have now relaunched their investigation.

For complete details, see Sun reporter Andrea Siegel's story today and read Jill Rosen's Unleashed blog

County police and the attorney for the 32-year-old federal officer, who has been placed on administrative leave from the Joint Base Army-Henderson Hall in Northern Virginia. The officer is a civilian employee but had spent two years in the Army and received several commendations.

Posted by Peter Hermann at 7:52 AM | | Comments (8)
Categories: Anne Arundel County, Confronting crime

Loiterers go elsewhere -- or get splashed

Keeping loiterers off rowhouse steps is a never-ending battle for cops and homeowners, and it's not news that many put signs in their windows warning people to get off their property. Many are directed at drug dealers.

But while I was out interviewing people about a killing of a man in a lawn chair on East Lafayette Avenue last week, I couldn't help but notice water pouring off a nearby rooftop and onto the marble steps below.

Neighbors told me that the homeowner (who I was never able to reach) positioned a rooftop air conditioner so that it discharged water three stories to the steps below. Without warning, anyone who has the misfortune to be sitting on the steps at that moment gets soaked.

That peaked my interest and I drove around the city looking for innovative ways people devise to keep their steps clear. I didn't find anything like the splashing water, but I did find some rather interesting signs, which are here for your amusement. 

Posted by Peter Hermann at 7:41 AM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Confronting crime, Neighborhoods

City's top cop supports Jessamy's opponent

Baltimore Police Commissioner Frederick H. Bealefeld III has thrust himself into a political campaign. It's no secret that he and State's Attorney Patricia C. Jessamy don't always (or ever) see eye-to-eye, but the top cop has put a sign in his yard (left) supporting her challenger in the Sept. 14 Democratic primary.

(Read Sun police reporter Justin Fenton's full story for more of the political back and forth)

He makes it clear he's doing this as Citizen Bealefeld, not Commissioner Bealefeld, but separating the two is more matter of semantics than reality. Should a top police official interject himself into the political fray? Will it complicate his efforts now, or in the future, should Jessamy win, and Gregg Bernstein loses?

All good questions. Cops in the past have gotten into trouble for wearing their uniforms in political ads, and Bealefeld's not doing this. But he has been increasingly vocal about his disdain for a judicial system (judges, prosecutors, probation officials and others) who continually feed the revolving door justice system in Baltimore.

It goes without fail that Bealefeld's cops arrest a criminal in a particularly horrible crime, as the stabbing of Stephen Pitcairn in Charles Village, and the suspects will have just gotten out of prison on probation for a violent crime for which they served little time.

Bealefeld and commissioners past have battled Jessamy over policing strategies, what arrests are sound and what are not, whether officers with troubled pasts can be put on so-called do-not-testify lists and how thoroughly cases need to be investigated before being charged.

Here is one part of Justin's story today:

Christopher Dreisbach, a professor at the Johns Hopkins University School of Education's Division of Public Safety Leadership whose focus includes law enforcement ethics, said Bealefeld as a citizen has a clear right to advocate for a candidate. He said he believes it's also Bealefeld's professional duty to advocate for the best interests of police.

"If they weren't adversarial, there might be a different issue at stake. … But I don't think he's giving anything away at this point," said Dreisbach. "Is he shooting himself in the foot? Possibly, but he has the right to do so, and [the consequences] will be determined down the road."

Posted by Peter Hermann at 7:25 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: City Hall, Confronting crime, State's Attorney Campaign, Top brass

August 5, 2010

Police charge woman in hotel shooting

A woman who was taken into custody after Tuesday's shooting inside a room at the city-owned Hilton Convention Center hotel has now been charged. Police identified the suspect as Sharolyn L. Yarbrough, 34, who works at Sly's Bail Bonds on Woodlea Avenue in Baltimore, according to court records.

According to court records, the altercation was the latest in a series of fights between the couple and sparked over a cell phone. In charging documents, it appears the shooting happened as they struggled over a handgun, but after conferring with prosecutors Yarbrough was charged with attempted first-degree murder and assault.

Yarbrough and the victim, Harold O'Neal, had been dating for the past 17 months, and Yarbrough told detectives that they had been fighting often. She left him and checked into the Hilton, according to court records.

O'Neal called her and said he wanted to visit, and Yarbrough gave him the room number. He told her that he loved her, and they had sex, detectives wrote in charging documents. Afterward, they were sitting on the bed talking when he grabbed her cell phone.

She told him he "could not look through it any more and to give him back her cell phone," wrote Det. Donald Slimmer. "When he refused to give it back, she took his cell phone and both of them got into a verbal dispute. Then it turned into a physical altercation and both of them went to reach for the handgun that was sitting on the dresser located at the end of the bed."

"With the handgun in both of their hands they began to fight over handgun. She advised that while they were fighting over the gun he bit her on the right upper back and then the police arrived."

The detective pressed her on when the shooting took place in her timeline of the incident, and he wrote that she put her head down and started to cry. She said she was afraid and "can't do this" and stopped talking. Police were unable to get an account from O'Neal, who was heavily medicated.

The shooting - at the tourist hotel across the street from Camden Yards, and just as an Orioles game got underway - brought the police commissioner to the scene. He had been participating in National Night Out, a campaign to combat crime in communities in Baltimore and across the country.

A quick check of court records shows that the suspect has three prior criminal cases since 1995 -- being disorderly in a public place, possession of marijuana and passing a bad check. Prosecutors dropped two of the cases and put the third on the inactive docket.

Posted by Peter Hermann at 10:26 AM | | Comments (12)
Categories: Breaking news, Downtown

Dog shot in Arundel Park; police reverse course to investigate

A day after Anne Arundel County police said their investigation into a federal officer who fatally shot a dog in a park had concluded without charges, authorities reversed course and said they would probe further.

The shooting of the brown and white husky named Bear-Bear has outraged animal advocates and pet owners across the county. The Baltimore Sun's Jill Rosen, author of the Unleashed blog, where you can read much more about this incident, reports that Bear-Bear became entangled in another dog when its owner opened fire in the Quail Run dog park.

The off-duty federal officer has not been identified. But a day after his police force said no crime had been committed, County Executive John R. Leopold said he was "deeply troubled" by the shooting and he ordered the investigation re-opened, calling it a priority.

"This investigation is far from complete," the county's police chief James Teare said Wednesday afternoon. "The Police Department takes this very seriously and will continue to investigate all aspects of the case."

Dog walkers question whether the officer shot too quickly in a public park crowded with dog owners and children, and whether he did enough to stop the dogs --  playing off the leash in a fenced in play area -- from fighting before turning to his weapon. The officer had told police that he feared for the life of his dog and his family.

Here is the latest statement from Anne Arundel County Police:


WEAPON DISCHARGE INVESTIGATION                                                                SEVERN

 On August 2, 2010, at approximately 6:23 p.m., officers from the Western District responded to the Quail Run Community Dog Park located at the corner of Severn Tree Boulevard and New Disney Road in Severn for an animal complaint.
Upon arrival, officers observed a light-colored Husky dog (Bear) wounded on the ground. Officers spoke with a 32-year-old off-duty federal police officer, who advised that he and his wife were at the dog park with their leashed German Shepherd dog (Asia) when Bear approached and jumped on his dog. The off-duty federal officer advised that he yelled for the male subject with Bear to come get his dog. According to the officer, Bear began to bite his dog. The off-duty federal officer stated he attempted to get Husky off his dog, but the Husky turned and attempted to bite him before biting his dog a second time. The off-duty officer stated that he feared for the safety of himself, his wife and their dog and subsequently shot the Huskie with a handgun he had in his possession. 

Officers then spoke with the male subject who had the Husky at the park. He stated that Bear and the off-duty federal officer’s dog appeared to be playing with each other at the time and that his dog was friendly and never had any problems before at the park. 

Animal Control officers responded and the dog was transported to the Anne Arundel Veterinary Emergency Clinic in Annapolis, where the dog later died at approximately 9:30 p.m. At this time, the investigation into this incident is ongoing. The name of the off-duty federal officer is not being released at this time.
“This investigation is not complete. The police department takes this incident very seriously and will continue to investigate all aspects of the case,” said Chief of Police Colonel James Teare, Sr.

Posted by Peter Hermann at 7:36 AM | | Comments (26)
Categories: Anne Arundel County, Confronting crime

Fells Point attacks; one ruled hate crime

Concern is growing in Upper Fells Point as police search for suspects in a series of attacks and robberies, one of which has been classifieid as a hate crime. Johns Hopkins, which as offices in the neighborhood, has issued an alert to its employees.

The Sun's Justin Fenton reports today:

Police said there have been four attacks involving males who were thrown to the ground and punched and kicked while walking alone after dark. In at least one case, a handgun was displayed, and cell phones and other property were taken.

At least one of the attacks was being investigated as a hate crime and others could be, as well, according to police spokesman Anthony Guglielmi. A 24-year-old recruiter at an information technology staffing company was walking in the 300 block of S. Ann St. about 9:35 p.m. Tuesday when he saw a group of black males between the ages of 16 and 19, according to a police report.

He walked past the group and was followed. One of the suspects wrapped his arms around the man's throat and forced him to the ground, and the group beat him on the head and body, the report says. The victim told police that the suspects repeatedly used an expletive and referred to him as "white boy." They took his cell phone and $100 in cash.

Here is the Hopkins alert:


RELEASE DATE: 08/04/10 All faculty, staff and students are reminded to alert Security Communications (5-5585) immediately of any suspicious persons or activity. Johns Hopkins Medicine, Corporate Security Executive Office - 550 N. Broadway, Suite 503 Baltimore, MD 21205 410-614-3473 P 410-614-3907 F

Bulletin Subject
 AUGUST 2ND & 3RD, 2010
 Males that are walking alone after dark are grabbed from behind, thrown to the ground and punched and kicked. Cell phones and property are taken. No weapons are used or implied.

Several African-American male teenagers 14-18, in groups numbering between 2 and 10, with varied descriptions. Some were wearing green colored shirts

Suspects have robbed males in their twenties on four separate occasions that were walking alone by grabbing them from behind, throwing them to the ground and taking cell phones and property. The victims have all received non-life threatening injuries during the physical attack and the suspects have run from the scenes in various directions. The incidents are being investigated by the Baltimore Police Department Southeastern District.

Note: Corporate Security has been in contact with command from the Southeastern District and they have placed additional resources in the area as a result of the incidents. None of the victims have been Hospital or University staff or students.

Anyone witnessing any of the above incidents are asked to call Corporate Security Communications at 410-955-5585 (5-5585). 

August 4, 2010

Off-duty Baltimore police lieutenant thwarts robbery

Updated suspect charged with first-degree robbery, assault and theft.

An off-duty Baltimore police lieutenant thwarded an armed robbery earlier today. City police spokesman Anthony Guglielmi issued this statement:

On Aug 4, 2010 at aprox. 1222 hrs a male victim was walking in the 300 blk of S. Franklintown Rd when suspect Davon Rooks (M/B/11-25-76) approached him from behind and placed a gun to his head in an attempt to rob the victim.

During the incident, off-duty Baltimore Police Lt. Schluderberg was at Frederick Ave and S. Franklintown Rd. stopped at the stoplight when he observed Rooks holding a gun to the victims head

Lt. Schluderberg then got out of his vehicle and was able to take control and custody of both males.  A citizen who also observed the altercation and was able to flag down additional police officers to assist the off-duty Lieutenant.  

Suspect Davon Rooks did not get any property from the victim and was subsequently placed under arrest. Recovered from the scene was a plastic toy semi-automatic handgun.

Posted by Peter Hermann at 12:37 PM | | Comments (8)
Categories: Breaking news, Confronting crime, West Baltimore

O'Malley says audits showed concern over rape stats, but apparent problems accelerated

Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake and Police Commissioner Frederick H. Bealefeld III have acted swiftly to try to fix apparent problems with how the city police department investigates rapes, with Bealefeld in particular apologizing and saying his focus on guns and shootings took his eye off the ball of what was going on in the agency's sex offense unit. Bealefeld has been commissioner since 2007, and before that was chief of detectives in 2006.

But whatever problems exist appear to have first surfaced in 2003, when people inside the police department voiced concerns and an audit was undertaken that found rapes had been miscounted. That audit didn't seem to take, as the number and percentage of cases deemed "unfounded" by detectives soared to the highest in the country, and more 911 calls began getting left on the street. Also, the agency's revised numbers aren't reflected in official FBI statistics.

I sought comment yesterday from Gov. Martin O'Malley, who was mayor from December 1999 until January 2007 and throughout his career in public office has made crime his top priority (and a top campaign plank). He lightly chastised the media last week for not reporting more enthusiastically about the city's crime declines, so I wanted to know whether - in light of The Sun's reporting on the handling of these cases - he had confidence in the 63 percent drop in rapes.

Spokesman Shaun Adamec wrote in an e-mail reply that "multiple audits during his time as mayor demonstrate his commitment to relentless follow-up and adjustment with regard to proper reporting and enforcement."

Why, then, did the problems appear to only get worse the in the years after the audit? The percentage of "unfounded" cases jumped from 12 percent in 2003 to 32 percent in 2004, and peaked at 37 percent in 2006. Meanwhile the percentage of 911 calls that did not generate a report jumped from 30 percent to 42 percent from 2003 to 2004, where it still hovers today. That's hundreds of 911 calls each year with no documentation. For about half of those non-reports, no reason was given by officers, and the tapes no longer exist to go back and review them.

Pressed further, Adamec responded: "The Governor supports the efforts of the City to address this concern. It is a concern brought to his attention as Mayor, which is why he ordered multiple audits and adjustments to protocols to address it."

He did not elaborate on what those adjustments to protocols were.

"Under the governor's leadership, with the dedication of law enforcement and cooperation of communities throughout Maryland, we've driven violent crime, property crime and total crime to their lowest rates ever recorded," Adamec said.

Posted by Justin Fenton at 9:57 AM | | Comments (2)

Review of "unfounded" 911 calls for rape hits snag

Detectives have begun reviewing rape reports summarily dismissed by Baltimore police over the past 18 months, though efforts to discern why incident reports were not taken in hundreds of 911 calls to police have sputtered.

Because 911 calls are typically stored for no longer than 90 days, officials are struggling to find other possible documentation.

"There's not much to review," said Elizabeth Embry of the mayor's office on criminal justice.

Meanwhile, some experts have asked whether the Police Department should be reviewing its own mishandled cases.

Lisae C. Jordan, executive director of the Maryland Coalition Against Sexual Assault's legal institute, said she was "reserving judgment" until a list of protocols to guide the review had been compiled.

"Ideally, you probably need a mix of people from outside [the agencies] and also inside, so they can have discussions about what was happening on the ground," Jordan said. "They're still discussing having someone from outside Baltimore City also participating."

Government and police officials are expected to update the City Council on the progress of their review at an investigative hearing tonight, one month after a Baltimore Sun article that questioned the way the Police Department investigates allegations of rape prompted Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake to order reform measures.

Posted by Justin Fenton at 9:54 AM | | Comments (2)

City Hall says fear of crime matters

I have repeatedly in my Crime Scenes articles talked about how people's fears about crime negate statistics showing people shouldn't be afraid. After all, crime is down to 20 year lows in some categories.

City leaders, then as in the past, love to blame the media for hyping crime beyond proportion. And yes, one sensational crime -- the stabbing of the Hopkins researcher or virtually anything that happens at the Inner Harbor -- can shatter people's peace of mind. The picture at left by The Sun's Justin Fenton is from a recent shooting in East Baltimore of a church caretaker.

The shooting at the Hilton Tuesday night stemmed from a domestic argument confined to a room, but because it happened in one of the city's premier hotels, it gets attention. It can only solidify Baltimore's bad reputation when tourists see police rushing into the hotel and taking someone out on a stretcher and another out in handcuffs.

If you visit another city for the first time and see police swarm the primary shopping street, you might conclude the city is unsafe and you'll never visit again, even if that was the first time something bad happened in the past decade. Similarly, people call the newsroom all the time saying they saw three police cars speed by their house and that's evidence crime is out of control.

It's difficult because fear can't be quantified. And even if the fear is unjustified or irrational, it's still there and still has a negative effect. Combating it is nearly impossible, and citing stats virtually useless.

Today, I wrote about how these same issues were in play 36 years ago. On Sunday, I wrote about how two neighborhoods dealt with separate killings. I also received an e-mail from Ian T. Brennan, one of the spokesman for Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake. This is what he had to say:

The Mayor addressed this point last week on a couple of occasions, saying, “For the first six months of this year, we had the fewest killings in 25 years, but this statistic does not bring comfort to a grieving family. Last month we had the fewest number of shooting on record, but this fact does not bring relief to a neighborhood that witnesses a heinous crime. We have made great progress in reducing violence but our work is not done until all the people of Baltimore feel safe in their neighborhoods.” 

Throughout the year,she repeatedly said that the drop in crime was “not a cause for celebration,” but rather “a call to do even more.”

What’s more, mentioning the recent decrease in crime is not our way of disregarding the concerns of people in the City. It is an important acknowledgment the efforts of the Police Department and dedicated community leaders to reduce crime.  As you no doubt read last week, the Mayor’s family was touched by a senseless act of violence that nearly killed her brother. She understands the impact crime has on victims and their families.

Posted by Peter Hermann at 8:21 AM | | Comments (7)
Categories: City Hall, Neighborhoods

August 3, 2010

UPDATE: Hotel shooting appears domestic; woman in custody

Baltimore Police had a woman in custody after a man was shot in a fourth-floor room of the Hilton Baltimore Convention Center Hotel, an incident police said appeared to be a domestic dispute.

Police were called to the city-owned hotel near Oriole Park at Camden Yards about 7 p.m. Tuesday and found a man in his 30s who had been shot in the abdomen. A .40 caliber gun was recovered and a woman, who was in her 20s and was the registered owner of the handgun, was taken into custody pending charges.

The man’s injuries were considered non-life-threatening and he was taken to an area hospital, while the woman appeared to have suffered “superficial” injuries. Neither was identified, but Police Commissioner Frederick H. Bealefeld III said that both were from Baltimore.

“It keeps coming back to one common thing … this insipid fascination with handguns in Baltimore and the willingness to use them to sort out conflict,” Bealefeld said.

Posted by Justin Fenton at 9:50 PM | | Comments (3)
Categories: Downtown

Shooting at downtown hotel

Baltimore police are the scene of a shooting at the city-owned Baltimore Hilton Hotel, where a person was shot. The hotel is just a block from Camden Yards and Orioles game in progress. Details are slim but here is the latest statement from police:

Baltimore Police were called for report of a shooting at 401 W. PRATT ST. at a city-owned Hilton Hotel.  A female suspect shot a male companion in the lower back after a struggle. Both the victim, suspect were taken into police custody and a 40 cal handgun was recovered. No guests were evacuated. Victim and suspect appear to be from Baltimore.  Police are working to confirm identities and motive.  Will provide update as information becomes available.

Posted by Peter Hermann at 8:22 PM | | Comments (2)
Categories: Breaking news

Off-duty officer injured by driver fleeing impound lot

A city police officer working a second job at the city impound lot was rushed to a local hospital injured after he was he struck by a vehicle driven by a motorist who refused to pay to have his car released, police said.

The officer was identified as Lt. Sam Hood, a 15-year veteran, and his condition was not immediately known, though a police spokesman said he was conscious and breathing, and in a follow-up phone call said Hood had only suffered some "bumps and bruises" from being rolled over the hood of the car.

Det. Kevin Brown said the incident occurred at about 4:45 p.m. at the city impound lot, where Hood was working a secondary job. Brown said a motorist “wanted to leave without paying for their vehicle, and drove through the gate, striking him as he tried to prevent them from getting away.”

Police were searching for a blue 1992 Mazda, Brown said.

Posted by Justin Fenton at 5:00 PM | | Comments (2)
Categories: Breaking news

City state's attorney's office on Facebook

The Baltimore State's Attorney's Office is getting involved with social media, launching a Facebook page to update the public about convictions and community news.

"The Facebook page will be used to highlight day-to-day activities and how members of the Office are an active and vital part of our city," a press release says. "It will describe current and past efforts by Baltimore City State’s Attorney Patricia C. Jessamy to press for tougher laws to fight crime and protect victims and highlight policies."

Officials say the idea was the result of a suggestion by Assistant State’s Attorney Mark J. Jaskulski and Law Clerk Elizabeth Bayly. Jaskulski and Bayly wrote and presented a proposal to increase the Baltimore City State’s Attorney’s Office’s online presence. Bayly hopes this venture “will increase the public’s access to and awareness of the positive impact this Office makes on a daily basis," the statement said. Oh, there's also an election coming up.

The Baltimore police department has had a Facebook page since last year, which it uses to highlight arrests and community events but also the daily homicides, shootings, and other major crimes. The steady stream of bad news is outweighed by the public's right to know, police have said, and the discussions on their page aren't always pretty. It doesn't sound like the state's attorney's office will be using their page for anything other than a public relations tool, though that's how most government agencies and officials use their pages anyway.

Posted by Justin Fenton at 1:03 PM | | Comments (3)
Categories: Courts and the justice system, State's Attorney Campaign

Harford prosecutor, ACLU attorney discuss recording of police

Harford County State's Attorney Joseph I. Cassilly and ACLU staff attorney David Rocah appeared on Maryland Public Television's State Circle program Friday to talk about the state's wiretapping laws and how it applies to recording police behavior. Two people are facing criminal charges in Harford for taping police interactions, though the Attorney General's office issued an opinion last week indicating that such recording is likely OK given prior rulings and similar laws in other states. The ACLU is helping to defend one of those charges.
The interview/debate begins around the 5 minute mark. Cassilly says that just because people are in public does not necessarily mean that a conversation is not private. Rocah calls Cassilly's stance "terrifying":

Watch the full episode. See more State Circle.

Posted by Justin Fenton at 11:17 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Harford County

Milton Hill's daughter: "I'm coming forward"

One of the more powerful moments of last night's vigil in East Baltimore, which attracted more than 400 people, was when Milton Hill's daughter Tracey Hill (left) directly addressed her father's killers, which I inadvertently left out of last night's blog post on the rally:

"I know you out here. You watching me, and I'm watching you. You gonna be uncovered. That scooter, you gonna never, ever be able to ride it."

She then implored anyone with information to share it with police.

"If you know something, come forward with it. I know some stuff. I'm coming forward. I got it, and I want some help."

Police Commissioner Frederick H. Bealefeld III, who spoke next, said police had recovered the scooter just a few blocks away Monday afternoon, in the 1400 block of N. Bethel St. It is being processed for evidence, police said.

Posted by Justin Fenton at 10:58 AM | | Comments (2)
Categories: East Baltimore

Bad diet can lead to bad behavior and crime, study shows

A new study by the Abell Foundation links bad diets to bad behavior.

As reported by The Baltimore Sun's Meredith Cohn today, some public health experts are urging supplying children with vitamins and other nutritional supplements to increase learning and curb violence:

If it's proven that a tablet a day can tick up test scores and dial down violence, it could be a cheaper and easier means of improving a lot of young lives than costly and labor-intensive treatments, according to the Abell Foundation, which wants to determine whether a Baltimore study would be worthwhile.

"We wanted to see what the scientific view was at this point in time," said Robert C. Embry Jr., foundation president. "It seemed like there was something there worth exploring."

Embry passed the latest data on the issue to the Johns Hopkins University's Bloomberg School of Public Health, where a team will be assembled in the fall to consider the scientific studies and the outlines of a possible study, perhaps in city schools.

Here is the report:


A Bell
Posted by Peter Hermann at 10:28 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Confronting crime, Schools

City police make more gun arrests

Baltimore police announced more gun seizures and an arrrest in a New Year's Day triple-shooting and a shooting in West Baltimore.

Police said they arrested Jamal Wells, 20, and charged with possessing an illegal, loaded handgun in the 3400 block of Gwynns Falls Parkway, and in a separate bust, they arrested two men fighting over a rifle in an alley in the 1700 block of Poplar Grove St. Police responded after hearing gunshots.

City police also said they arrested Antoine Phipps in the Aug. 1 non-fatal shooting of a man in the first block of North Stricker St. in West Baltimore. And they arrested Johnny Garrison, 35, in a Jan. 1 shootings in the 4200 block of Sheldon Ave.

Here are the details from that incident, as reported Jan. 2:

In what appeared to be the city's first shootings of the new year, three people were injured in a single incident in Northeast Baltimore early Friday, a police spokesman said. The spokesman, Agent Donny Moses, said the shootings occurred about 3:30 a.m. in the 4100 block of Sheldon Ave. when one gunman walked up to a car and opened fire as the occupants were getting out. A 19-year-old man was wounded in the hip and was treated at a city hospital. A 25-year-old man and a 21-year-old woman were struck several times in their chests and were listed in serious but stable condition at an unidentified hospital. Police did not release their names.


Posted by Peter Hermann at 10:19 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Breaking news, Confronting crime, North Baltimore, West Baltimore

August 2, 2010

Hundreds rally on North Avenue for slain church caretaker

More than 400 people swarmed the Ark Church on North Avenue Monday night, one of the largest community rallies in recent memory as residents and public officials mourned the loss of Milton Hill, a 70-year-old slain in an apparent robbery of his scooter.

Hill's senseless death, on the heels of the fatal stabbing of a Johns Hopkins researcher days earlier in a robbery in Charles Village, seemed to awaken - at least for a day - a city often known for its apathy to crime as its stubborn homicide rate. The murder remains unsolved.

The rally attracted community leaders and residents from across the city, and the crowd continued to swell as people along North Avenue streamed in to see what the commotion was about. The eastbound lanes of the street had to be shut down because the sidewalk could not contain the overflow crowd. [Here's Sun reporter Jonathan Pitts' account, which appeared in the print edition.]

Police Commissioner Frederick H. Bealefeld III generated the first big applause when he turned to the victim's daughter and said, "I'm sorry for your loss... But I didn't come here to pray. I came here to demand justice for your father ... and the hundreds of other young men whose cases are open because people won't talk."

He implored residents to come forward with information about criminals in their neighborhood ("The evil is here," Bealefeld said, "and we must strike it down in our community"), a message that became a theme among the speakers.

"Don't snitch - tell," City Council President Bernard "Jack" Young said. "If it was your relative, you'd want someone to tell. Only we can fix the community; the police can't do it." 

Added state Sen. Joan Carter Conway: "It's about saving your child's life."

The crowd got energized as state Sen. Nathaniel McFadden, in apparent allusions to witness intimidation and dropped cases, that the criminal justice system needed to do its part if residents were to feel comfortable cooperating. "Once we tell, once we snitch, something has to happen," he boomed. "Something's wrong with this criminal justice system," he said, calling for officials to "Get to the bottom of it." Both State's Attorney Patricia Jessamy and her chief challenger, Gregg Bernstein, were in attendance.

The Ark Church pastor Dr. J.L. Carter also turned the focus back on to public officials. He said the city's "gameplan" is "not working." He chastised City Hall and the elected leaders.

"When you cut rec centers, when you close pools, you create these kinds of situations," he said to cheers. "It might be a piece of legislation for you, but our lives are on the line."

He concluded: "We can place blame on City Hall - and we will do that - but we are not off the hook ourselves."

The event was supposed to conclude with a walk through the community, but most people lingered as Charlene Ames Bourne and a small group of volunteers walked through the Oliver neighborhood handing out packets of information listing various job placement, drug treatment and other services. "It's one thing to show up at a big event, but getting out here and connecting," she said, handing a packet to a young man, "is what is going to make the difference."

Posted by Justin Fenton at 10:15 PM | | Comments (3)
Categories: East Baltimore

Union billboard bashes mayor and council

This billboard appears to have sprouted up over the weekend in view of City Hall at the mouth of I-83, the latest salvo in the fight over pensions for city police and fire fighters. A spokeswoman for the unions say it will be up throughout the month of August.

Changes in the pension system - which strip more money from the paychecks of officers and firefighters - were made necessary by a deficit in the police and fire retirement fund that could have cost the cash-strapped city $65 million. That problem came as the mayor had to close a $121 million budget shortfall by raising taxes and new fees.

Union officials have filed a federal lawsuit accusing the city of purposely underfunding the pension system and arguing that the changes violate contractual labor agreements.

The mayor's office issued this statement regarding the billboard:

"Rank and file police and fire officers understand that cities that give full retirements to 41 year old government employees will go bankrupt before long.

This year’s reform of the Fire and Police Pension System ensures our retirees will have a dignified and secure retirement plan the City can afford.  The restructuring saves more than $400 million over the next five years and rescues the pension system from fiscal collapse"
Posted by Justin Fenton at 1:47 PM | | Comments (26)
Categories: City Hall

National Night Out in Baltimore

Tuesday is National Night Out, an effort to rally residents to fight crime and show solidarity to take back their streets. Earlier posts have detailed schedules for surrounding counties. Here is a list of what is planned in Baltimore City (for more details, contact local police district):

The first National Night Out was started in 1984, with the event culminating on the first Tuesday in August. Last year's National Night Out campaign involved citizens, businesses, and law enforcement agencies from over 15,000 communities across the country. In all, over 36 million people participated in National Night Out 2009.

NATIONAL NIGHT OUT is designed to:
-Heighten crime and drug prevention awareness
-Strengthen neighborhood spirit and police-community partnerships
-Send a message to criminals letting them know that neighborhoods are organized and fighting back.

Communities participate in National Night Out with a variety of events and activities including:
-block parties, cookouts
-visits from law enforcement officers and elected officials
-parades, exhibits
-community walks
-youth programs

National Night Out has proven to be an effective and enjoyable program to promote police-community partnerships in our fight against crime.

The benefits derived from National Night Out will extend well beyond the one night.

The Baltimore Police Department will be participating in the following events for National Night Out on Tuesday August 3, 2010

CD: 800 Reservoir Street 6pm-10pm
SE: 100 Luzerne Avenue 6pm-9pm
ED: 800 Bonaparte Road 4pm-8pm
NE: 3300 Hillen Road 6pm-8pm
ND: 4000 Old York Road 6pm-8pm
NW: 5100 Parkheights Ave 4pm-8pm
WD: 2000 Presbury Street 5pm-8pm
SW: Pulaski/Alston Street 6pm-8pm
SD: 1118 Cherry Hill Road 6pm-8pm
SD: 600 S. Paca Street 6pm-8pm

Contact your local Police District for a list of additional National Night Out events.

Posted by Peter Hermann at 11:58 AM | | Comments (1)

Rally in East Baltimore tonight

Two of the city councilmembers behind last week's Charles Village rally and "solidarity walk" will be holding a similar event tonight at the Ark Church where 70-year-old Milton Hill was killed last week in an apparent robbery, and this event is expected to include residents from across the city. Here's a press release sent out by Councilman Carl Stokes:

Frustrated residents from across Baltimore to converge on site where 70-year-old church volunteer was murdered!
Councilman Carl Stokes calls City of Baltimore to show solidarity in wake of ongoing murder and violence
WHO:            Baltimore City Councilman Carl Stokes, 12th District
                        Baltimore City Council President Bernard “Jack” Young
                        Baltimore City Councilwoman Mary Pat Clarke, 14th District
                        Dr. J. L. Carter and First Lady Cora Carter, Ark Church
Ark Church members
Neighborhood and Community Association leaders from across Baltimore
City Residents
WHAT:         Councilman Carl Stokes will be joined by the Pastor and First Lady of the Ark Church in East Baltimore, several of his colleagues in government and community residents and church members TONIGHT to remember and celebrate the life of Milton Hill, a 70-year-old church caretaker who was murdered Friday (July 30) morning.
Councilman Stokes will be joined by faith leaders and residents from across Baltimore at the East Baltimore site of Hill’s murder to show solidarity and to call the entire city to action against violence. Residents from Charles Village, West Baltimore and South East Baltimore have confirmed their intentions to be part of this vigil – murder and violence is touching almost every neighborhood in our city and there must be the collective action of government, police and citizens to begin to heal Baltimore.  
WHERE:      The Ark Church        
1263 East North Avenue
WHEN:         TONIGHT, August 2, 2010
                                    6:00 PM
Posted by Justin Fenton at 11:43 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: East Baltimore

Convenience store held up in Arundel

Anne Arundel County police are searching for two men who robbed a 7-Eleven convenience store in Millersville. Here are the details and pictures:


Old Mill 7-11 Robbery
Posted by Peter Hermann at 10:08 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Anne Arundel County, Breaking news, Confronting crime

Scared, worried about crime

The killings last week of the Johns Hopkins researcher, Stephen Pitcairn, and the church worker, Milton Hill, has generated lots of comments. Some noted another killing in Station North, of Emmauuel Thomas, who police said was a witness in another nearby killiing.

These two e-mails stood out.

From Emily Chalmers:

I too was saddened by the death of Emmanuel Thomas, as I was grieved by the deaths of Stephen Pitcairn, Milton Hill, the security guard shot at the Greenmount takeout, the Comcast installer shot in his van, Zach Sowers, the two gay women shot in their home in NE Baltimore, the young man shot in Bolton Hill while walking his dog, the woman shot on her way home from work in NE Baltimore, and all the others who have died. I try to remember them all, though most of them died without the kind of coverage the most recent murder has received.
I think the difference with Stephen Pitcairn, as with Zach Sowers, was that these young men had loving families, professional networks, and wide circles of friends. They also died in communities where people will speak up and express outrage. Many people who are murdered don’t die under these circumstances, and their deaths do not result in the kind of outrage and tributes we are seeing now.

For more of her letter:

But I want to ask you what would be a fitting tribute for any who have fallen in this merciless march of death in Baltimore. What are we, who live with the fallout of these deaths, supposed to do to honor them in their senseless deaths?
When I bought a row house on Guilford Avenue in Charles Village for $75,000 in 1998, I was excited to be a Baltimore “urban pioneer.” I thought that by working to improve my neighborhood, I could make a difference.  I volunteered for the Benefits District, was a block captain, walked with the neighborhood walkers, rescued abandoned animals, and helped in the community gardens.  I rehabbed my house and planted beautiful gardens.
During those years, my car was stolen twice, I was mugged, and my new car was vandalized by the drug dealers next door. There were frequent murders not blocks from my home. Then came the firebombing of Edna McAbier’s home. Edna was my neighbor and the head of the Harwood community group to which I belonged. I think when she had to leave the neighborhood something started to shut down in me. I remember crying as I moved my cats’ tree out of the big front window to a wall where they could not be hurt by anything flung at my home. I watched in horror as my good friend down the street installed a video camera (behind his steel fence and steel door) after his car was keyed with filthy words. And then I moved.
In my new neighborhood, things are a little better. There are no murders, and my closest neighbors are a musician and a doctor, but my house has been vandalized and burglarized, and I now have thousands of dollars worth of security equipment around it. This winter someone threw a starved and tortured cat into a neighboring yard. I will never forget its piteous screams. And every day I still read the papers, follow the litany of murders, grieve for the dead, and just lately, find myself afraid. All the time. 
To me, living in Baltimore has become like living in a war zone, with all the trauma that entails. There’s nowhere one is safe—not Canton, or Charles Village, or Station North, or even the Towson Mall (the murder of a teacher) or Roland Park (the rape of a grandmother). And it isn’t just me. My friend in Charles Village calls me late at night, needing to talk. I see the stunned expression on the faces of my former neighbors. I read about the brave man who tried to help Stephen Pitcairn and wonder how he will live with this memory.  I once had a military student who had PTSD, and his memories from Vietnam were as sharp after 20 years as they must have been after 20 minutes.  Will that happen to him?
I ask you how people who can find no relief from the ongoing mayhem in this city can find the strength to pay tribute to their dead, and so many dead, because I don’t know.  I don’t believe that I can do anything to stop the drug-fueled ignorance and hatred that makes this city murder central.  And I want to believe that there is more to life, that there is something I can do to help fix things.
And so, as soon as I can manage it, I will leave Baltimore, taking with me my middle-class salary and all that goes with it. Maybe from a distance, I can find some perspective, understand the problem better. I hope so. But I won’t come back, even if I do.

From E. Christian Mattson

I read your column with interest, and you did not actually say it, but you think the outrage over a white being killed and a black man being killed was treated differently. I doubt if the police handled it  any differently, but the reaction from the neighborhood is quite different.  Perhaps the people who knew the man in the lawn chair have simply become immune to people getting killed where they live.  Or else it is something entirely different---APATHY.

I sort of know something about this, since I am a retired BPD Sgt. and remember quite well how people re-acted in different neighborhoods. All the vigils, and all the complaints by the people in the inner city are not going to stop one killing, and if you put a Police Officer on every corner, every day that will help nothing. There is something else going on , and has been going on for a long time. We just have to figure it out, but good luck with that.

And a reminder about a vigil later this eveing for Hill:

Frustrated residents from across Baltimore to converge on site where 70-year-old church volunteer was murdered!
Councilman Carl Stokes calls City of Baltimore to show solidarity in wake of ongoing murder and violence
WHO:            Baltimore City Councilman Carl Stokes, 12th District
                        Baltimore City Council President Bernard “Jack” Young
                        Baltimore City Councilwoman Mary Pat Clarke, 14th District
                        Dr. J. L. Carter and First Lady Cora Carter, Ark Church
Ark Church members
Neighborhood and Community Association leaders from across Baltimore
City Residents
WHAT:         Councilman Carl Stokes will be joined by the Pastor and First Lady of the Ark Church in East Baltimore, several of his colleagues in government and community residents and church members TONIGHT to remember and celebrate the life of Milton Hill, a 70-year-old church caretaker who was murdered Friday (July 30) morning.
Councilman Stokes will be joined by faith leaders and residents from across Baltimore at the East Baltimore site of Hill’s murder to show solidarity and to call the entire city to action against violence. Residents from Charles Village, West Baltimore and South East Baltimore have confirmed their intentions to be part of this vigil – murder and violence is touching almost every neighborhood in our city and there must be the collective action of government, police and citizens to begin to heal Baltimore.  
WHERE:      The Ark Church        
1263 East North Avenue
WHEN:         TONIGHT, August 2, 2010
                                    6:00 PM

Posted by Peter Hermann at 7:46 AM | | Comments (2)
Categories: Confronting crime, Neighborhoods

August 1, 2010

Weekend roundup

It's Sunday afternoon and the Baltimore appears to have had a relatively quiet weekend after a week of crime that drew more reaction - both for the slaying of Hopkins researcher Stephen Pitcairn and 70-year-old church caretaker Milton Hill - than we can remember in quite some time. The Sun's Jean Marbella profiled Pitcairn and Good Samaritan Reggie Higgins, who stayed with the 23-year-old as he died. Jessica Anderson also caught up with Hill's family, who are planning a vigil for Monday.

There were several other crime-related stories making news over the weekend:

-A gun-rights group that successfully challenged weapons laws in Chicago and the District of Columbia has moved its campaign to Maryland, filing a federal complaint alleging that state restrictions violate the Second and Fourteenth amendments.

-A convicted child molester, accused of abusing dozens of children at the Catholic school where he taught, could be freed after a federal judge ruled that his defense counsel had failed to advise him that the state had offered a 10-year plea deal. He is serving multiple life terms.

-The Attorney General's Office says citizens are likely able to record police interactions, though Harford County prosecutors intend to push forward with charges against a motorcyclist who taped a traffic stop by a state trooper.

-State officials have agreed to review the planned capacity for a $100 million jail for juveniles in Baltimore — a concession to groups who say the project is too big.
Posted by Justin Fenton at 2:36 PM | | Comments (0)

Howard County National Night Out

As promised, here are some details on Howard County for National Night Out on Tuesday:


Howard Night

For a detailed list:

howardnight.2 howarnight3
Posted by Peter Hermann at 9:49 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Confronting crime, Howard County

Communities fight crime in National Night Out

Residents all over the state and country are being urged to wear blue on Tuesday and turn porch lights on as part of a campaign to raise awareness about crime. Called National Night Out, it's an effort to draw people into  the fight.

I'm trying to compile a full list of activities and thus far I've gotten information from Baltimore and Howard counties. I'll post Howard's in a separate blog, as the one from Baltimore County police is quite extensive:

The Baltimore County Police Department along with elected officials, local celebrities and County civic groups will mark the 27th anniversary of National Night Out on Tuesday, August 3. Last year, more than 36 million people in over 14,625 communities nationwide came together to strengthen the police-community partnership against crime.

A new feature to this year’s events is the “Show Us Your Blue” campaign. Pull something navy blue out of your closet and wear it all day to show your support for law enforcement. Put a blue light bulb in your porch light and turn it on from 6 to 11 p.m. on August 3 as a peaceful way to display your participation on National Night Out.

If you own a business, you can invite neighborhood children to draw posters or design window displays with crime prevention messages for your store front windows. String blue holiday lights on your patio. Light blue candles in your window to show your support. Put blue gels in building lights to cast a bright blue hue all over Baltimore County.

We know you are out there, and that you care about making your communities as safe as possible. Use this day to show criminals that they are not welcome on your block!

Choose one of the events listed below to network with your neighbors, or start a tradition of your own. Be as creative as you can be, and be sure to take lots of pictures to send them to your precinct’s Community Outreach Officer to be included in a special feature in the next Behind the Badge newsletter.

For details about what's going on in your community:

Precinct 1/Wilkens

Name of Group: Kensington Community Association
Contact:  Ms. Sue Mazzoni
Officers Assigned: Officers Darcey and Wickless
Activity:  Children’s Parade and Block Party 
Location:  In Community
Time:   7 p.m.-until dusk   


Name of Group: Holly Manor Community Association
Contact:  Ms. Wilnet Briston 
Officers Assigned: Officers Brown and Saunders
Activity:  Community Social, Meet with Police
Location:  Neighborhood Streets/Community Park
Time:   6:30-7:30 p.m.

Name of Group: Circle Terrace Apartments
Contact:  Ms. Jeray Wilson 
Officer Assigned: Officer Darcey
Activity:  Community Cookout
Location:  2926 Lakebrook Circle
Time:   6-9 p.m.

Precinct 2/Woodlawn

Name of Group:  Deerfield Manor Community Association
Contact Person:  Ms. Gwendolyn Sims
Officer Assigned:  Off. McAulay
Type of Activity:   Community Picnic
Location:    Windsor Blvd near Dead end
Times:   6-8:30 p.m.

Name of Group: Fairbrook HOA COP
Contact:  Ms. Breita Gillard 
Officer Assigned: Off. McAulay
Activity:  Picnic and Community Walk
Location:  Fairbrook and Winding Brook Way (by the entrance sign)
Time:   5:30-9 p.m.

Name of Group: Hilltop Community Association
Contact:  Ms. Jean Hayes 
Officer Assigned: Off. McAulay
Activity:  Community Picnic
Location:  Brookmont and Lukewood Rds.
Time:   6-8 p.m.
Name of Group: Kings Park Community Association
Contact:  Mr. Clarence Wilson
Officer Assigned: Off. McAulay
Activity:  Picnic and Drive through the Community led by Police Cruiser
Location:  Live Oak and Marriottsville Rds.
Time:   Drive begins at 7 p.m.


Name of Group: Merrymount Community Association
Contact:  Mr. Walter Douglas
Officer Assigned: Off. McAulay
Activity:  Community Picnic
Location:  3500 Blk. Meadowdale Dr.
Time:   6:30-9:30 p.m.

Name of Group: Village of Deer Park
Contact:  Ms. Denise Hall
Officer Assigned: Off. McAulay
Activity:  Walk through the community to meet the neighbors.
Location:  Begins at Deer Trail Way and Red Deer Circle
Time:   6-7 p.m.

Name of Group: Stevenswood Improvement Association
Contact:  Mr. Aaron Plymouth
Officer Assigned: Off. McAulay
Activity:  Cookout followed by a flashlight walk through the community
Location:  Cul de Sac Lauri Rd.
Time:   7-9 p.m.

Name of Group: West Edmondale Community Association Inc.
Contact:  Ms. Margaret Stokes
Officer Assigned: Off. McAulay
Activity:  Ice Cream Social
Location:  West Edmondale Community Sign
Time:   6:30-7:30 p.m.

Precinct 3/Franklin

Name of Group: Chartley COP
Contact:  Mr. David Powers 
Officers Assigned: Captain McElwee, Lt. Doarnberger, Sgt. Ledley, Officers Krueger, Kauffman, and Kelly
Activity: Food, crime prevention and domestic violence information along with a McGruff the Crime Dog appearance.
Location:  Reisterstown Elementary School, 223 Walgrove Rd.
Time:   6:30-8:30 p.m.

Name of Group: Country Club Estates COP/Brookshire Community
Contact:  Ms. Lois Burton
Officers Assigned: Captain McElwee, Lt. Doarnberger, Sgt. Ledley, Officers Krueger, Kauffman, and Kelly
Activity: Food, crime prevention and domestic violence information along with a McGruff the Crime Dog appearance.
Location:  Woodenbridge Court to be blocked off at Hammershire Rd.
Time:   6:30-8:30 p.m.

Precinct 4/Pikesville

Name of Group: Brighton HOA
Contact: Mr. David Robinson, 
Officer Assigned: Off. Matthews
Activity:  Live music serving hotdogs and refreshments.
Location:  Ridge Drive at Mount Vernon Rd. 
Time:   6-8:30 p.m.

Name of Group: Forest Garden COP
Contact:  Mr. Freddie Wilson 
Officer Assigned: Off. Matthews
Activity: Community outreach to neighbors. Placing COP signs/decals and rotating lights on several vehicles.
Location:  Outdoors along Laurel Drive, Forest Hill and Forest Garden
Time:   7:30-9 p.m.

Name of Group: Fox Ridge HOA
Contact: Ms. Valerie Starks
Guest Speaker: Councilman Ken Oliver to speak at 6 p.m.
Officer Assigned: Off. Matthews
Activity:  Music and food by the pool (pool will be open)
Location:  8661 Foxfield Rd. (Clubhouse)
Time:   4-8 p.m.

Name of Group: Pahl’s Crossing COP
Contact:  Ms. Maryann Ferguson 
Officer Assigned: Off. Matthews
Activity:  Passing out crime prevention literature to residents.
Location:  Outdoors along Pahl’s Farm Way at Bedford Rd and Red Haven Rd.
Time:   6:30-10 p.m.

Name of Group: Queen Anne Village COP
Contact:  Mr. Brian Clevenger 
Officer Assigned: Off. Matthews
Activity:  Community turning on porch lights and doing foot patrols.
Location:  All of Queen Anne Village area.
Time:   6-9 p.m.

Name of Group: Sudbrook Park
Contact: Ms. Loretta Kerner
Officer Assigned: Off. Matthews
Activity:  Outdoors with live music, hot dogs and refreshments. Caravan begins at
7 p.m.
Location:  Sudbrook La and Greenwood Rd.
Time:   6-7 p.m.

Precinct 6/Towson

Name of Group: Precinct Six COP groups (TACOP)
Contact:  Mr. Karl Pfrommer
Activity:  COP and Police procession throughout 24 Towson Precinct neighborhoods
Officers Assigned: Sgt. Fink, Officer Fuka, Off. Doucett, Off. Feelemyer
Location:  Towson Place Shopping Center (in front of Babies “R” Us)
Time:   6:30 p.m.-Gathering/Introductions
   7 p.m.-Procession through several Towson neighborhoods

Precinct 7/Cockeysville

Name of Group: Briarcliff Apartments 
Contact:  Ms. Jeri Vigneri    
Activity: Block Party  
Officers Assigned: Captain Marty Lurz, Officers Geiger and Arnett, Explorer Troop    
Location: Knoll Crest Place
Time:   6-8 p.m.

Precinct 8/Parkville

Name of Group: Wolsingham COP
Contact:  Mr. Rolfe Feser
Officer Assigned: Off. Goorevitz
Activity:  Community Picnic, Karaoke, Food
Location:  Sharpley Ct. Common area
Time:   7-9 p.m.

Precinct 9/White Marsh

Name of Group: Fontana Village Association
Contact:  Ms. Roberta Mosby
Officer Assigned: Off. Havens
Activity:  Singing, Speakers, and Refreshments
Location:  Parking lot of Orion Ct.
Time:   7-8:30 p.m.

Name of Group: Park East COP
Contact:  Ms. Evelyn Gibson
Officer Assigned: Off. Huber
Activity:  Cookout “Guardian Angels”
Location:  Park East Apartment Pool and Playground
Time:   6 p.m.-until conclusion



Name of Group: Garden Village
Contact:  Ms. Wanita Thompson
Officer Assigned: Off. Daffron
Activity:  Jazz Band, Mad Hat Night, Cookout
Location:  6011 St. Regis Rd. Community Center
Time:   6-8 p.m.

Name of Group: Hazelwood Park East COP
Contact:  Mr. George Ches
Officer Assigned: Off. Jackson
Activity:  Cookout
Location:  5615 Daybreak Terrace
Time:   7 p.m.-until conclusion

Precinct 11/Essex

Name of Group: Wilson Point Association
Contact:  Ms. Emma Wetzelberger
Officer Assigned: Off. Coyne
Activity:  Community Cookout
Location:  1000 Beech Dr., Wilson Point Park
Time:   5-8 p.m.

Name of Group: Foxridge Association
Contact: Ms. Bonnie Knoll and Ms. Gail Fry    
Officer Assigned:        TBD  
Activity: Community walk followed by cookout
Location: Bayner and Middleborough Rds.
Time:  6:30 p.m. until completion

Precinct 12/North Point

Name of Group: Colgate Community Association
Contact: Mr. Dave Highland   
Officer Assigned:        Off. Slocum 
Activity: Cookout 
Location: St. Peter’s Church, Eastern Blvd. and 54th St. 
Time:   6-9 p.m. 

Name of Group: Eastfield/Stanbrook Community Association
Contact:  Ms. Karen Cruz
Officer Assigned: Off. Fluck
Activity:  Cookout
Location:  Park located at Denbury and Moorgate Rds.
Time:   6-8 p.m.

Name of Group: Graceland Park Community Association
Contact: Ms. Celestine Grabowski 
Officer Assigned:        Off. Wilking 
Activity:                      Ice Cream Social  
Location:                     Sacred Heart of Mary at 6736 Youngstown Rd.  
Time:                         6:30-9 p.m.    

Name of Group: Millers Island Community Association
Contact: Mr. Bob Hart   
Officer Assigned: Off. Shipley 
Activity: Cookout 
Location:                     Millers Island Rd. and Baylight Ave. (Tot Lot)  
Time:  6-8 p.m.   

Name of Group: Old Inverness Community Association
Contact: Ms. Becky Karatzas   
Officer Assigned:        Off. Shipley 
Activity: Cookout 
Location: Inverness Community Park, Bayside Dr. 
Time: 6-8 p.m.

Name of Group: St. Helena Community Association
Contact: Ms. Shirley Gregory   
Officer Assigned:        Off. Fluck 
Activity: Cookout 
Location: St. Helena Community Center, 6509 Colgate Ave. 
Time: 6-9 p.m.   
Name of Group: Turner Station Rec and Parks/Day Village Apartments
Contact:  Ms. Edie Brooks and Ms. Monique Davis 
Officer Assigned: Off. Fluck
Activity:  Cookout
Location:  Turner Station Rec and Parks, Avondale and Rayme
Time:   6-8 p.m.

Name of Group: Yorkway TLC Partnership
Contact:  Mr. Nick D’Alesandro
Officer Assigned: Off. Slocum
Activity:  Cookout
Location:  2952-2954 Yorkway
Time: 6:30-8:30 p.m.            


Posted by Peter Hermann at 9:44 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Confronting crime, Neighborhoods
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About Peter Hermann
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.

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