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November 30, 2010

Harford sheriff's office commander fired

A member of the Sheriff Jesse Bane’s command staff, who was charged in Harford County Circuit Court on theft and misconduct in office charges a month ago, was fired Tuesday after being charged with theft again, according to The Aegis.

The move came after Maj. Mark Forwood was charged in an additional theft case after an incident at the Home Depot in Bel Air Sunday. In April, Forwood was suspended after he was accused of misconduct. Forwood’s salary was $107,660 a year and he was suspended with pay within 24 hours after the allegations were made.
Posted by Justin Fenton at 11:11 PM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Harford County

Last of Bloods gang plead guilty

The last of 28 defendants accused of being members of the Tree Top Piru Bloods gang has pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court in Baltimore. Keili Dyson, 28, and Keon Williams, 29, admitted to conspiracy to distribute and possess cocaine. All 28 members who were indicted have now been convicted.

Prosecutors said that Dyson held the rank of OYG (Original Young Gangster) and that he met with other leaders to discuss pending acts of violence and discipline. On Oct. 18, 2007, authorities said he was found by detectives on a raid of a house on Audrey Avenue with empty zip lock bags used to package drugs. Police said he had cocaine in his pockets.

Prosecutors said Williams was overheard on intercepted phone calls discussing the distribution of crack cocaine along the Greenmount Avenue corridor.

Williams and Dyson each face up to 20 years in prison when they are sentenced in March. More than a dozen other gang members have been sentenced to 18 months to life in prison, according to the Maryland U.S. Attorney's Office.

Posted by Peter Hermann at 5:24 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Confronting crime, Courts and the justice system, Gangs

Man pleads guilty in toddler death (Part Two)

Stephen Todd Nelson pleaded guilty Tuesday to second-degree murder and child abuse resulting in death for killing his three-year-old son, Turner, by throwing the boy off the Key Bridge on Super Bowl Sunday in 2008.

The two convictions each carry a 30-year maximum sentence, though Baltimore Circuit Court Judge Charles Peters agreed to limit the term to a cap of 50 years. Sentencing is scheduled for January 28.

An earlier plan for Nelson to plead guilty solely to second-degree murder was rejected Monday by a different judge, who sent the parties to Peters for trial. They worked out the new deal in concert. Robert Linthicum, one of Nelson's lawyers, called it a "fair agreement."

Posted by Justin Fenton at 1:23 PM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Courts and the justice system

Double shooting downtown

Two people were shot on Water Street near The Block early this morning and police said a few minutes ago they have a suspect in custody. Few details have been released, but police said the incident occurred about 2:30 a.m. and that a male and female were wounded.

UPDATE: Police said that officers conducting crowd control on The Block heard four or five gunshots and race over to find a victim lying on the ground bleeding from the upper chest. A second victim was found in the driver's side of a 1998 Honda Accord, suffering from a gunshot wound to the left foot.

Witnesses gave officers a description of a vehicle the suspect's were in and officers later spotted the white Honda. Two suspects were arrested and police said they found a 9mm handgun in the car. "The gun appeared to have just been fired," according to a police statement. One victim is in critical condition after surgery at Maryland Shock Trauma Center; the other victim is in good condition at Johns Hopkins Hospital. 

It's the latest violence on downtown streets. A police officer was shot at Baltimore and Calvert streets shortly after 1 a.m. Saturday, and police engaged the suspect in a running gun battle before wounding him.

And shortly after 11 a.m. Saturday, police said a male was stabbed in the upper chest at Lombard and Light streets.

All of these incidents occurred just a few blocks north of the Inner Harbor -- two of them around the times bars closed. The shootings on Water Street (police have also listed the address as Commerce and Baltimore streets) are near the strip clubs but also at the top end of Market Place, a popular night spot.

Posted by Peter Hermann at 8:15 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Breaking news, Downtown

Suspect in shooting of officer was out of jail

Another crime, more questions about why a convicted felon is roaming the streets of Baltimore.

The Sun's Justin Fenton explores the criminal history of Franklin Gross Sr., the 29-year-old charged with shooting a young Baltimore police officer early Saturday on East Baltimore and North Calvert streets. It led to a running gun battle downtown.

Gross had been convicted of handgun possession (five years) and a separate armed robbery (12 years). But as Justin points out, the sentences began in 2006, when he was first arrested, and up to half the time was suspended by the judges.

That combined with "good-time" credits allowed Gross to be released in May, 26 months after he had been sentenced. So that's how he ended up downtown on Saturday, allegedly carrying a gun and spotted by an alert cop. Police said the when the officer confronted him, he pulled out his gun and shot him in the left shoulder.

Justin's story today goes through efforts by city and state lawmakers to tighten gun laws in Annapolis, and effort they vow to continue. 

November 29, 2010

Little insight into officer's crash death

The investigation into the death of Baltimore Officer Thomas Portz Jr., who died last month when his police cruiser crashed into the back of a parked firetruck in West Baltimore, has yielded no new clues into what caused the accident, according to police.

Police spokesman Anthony Guglielmi said crash investigators have ruled out a mechanical problem with his vehicle, and an autopsy uncovered no underlying medical condition such as a heart attack as factors in the Oct. 20 crash.

Portz, who was also responding to the call, struck the back of the truck with his vehicle at a high rate of speed, officials said. There were no skid marks behind the car indicating that it had braked, and police said they can only speculate as to what caused him to lose focus on the road.

"Modern-day police investigations have taken us as far as they can," Guglielmi said. "There's just some things we'll never be able to do. The family and the commissioner would love closure, but we've gone through every shred of evidence."

Posted by Justin Fenton at 8:37 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: West Baltimore

Eighteen-year-old gets 35 years in city killing

An 18-year-old man convicted of first-degree murder was sentenced by a city judge to life in prison, with all but 35 years suspended, for the fatal shooting of a man in an East Baltimore carryout, officials said. Prosecutors say they had asked for a double-life sentence.

Damien Davis, who was 16 at the time, was convicted of fatally shooting 21-year-old Paris Richardson in the head at a carryout in the 2500 block of E. Hoffman Street in May of 2008.  Judge Pamela J. White handed down a sentence of two concurrent life sentences with all but 35 years suspended.

A co-defendant, Darius Duppins, 20, is awaiting a January trial.

Posted by Justin Fenton at 5:15 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Courts and the justice system, East Baltimore

City judge rejects plea deal in toddler death

UPDATE: Here's an updated account from Sun reporter Tricia Bishop.

A judge has rejected a plea deal for a man accused of throwing his 3-year-old son off the Francis Scott Key Bridge, calling it "too light," the Associate Press reports.

Judge George Russell admonished lawyers in the case of Stephen T. Nelson for coming to court unprepared for trial. Prosecutor Julie Drake told Russell that both sides had told their witnesses not to come to court in anticipation that the plea would be approved.

Russell sent the case to another judge, Charles Peters, for trial. Attorneys could be heard discussing the plea deal during a bench conference with Peters. They discussed a guilty plea to second-degree murder, which carries a maximum 30-year sentence.

Posted by Justin Fenton at 12:41 PM | | Comments (2)
Categories: Courts and the justice system

Suspect charged in shooting police officer

Baltimore police have charged a suspect in this weekend's shooting of a Baltimore police officer. The suspect remains at Maryland Shock Trauma Center recovering from wounds he got during a shootout up North Calvert Street. Here are some more details on the shooting.

Officer Todd Strohman is the fourth city police officer shot and wounded this year, while city police have shot 10 citizens, killing two. That's one of the lowest totals in recent memory; in 2007, city police shot 33 citizens, 13 who died; and 22 were shot last year, with 8 fatally injured.

According to Sun reporter Meredith Cohn, Gross has three recent felony convictions:

Gross has been convicted of three felonies, according to court records. A police source said he was on parole for armed robbery at the time of this shooting.

Gross was convicted in 1998 of assault and sentenced to four years in prison, but a judge suspended three years and 10 months of the term. He was convicted in March 2008 of being a felon in possession of a handgun and sentenced to five years in prison, with time starting from the time he was arrested in May 2006.

In May 2008, while still in prison on the gun charge, he was convicted of a separate armed robbery charge and sentenced to 12 years in prison, with all but six years suspended. He had been paroled, police said.
Posted by Peter Hermann at 9:16 AM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Downtown, Police shootings

November 27, 2010

Three shot at Odenton bar

When I pulled up to Maryland Shock Trauma Center early this morning to report on the shooting of a Baltimore police officer, I noticed three ambulances from Anne Arundel County in the emergency lot.

I was told that three people had been shot in Odenton. Turns out one man was shot outside a bar and two patrons were hit by stray bullets. Here are some more details from a statement from Anne Arundel County Police:

On November 27, 2010 at approximately 0148 hours officers of the Western District Platoon Four responded to a report of a shooting that just occurred at “My Place Bar & Lounge” located at 1676 Annapolis Road, Odenton Maryland.

As officers were arriving they were advised that a black male victim, identified as Antwone James Hooper, was lying on the ground to the rear of the business. When officers responded to the rear parking lot they found a black male victim suffering from a gunshot wound to his head, back and abdomen. While officers rendered aid they were told that there were two other victims inside the establishment.

Officers responded inside and found that two others were struck by stray bullets as they were entering the business. Surveillance video of the parking lot revealed that an altercation occurred at the entrance of the establishment and a suspect brandished a revolver pointing it at several subjects. The suspect then chased Hooper around several cars and eventually shot him and the other two victims standing in the doorway. The suspect was last seen running towards the rear of the Kentucky Fried Chicken.

Responding officers received a lookout of the suspect. Officers canvassed the area and located the suspect hiding behind a fence at the KFC. A short time later a K9 unit was able to locate the clothing that the suspect had removed.

All victims were transported to Medical facilities for treatment. The victims in the doorway suffered non-life threatening injuries. Hooper was transported to Shock Trauma for his injuries. He was listed in stable condition.

Suspect – James Edward Jones, 3165 Bero Road, Halethorpe Md 21227, DOB 5/10/87, B/M 5’11” 220lbs

Posted by Peter Hermann at 11:43 AM | | Comments (4)
Categories: Anne Arundel County

Stabbing reported downtown

Just hours after this morning's running gun battle up North Calvert Street, in which a city police officer was shot and seriously wounded, Baltimore officials are reporting that a man was just stabbed in the chest at Light and Lombard streets.

More crime near the Inner Harbor.

There are no other details, other than that the victim's injuries are not considered life threatening. Baltimore police spokesman Kevin Brown provided this update to some other crimes in the area overnight:

11/26/10 - 19:06 Hrs
2100 Blk of Clifton Avenue
Officers responded at the above date and time to the intersection of Smallwood St. and Clifton Ave. for a shooting call for service. Upon arrival they discovered the victim (b/m, 2/1/81), suffering from five gunshot wounds, including one to the face.  He was transported to an area hospital where he is listed in critical but stable condition.  At present, no suspect or motive.
11/27/10 - 04:34 Hrs
2400 Blk of Ashland Ave
I don't have much to report, as the information has not yet been inputted into the database or forwarded.  I do know it was an adult male victim that was shot and died as a result.

11/26/10 - 10:25 Hrs
Bel Air Road and Erdman Avenue
Likewise, dont have much, other than a pedestrian was struck by a vehicle that fled and was later recovered, sans driver.  Injuries to the pedestrian are unknown, but probably not severe as the CRASH Team accident investigators were not called to the scene. 
Posted by Peter Hermann at 11:38 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Breaking news, Downtown, East Baltimore, Northeast Baltimore

Baltimore police officer shot

A Baltimore police officer who confronted an armed man on a downtown street early this morning was shot and seriously wounded, and backup officers engaged the suspect in what the police commissioner described as a running gun battle up North Calvert Street.

Police said that at least three members of the tactical unit, among the best trained in the use of firearms, fired at least 20 shots along a single city block, hitting the suspect several times on a street crowded with patrons of downtown clubs and bars.

The wounded man managed to escape in a silver Toyota Camry occupied by two of his friends. The car crashed into a light pole at Calvert and Franklin streets and police found the suspect inside Mercy Medical Center seeking treatment for his wounds. The car was peppered with about a dozen bullet holes in the back windshield, trunk and bumper.

Police shut down numerous streets north of the Inner Harbor after the shooting, which occurred shortly past 1 a.m. at North Calvert and East Baltimore streets. A police helicopter hovered over the two crime scenes and police said they recovered a semiautomatic handgun and arrested the two occupants of the car and the man who they said shot the police officer.

Posted by Peter Hermann at 5:35 AM | | Comments (3)
Categories: Breaking news, Confronting crime, Downtown

November 26, 2010

Two recent victims identified

A brief update before the weekend, as police have identified two additional homicide victims. Information is still sparse, and we'd like to hear from family members of the victims if they happen upon this blog post.

-Patrick Dolan, 19, was identified as the man fatally stabbed in what appeared to be a robbery at 10:30 a.m. in the Belair-Edison neighborhood earlier this week. Dolan, who does not appear to have any criminal record, was stabbed in the 3500 block of Juneway, a few blocks north of Archbishop Curley High School, on Nov. 23. According to a death notice posted on the Sun's web site, his funeral was today.

-Davon Douglas, 28, is the man who was fatally stabbed in the 1800 block of Eagle St. on Nov. 24 at about 8 a.m. Police said they did not have a last known address for Douglas, but records indicate he was from the Brooklyn area. He had a long record of drug arrests, though none since last year. In 2002, Douglas had money stolen from his pants pocket by a city paramedic responding to an accident scene.

On Twitter, a user named Cuzzo410 wrote this: "This city i love..has no soul it took my brotha away from me RIP BOWS (Davon Douglas)" 

For those interested in demographics of the city's crime, Dolan is just the 12th white homicide victim, out of 203 people slain so far this year. Meanwhile, both men were stabbed - only 23 of this year's victims have died from stab wounds, the cause of death for three of the past five people killed in the city. A fourth died from blunt force trauma. 

Posted by Justin Fenton at 5:42 PM | | Comments (3)
Categories: Northeast Baltimore, Southwest Baltimore

Man kills brother who intervened in argument with wife

A 68-year-old Baltimore man was in custody Friday, accused of killing his brother in a Thanksgiving Day argument.

Harry Patterson Jr., who turns 69 on Saturday, has been charged with first-degree murder, second-degree murder, two assault counts and a weapons charge following the stabbing death of his younger sibling, Robin Patterson, 51.

Police said the incident occurred Thursday on the 4400 block of Belvieu Ave. and stemmed from an argument between the suspect and his wife. After Robin Patterson tried to intervene, his brother left the room and retrieved a kitchen knife, stabbing his younger brother in the back and left arm.

He left the residence, and was later picked up after his description was broadcast and an officer saw him on the street. 

Court records indicate Robin Patterson had no history with the law, and Harry Patterson's last brush was in 1984 when he was convicted of theft and got a two year suspended sentence.

Posted by Justin Fenton at 5:35 PM | | Comments (3)
Categories: Northwest Baltimore

Missing person found, arrest in homicide

UPDATE BELOW: Police say stabbing victim died, brother arrested

Some crime updates from Baltimore Police:

Raymond Burke, M/W/74, was found last night around 11:30 hrs by patrol units in the Northeast District, in the area of Pulaski Hwy and Moravia Park  Drive. He was discovered unharmed and is doing well. He had been missing since Wednesday.
In reference to the tweeted stabbing within 4400 Blk of Belvieu Ave., information is still being gathered, to include the latest condition check. I will have an update on this case near noon.  I do know that the victim is an adult black male, born 12/27/48, and a person of interest (a relative) has been taken into custody.

UPDATE from police spokesman Kevin Brown: Please be advised that in reference to the assault reported on the 4400 Blk of Belvieu Ave., the victim, Robin Patterson (B/M 6/24/59) has died as a result of his injuries. His brother, Harry Patterson Jr. (B/M 11/27/41) has been charged with the murder (and lesser related), and is currently being held in CBIF. His photo is at left. It appears as if the incident stemmed from an argument between the suspect and his wife, in which the victim attempted to intervene and was fatal wounded.  No word yet on the cause of the argument, etc.  




In reference to the 24 May 10 homicide within the 900 Blk of N. Belnord Ave. (victim Donte Vandiver), an arrest warrant has been obtained and for a Tyrell Smith (B/M, 5/21/88), who is currently being held on other charges at the Super Max detention facility. His photo is at left.

Here are some updated stats:

2010: 202
2009: 209
Police say the city is down 7 homicides for a 3.3% reduction over last year at this time.
2010: 379
2009: 411
The city is down 32 non-fatal shootings for a 7.8% reduction over last year at this time.
Posted by Peter Hermann at 9:52 AM | | Comments (2)
Categories: Breaking news, Confronting crime

Johns Hopkins teaching "The Wire"

"The Wire" is now part of the curriculum at Johns Hopkins University.

The Sun's Childs Walker describes the course, focusing on one class taught by the show's writer and creator, former Sun reporter David Simon:

Peter Beilenson, an adjunct professor and Howard County's health officer, thought "The Wire" would be a perfect hook to get Hopkins undergraduates thinking about the complex web of problems faced by American cities.

Beilenson, who introduced the class this semester, was not the first person to think of building a college course around "The Wire." But he had one major advantage. As a longtime player in Maryland politics and health policy, he was able to line up many of the people who do the real-world jobs that the show depicted.

To talk about policing, he tapped former Baltimore commissioner Ed Norris (also, conveniently, an actor on the show). For a view of the prosecutor's office? Patricia Jessamy, the outgoing state's attorney. For the big picture on education? Baltimore schools CEO Andrés Alonso.

And for the grand finale? Simon himself.
Childs notes that university such as Duke and Harvard also are using the urban drama to teach -- showcasing the struggles of an inner-city through a fictional yet telling portrait of the futile effort to fight drugs and crime against the failures of institutions such as politics, the media, school and police.
Posted by Peter Hermann at 9:37 AM | | Comments (3)
Categories: City Hall, Confronting crime, Courts and the justice system

Credit for serving in prison

Trying to determine when someone gets released from prison in Maryland has always been a difficult task. Inmates typically get out well before their sentences end -- mostly through probation or parole. But they also get "credit" for being in prison and being a good prisoner.

It's an incentive plan -- be good, get out early.

But how those credits are determined can be a daunting task. The Maryland Court of Appeals confronted this issue last week and is the subject of today's Crime Scenes:

Just ask the judges of the Maryland Court of Appeals, who accepted a case in which an inmate claimed he didn't get enough credits to reduce his sentence. The judges made no secret of what they were getting into. The opening line of the opinion issued this week:

"This case is about the calculation of diminution credits, a topic that strikes dread into the hearts of many trial and appellate judges."

That very first sentence required a footnote from Judge Glenn T. Harrell Jr.: "For example, Professor Ester promised me that, if I finished law school and passed the bar examination, there would be no more math. He was mistaken."

The case involves an inmate who claimed the prison system failed to properly calculate his credits. The court agreed, but the time time they ruled he had already been released on one drug conviction and re-charged in federal court on another drug charge.

He's got the moral victory, but now he's in a place where there is no parole, no probation and no "good-time" credits. Read the full opinion from the Maryland Court of Appeals here.

Posted by Peter Hermann at 8:39 AM | | Comments (2)
Categories: Confronting crime, Courts and the justice system

November 24, 2010

Arrest in Parkside murder; police searching for vehicle

City police have made an arrest in the killing of a 29-year-old man found dead after an assault in his Northeast Baltimore home, and investigators are asking the public's help in locating the victim's car.

Derrick Cross was found by officers inside a residence in the 4400 block of Plainfield Ave. in the Parkside neighborhood, east of Herring Run Park, just before midnight Tuesday.

Terrance Parker, 30, has been charged with first degree murder and related charges, police said, but no motive has been determined. Cross was killed by blunt force trauma to the head.

City homicide detectives are looking for Cross' black 2007 Lexus GS350 with a Maryland Registration 1GCF77 and VIN number JTHCE96S370013149.

Parker was arrested in 2003 after police raided a home in East Baltimore and found him inside, along with drugs and a .357 magnum handgun. Convicted by a city jury and sentenced to 12 years in prison, including a five-year, no parole sentence for the handgun, Parker appealed the case, and it was overturned by the Maryland Court of Appeals.

According to the court's opinion, Parker argued that police didn't have cause to use a "no-knock" warrant, and that the conviction wasn't justified because he was not in proximity to the gun and didn't live at the house.

The court agreed: "We shall reverse the judgment below on the firearm count and hold that the evidence was insufficient to convict Parker of possession of the handgun. The evidence does not show directly or support a rational inference of Parker's guilt."

"Nothing in the record established Terrance Parker's ownership of or a possessory interest in the home. In fact, the evidence did not show whether Parker was residing in the home at the time or simply was visiting Evania Wilkens who did live there. ... The state failed to establish that Parker had any proximity to the handgun. The home is three stories, and the gun was found on the second floor. Nothing in the record indicates where the police observed Parker in the home, whether he had access to the second floor, or how long he had been in the house."

There was also nothing in the record that indicated where specifically the gun was located or whether it was in plain view, the court found. 

Parker would be arrested and charged within a year with drug and firearms charges in Baltimore County, which were later dropped in Circuit Court. An assault charge in the city last summer was also dropped.

Posted by Justin Fenton at 10:47 PM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Courts and the justice system, Northeast Baltimore

Police charge man with pointing laser at copter

Back in September, Maryland State Police held a news conference to warn people about using laser pointers to shine lights in the eyes of helicopter and airplane pilots. At the time, authorities in Baltimore County had charged two people with such crimes.

State police just announced another arrest, this time of a man in Carroll County. Here is their statement:

Carroll County man was arrested late last night after he endangered an in-flight Maryland State Police helicopter crew by repeatedly spotlighting the aircraft with a laser.  

The accused is identified as David H. Hopwood, 35, of the 7000-block of Bristol Place, Sykesville, Md.  He is charged with reckless endangerment, attempted second degree assault on a law enforcement officer, and prohibited use of a laser pointer.  

At about 10 p.m. yesterday, State Police Pilot Marcus Alborghini and flight paramedic Trooper First Class Gregg Lantz, were flying in Trooper 3, a State Police helicopter based in Frederick.  The crew was returning from a medevac flight to Baltimore.
For more details:

The helicopter was flying over the Sykesville area when it was struck by a green laser flash.  Knowing the potential dangers for a flight crew, the pilot and flight paramedic took immediate precautions as they worked to locate the source of the laser. The crew contacted the Westminster Barrack and troopers responded to the area, as did an officer from the Sykesville Police Department.

While in the area, the helicopter was struck at least four more times by the laser.  The crew of Trooper 3 located the residence the laser was being emitted from and used the helicopter spotlight to light the area. Trooper 3 landed near Obrecht Road and TFC Lantz was transported to the residence that had been identified.  

Troopers contacted Hopwood at the residence. Further investigation led to his identification as the person responsible for shining the laser on the aircraft.  The laser pointer was recovered from Hopwood. He was arrested without further incident.  

Shining lasers at aircraft can have dangerous and even deadly consequences. A direct laser strike in the cockpit can cause temporary blindness and disorientation for the flight crew. When the strike occurred last night, TFC Lantz was wearing night vision goggles, which significantly increase any light source and, when struck by a laser, can blind the person wearing the goggles, as well as seriously damage the night vision equipment.  

“The use of a laser to target in-flight aircraft is a very dangerous and irresponsible act,” said Captain Mark Gibbons, Commander of the Maryland State Police Aviation Command. “While our flight crews are in the air serving and protecting our citizens, we will not have them jeopardized in this way. We intend to do everything possible to identify, apprehend, and prosecute those who endanger our flight crews, or any other aircraft flying in Maryland.

"I appreciate the assistance of troopers from the Westminster Barrack and officers from the Sykesville Police Department who assisted in last night’s arrest," he said. "We have similar partnerships across the state and are working with our allied law enforcement aviation units to address this serious issue.”

Aviation Command personnel have already contacted federal authorities concerning this incident.  The potential for federal charges against the accused is being reviewed. 

Posted by Peter Hermann at 2:53 PM | | Comments (2)
Categories: Carroll County

Killings in Southwest -- another one today

UPDATE: Baltimore police are reporting another killing in Southwest -- a 28-year-old man stabbed in the neck this morning on the front steps of a house in the 1800 block of Eagle St. It's officially in the Southern police district, but the neighborhood is Carrollton Ridge, a hard-hit area of the southwestern part of the city. Police tell me they're investigating robbery, but it's unclear if this latest killing is related to the others.

Baltimore police are looking to quell an outbreak of shootings in the Southwest part of the city and say some might be related. The Sun's Justin Fenton takes a look at the violence and the department's efforts to avoid a late-year outbreak that could threaten the historic lows seen in homicides in 2009:

A series of shootings and killings in the Southwestern police district over the past few days — pushing the number of city homicide victims to 200 for the year — has police deploying extra officers and the commissioner pushing for greater sharing of intelligence among investigators.

Between Friday and Tuesday morning, three people were killed in the area just east and south of Leakin Park, as well as another three who were injured in nonfatal shootings. Anthony Guglielmi, the department's chief spokesman, said at least some of the shootings appear to be connected.

"We have to move as fast as these guys do," Guglielmi said, adding that police Commissioner Frederick H. Bealefeld III wants enhanced and speedier sharing of intelligence about these crimes within the department.
Posted by Peter Hermann at 10:55 AM | | Comments (4)
Categories: Confronting crime, Southwest Baltimore

Security dogs patrolling malls

General Growth Properties, which runs the major malls in the area, including Harborplace, Towson Town Center and The Mall in Columbia, are bringing in K-9 security dogs to help keep people safe over the holidays.

Pictured here is a German Sheperd named Bruno and security guard Dave Merow patrolling the Columbia Mall. The photo is by The Sun's Gene Sweeney Jr.

The Sun's Andrea K. Walker reports today:
While General Growth officials said no single crime or incident prompted the use of the K-9 unit, the new security plan comes after several high-profile crimes at Mondawmin this summer, including a robbery in which a gunman escaped with $100,000 worth of watches and jewelry from Elite Gold & Diamond.

K-9 security is a growing trend in the retail industry as mall operators have become increasingly concerned about crime. This is the first time General Growth has deployed K-9s in the Baltimore area, but the company has already installed K-9 units in Dallas, San Francisco and Los Angeles.
Posted by Peter Hermann at 8:15 AM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Baltimore County, Confronting crime, Howard County

Special treatment for AG official?

There are troubling allegations today that a civil rights official in the Maryland Attorney General's Office escaped serious penalties because a prosecutor (along with others) apparently didn't realize state law makers had toughened the law for drunken driving.

The story, reported in the Annapolis Capital {background story here] and today in The Sun, has officials scrambling:

For the second time in eight years, Carl O. Snowden, current director of the civil rights office in the state attorney general's office, received probation before judgment for drunken driving, and questions have been raised illegalities.

"I'm going to have to figure it out myself," said prosecutor Henry Dove. The Talbot County assistant state's attorney was assigned to the Anne Arundel County case because Snowden, a former Annapolis alderman and aide to the previous county executive, has long been involved in civil rights and politics in the county and had worked with the Anne Arundel prosecutor's office.

Dove said he had no idea that the sentence might be illegal until a reporter from another newspaper contacted him.

State law regarding the granting of probation before judgment changed in 2009. It increased to 10 years the period during which a driver cannot be granted a second probation before judgment in a drunken-driving case.

November 23, 2010

Robbery suspect arrested

Baltimore County police are crediting the public with helping them arrest a suspected purse-snatcher. Here is the police statement:

Baltimore County Police have arrested and charged Robert Lawrence Gardner, 31, of the 11000-block of Greenspring Avenue, 21093 with robbery. He has been identified as being responsible for a November 10, robbery that occurred in the 9700-block of Groffs Mill Road, 21117.

On November 10, at approximately 9 p.m. Baltimore County Police responded to the Giant food store located in the 9700-block of Groffs Mill Road for a robbery. Police spoke with the victim who advised that she was walking through the store when the suspect forcibly took her purse and ran out of the food store. The suspect was last seen running toward the north end of the shopping center.

On November 19, police issued a news release and photo to the media, which led to several concerned citizens contacting the police to provide the identity of the suspect in this case. Robert Lawrence Gardner was arrested on November 20 and charged with robbery, assault, and theft. He is being held at the Baltimore County Detention Center on $350,000 bail.

Chief Jim Johnson and the men and women of the Baltimore County Police Department thank both the media and the public for their assistance in this case.

Posted by Peter Hermann at 4:09 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Baltimore County, Breaking news

Mass. authorities investigating whether teen fell from plane

Authorities are investigating the "remote possibility'' that Delvonte Tisdale's body fell out of an airplane as it passed over Milton when the aircraft prepared to land at Boston's Logan Airport, the Boston Globe reported.

The body of Tisdale, who until recently lived in Baltimore, was found Nov. 15, launching an investigation that so far has been unable to answer how the 16-year-old made it from his home in Charlotte, NC to an upscale neighborhood in Milton where he had no known ties. Milton police have said his body was mutilated.
One theory being explored is that Tisdale somehow snuck into the wheel well of an aircraft and when the plane prepared to land, the well opened up, sending him plummeting to the ground. Officials said wheel wells on jet aircraft are not pressurized and a stowaway likely would not have survived the sub-freezing temperatures of the upper atmosphere.
Posted by Justin Fenton at 10:17 AM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Crime elsewhere

Dedication for Det. Brian Stevenson

Det. Brian Stevenson worked for years in the Northeast District, and on Dec. 1 the police department will be honoring his service by renaming the entrance to the district station in his honor. 

Stevenson was killed Oct. 16 after police say he was struck in the head with a piece of concrete during an off-duty argument over a parking spot. Sian James, a 25-year-old Canton resident, has been charged with first-degree murder.

Police said in a ceremony on Dec. 1 at 3 p.m., they will place a street sign with his name on it at the immediate entrance to the Northeast District station parking lot off Argonne Drive. 

Posted by Justin Fenton at 9:46 AM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Northeast Baltimore

Today's murder, yesterday's shooting ...

Justin Fenton's story today on Wilbur Street is yet another demonstration of how we tally violence is convoluted, if not just plain wrong. Street was shot in 1982 but the bullet didn't kill him. He developed a seizure disorder and he finally died this year.

Wilbur Street is the city's 195th homicide victim of 2010.

So when we look back on the year and say that this many people were killed, let's remember that at least one -- and there's several every year -- are from violence that occurred nearly three decades ago. The number is misleading if you want to judge violence this year.

His shooter already has been convicted and served 15 years in prison. And Street's death has to be counted some place, and constantly adjusting numbers from years past doesn't make much sense. The name goes on the homicide board when it's ruled a homicide.

And just as Street's death gets counted this year, adding to the total, others do not make it. Killings that occur in the state-run prison system in the city are investigated by state police, and don't go on the list. Likewise for killings along highways investigated by the Maryland Transportation Authority police. Justified killings -- whether by police or civilians -- don't go up.

The city's homicide count is really a list of murders investigated by Baltimore police.

Two years ago, I did a column on this. The numbers are from 2008, but the idea is the same:

Counting the dead should be a straightforward task.

The latest figures compiled by Baltimore police put the number of slayings so far this year at 182, down from 251 at this time last year. It is a count kept on a board in the department's homicide office, and it is used daily by the media, politicians and police to gauge the level of violence in the city.

Here's what is not on that list: the death of Turner Jordan Nelson, the 3-year-old who was thrown off the Baltimore end of the Key Bridge back in February. His killing was investigated not by the city but by the Maryland Transportation Authority Police.

Here's what is on that list: The death of Dominic Faw, gunned down on Eutaw Street near Camden Yards - back on Oct. 1, 1995. Faw died March 22 of renal failure linked to the bullet wound to the chest, making the 29-year-old the city's 157th homicide victim of 2008.

I understand the police can't keep going back to previous years and rejuggling the numbers. Faw's death has to be recorded someplace, and his name goes on the list kept by police when the medical examiner rules the death a homicide. There have been nearly 10 so-called "time-delayed" deaths since January.

But leaving Turner off and Faw on is misleading if you want to know how many people were actually killed in the city this year. Faw was a victim of violence that occurred 13 years ago.

Dr. David R. Fowler, Maryland chief medical examiner, said the list of killings he keeps is typically longer than lists of killings kept by police agencies. His is a medical definition - a homicide is a "death at the hands of another" - while police and prosecutors use a legal definition, considering, for example, whether the homicide was committed in self-defense.

If a hunter in the woods shoots at a deer and hits and kills a person instead, Fowler said he rules the death a homicide. Police might rule it an accident because there was no intent to kill. Fowler's job is to determine if a death is a homicide; law enforcement must then decide if the homicide is a murder.

"Ours is a big number," Fowler said of his homicide count. "It is legitimate that police fold, bend and mutilate the number to some degree. They are looking for a criminal act. If there is no criminal act, they can legitimately ignore it."

Fowler dismisses the murder tally. "The raw number to me is a misnomer," he said, explaining quite rightly that it is the homicide rate that really matters.

"If you have a thousand people in your city and 300 get killed, that would be horrific," he said. "If you have a million in your city and 300 get killed, that would be far less severe."

Baltimore's murder rate last year was 44 per 100,000 people; the city is on pace this year to record a rate of about 32, which still puts us in the top tier of deadly American cities.

Baltimore recorded more than 300 killings each year for a decade in the 1990s, and each year we had a macabre race to see whether we'd once again hit that number - the determining factor of whether the city's affliction with violence was getting better or worse.

In 1999, then-Mayor Martin O'Malley complained of the "ghoulish fascination with waiting around for the 300th body to hit the pavement" and then promptly came up with his own number, vowing to cut the murders down to 175 - a foolish promise that has yet to be fulfilled.

Baltimore police spokesman Sterling Clifford calls the homicide count what it really is, a "murder count," in that it lists only unjustified homicides investigated by the city.

Here are some more deaths that aren't on this year's list: Twelve fatal shootings by city police officers and one of a robbery suspect by a gas station owner, all ruled justified or still being investigated. On the list: the fatal shooting of a man by a city police officer who has been charged with manslaughter.

Not on the list: the killings of two prisoners in the state-run prerelease center in the city, investigated by the Maryland Division of Correction. On the list: a missing man whose body has not been found. Detectives, Clifford said, "believe there is compelling evidence that a person who disappeared is dead."

The police spokesman told me he finds it interesting that I'm questioning the murder numbers at a time when the murder numbers are down, but the media are quick to use the numbers to call the city unsafe when the count goes up. I argue that the media, politicians and police are all guilty of making these numbers into something they're not. 

Posted by Peter Hermann at 7:14 AM | | Comments (3)
Categories: Confronting crime

November 22, 2010

Teen found dead in Mass. suburb had Baltimore ties

A mutilated body found last week in an affluent Massachusetts suburb was identified as a 16-year-old who had recently moved from Baltimore to North Carolina, and officials are investigating whether he was trying to make his way back to the city, officials said.

Remains found last week in a secluded area of Milton, Mass. were confirmed through finerprints to be that of 16-year-old Delvonte Tisdale, according to the Norfolk County district attorney’s office. Tisdale had been reported missing 800 miles away by his father in North Mecklenburg, N.C., hours before the body was discovered.

A half-brother in Baltimore, 18-year-old Craig Tisdale, speculated that Tisdale may have hitched a ride with two friends headed for Boston, with a goal of being dropped off in Baltimore, according to the Boston Globe.

The district attorney’s office was asking anyone in Baltimore with information to call them at 781-830-4800, ext. 215.

“He moved from Baltimore a couple of years ago, but he still has family there,” Traub said. “We’re specifically requesting that anyone who might have information about the period just before his death to contact us.”

Public records indicated that Tisdale’s father had previously lived in the Harwood neighborhood of North Baltimore, near Charles Village. Reached by The Sun, a sister in Baltimore, whose Facebook posts about the death were widely disseminated in media reports, declined to comment.

Posted by Justin Fenton at 4:50 PM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Crime elsewhere, North Baltimore

Video: Baltimore police officers caught in tornado

Sunday's Crime Scenes column featured two Baltimore police officers who were caught in last week's tornado.

Here is their account on video:



Posted by Peter Hermann at 4:12 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Northeast Baltimore

Study: Baltimore 11th in violent crime

CQ press is out with its annual rankings of "most violent cities" - a list based on FBI data that gets civic leaders grumbling each year - and Baltimore is ranked 11th.

As we've noted here, these types of rankings have to be taken with a grain of salt - the FBI cautions against ranking cities due to variances in how cities collect data, as well as other factors such as how city boundaries are drawn (for example, the boundaries of cities like Washington DC and Baltimore are tightly drawn around their urban core, while others have miles of safer suburban communities included in their city limits that can dilute their crime numbers). The U.S. Conference of Mayors has assailed the latest rankings as "a premeditated statistical mugging of America's cities."

As an example of how shaky the data can be, New Orleans, which is far and away the most murderous city in the country, checks in at just 13th on this list for total violence. 

Still, it's hard to argue that the cities on this list don't belong. 

Here's the full list, via the Associated Press: 

1. St. Louis, MO

2. Camden, NJ

3. Detroit, MI

4. Flint, MI

5. Oakland, CA

6. Richmond, CA

7. Cleveland, OH

8. Compton, CA

9. Gary, IN

10. Birmingham, AL

11. Baltimore, MD

12. Memphis, TN

13. New Orleans, LA

14. Jackson, MS

15. Little Rock, AR

16. Baton Rouge, LA

17. Buffalo, NY

18. New Haven, CT

19. Hartford, CT

20. Dayton, OH

21. Kansas City, MO

22. Washington, DC

23. Newark, NJ

24. Cincinnati, OH

25. Atlanta, GA
Posted by Justin Fenton at 10:57 AM | | Comments (4)

City police search for robbery suspect

An alert from Baltimore Police:

On November 3, 2010, An 85 year old man was walking into his house in the 300 blk E Lafayette Ave. He was approached by a suspect who began to choke him and then robbed him. The victim was not injured during the incident but money was taken from him.
Attached are surveillance photos taken from the area.
The suspect is described as a B/M, 5'11, 180 pounds, 35-40 years old.
Anyone with information should contact the Eastern District at

Posted by Peter Hermann at 10:50 AM | | Comments (2)
Categories: Confronting crime, East Baltimore

Baltimore County police search for purse snatcher

Baltimore County police put out this alert:

Baltimore County Police need the public’s help in identifying a man responsible for a November 10, robbery that occurred in the 9700-block of Groffs Mill Road, 21117. He is described as a white male, 20-30 years old, 5’9” tall, 170 pounds, with a medium build, fair complexion, and short brown hair. He was last seen wearing a gray hooded sweatshirt and blue jeans.

On November 10, at approximately 9:00 p.m. Baltimore County Police responded to the  Giant food store located in the 9700-block of Groffs Mill Road for a robbery. Police spoke with the victim who advised that she was walking through the store when the suspect forcibly took her purse and ran out of the food store. The suspect was last seen running toward the north end of the shopping center.

Police are investigating a similar case in the Pikesville Precinct.
Anyone with information about this robbery case 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 7:44 AM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Baltimore County

November 21, 2010

Corrections officer slain in city; investigation leads to "standoff"

A city corrections officer was killed early Tuesday in East Baltimore, and the investigation into her death led to an hours long standoff in Northwest Baltimore that police believed was a barricade situation.

Sharon Jones, 28, was fatally shot in the upper body at about 3:40 a.m. while at a friend's house in the 1700 block of Aisquith St. in East Baltimore. Police later visited her home in the Cylburn neighborhood, where they found blood on the door and believed a man was inside. He wasn't, and police were searching for a "person of interest."

Jones was one of two three people killed over the weekend in Baltimore, including a 19-year-old man named Carlton Sellman who was shot in the stomach about 5 p.m. Saturday on Route 40 near Swann Avenue, near the Edmondson Village Shopping Center. Police also identified a man killed in a triple shooting on Poplar Grove St. as 29-year-old Jerry Thomas.

Posted by Justin Fenton at 8:45 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: East Baltimore, Northwest Baltimore, West Baltimore

November 20, 2010

Two city cops caught in tornado

For Baltimore police officers Cornelia Baines and Edson Musema, Wednesday's tornado was not just an event on television or even an after-the-fact rescue effort. The officers were inside their cruiser when the tornado passed over them at the Dutch Village apartment complex.

They're pictured here, along with their cruiser with its battered front end. Here is a bit of what they had to say:

Leaves, tree branches and other debris flew toward the cruiser’s windshield, plastering the front bumper. Baines watch a roof fly off a house. Parked cars spun.

“I could see this dark thing spreading,” Musema said. “It was coming toward us.”

Added his partner, Baines: “I just wanted to get out of there. I was scared. I’m not going to lie.”

I talked with both officers Friday just before their midnight shift, hearing what it's like inside a tornado and how the officers, despite being scared, rushed to help residents trapped in the rubble of collapsed houses.

I'll have more or their story in Sunday's Crime Scenes column.

Posted by Peter Hermann at 9:01 AM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Northeast Baltimore

November 19, 2010

Arrests in Remington, Charles Village carjackings

Two juveniles have been linked to a series of robberies and carjackings in the Remington and Charles Village areas, Baltimore police said.

After receiving reports of a rash of incidents in recent weeks and recovering a stolen car on Exeter Hall Avenue, the Regional Auto Theft Task Force began paying closer attention to the area, said Anthony Guglielmi, the department’s chief spokesman. They later located an additional two stolen vehicles and arrested two juveniles, one who confessed to several of the crimes.

“There was a lot of concern in the neighborhood – these were occurring at 6:30, 7 o’clock at night,” said Judith A. Kunst, president of the Greater Remington Improvement Association, who praised police for giving updates at a recent community meeting. 

Guglielmi said the investigation was continuing.
Posted by Justin Fenton at 5:52 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: North Baltimore

16-year-old stabbed in fight at Douglass High

Police say a 16-year-old suffered non-life-threatening injuries after being stabbed during a fight at Douglass High School this afternoon. At about 4 p.m. the boy was fighting with a group of males near the football field when he was stabbed in the back. He was transported to Sinai Hospital.

Police spokesman Anthony Guglielmi said police had not made any arrests and said the school was not having an event at the time of the stabbing.

Posted by Justin Fenton at 5:50 PM | | Comments (1)
Categories: West Baltimore

Federal officer given probation before judgment in "Bear Bear" dog shooting

Federal police officer Keith Elgin Shepherd was given probation before judgment today for shooting a Siberian husky he claimed was attacking his pet and threatening him and his wife at a community dog in Severn.

Anne Arundel County District Court Judge Thomas J. Pryal said he would convict Shepherd, 32, on charges of misdemeanor animal cruelty and discharging his personal handgun within 100 yards of homes in the Quail Run neighborhood, but offered Shepherd probation before judgment, which means Shepherd will have the chance to have his record expunged if he meets the terms of his probation.

Pryal fined Shepherd $500 for the animal cruelty charge, and gave him a suspended fine of $1,000 on the handgun charge. His probation will be unsupervised and will last one year, and Shepherd will have to perform 80 hours of community service.
Posted by Justin Fenton at 5:49 PM | | Comments (3)
Categories: Anne Arundel County

New state prosecutor for Md.

Gov. Martin O'Malley announced today that he has appointed Emmet C. Davitt to be Maryland's next state prosecutor. He replaces Robert A. Rohrbaugh, a holdover from the administration of former Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. who did not seek reappointment.

Davitt, who is currently deputy general counsel for the Public Service Commission, spent many years investigating fraud for the Attorney General's office and was a prosecutor in the felony narcotics unit of the Baltimore State's Attorney's office.

"Mr. Davitt is known for his sound judgment, his integrity, and his broad experience in working with law enforcement and grand juries in prosecuting cases across the state," O'Malley said in a statement.

Rohrbaugh, whose investigation of Mayor Sheila Dixon led to her resignation, said said in April that his tenure fighting corruption in the state has been "very difficult" and he is "not a fan" of politicians. The office includes four attorneys and prosecutes public corruption cases and campaign finance violations.

"We really don't have the funding, we don't have the tools, the right statutes," Rohrbaugh said in April. "Many, if not most, of the judges are very liberal."

Posted by Justin Fenton at 12:42 PM | | Comments (0)

November 18, 2010

Baltimore Guide police blotter

$37.41 worth of ice cream treats stolen from a 7-11. Someone walks into a bar, takes $400, and slips out. A man beats up his girlfriend and steals her cell phone and methadone. A neighbor tries to scare off men burglarizing a nearby house.

These aren't the kind of crimes that make the daily headlines, but once had a place in the Baltimore Sun's police blotter. That features has regrettably gone by the wayside with the departure of longtime night reporter Dick Irwin, who retired recently from The Sun, but the blotter lives on - at least in South and Southeast Baltimore - in the Baltimore Guide, which is still compiling a weekly blotter of those just-missed-the-news incidents from the neighborhood.

Here are some examples from this week's Guide blotter, compiled by Jacqueline Watts:

1100 block E. Fort Ave., Sunday, Nov. 7, 9 p.m.: Someone walked in through the back door of a bar/restaurant and stole $400 cash.

1600 block Light St., Friday, Nov. 12, 8:15 p.m.: A man tried to chase away burglars breaking into his neighbors house, and while they fled one of the suspects turned on the man with a knife. He was not injured, but he gave up the chase. The burglars made off with clothing and electronic gear worth $3,148.

1000 block S. Hanover St., Sunday, Nov. 7, 2:38 a.m.: A man shoplifted $37.41 worth of ice cream treats from a 7-Eleven.

1200 block Willliam St., Thursday, Nov. 11, 3:30 p.m.: Someone broke into a parked car and stole SWAT gear, including a bulletproof vest. The gear was later found by a citizen in his back yard and returned.

1200 block W. Pratt St., Friday, Nov. 12, 10:45 a.m.: A man was arrested for shoplifting a bag of Hershey bars worth $3.

700 block W. Cross St., Friday, Nov. 12, 3:30 p.m.: Someone stole the right front wheel and tire from a parked car.

Posted by Justin Fenton at 6:09 PM | | Comments (5)
Categories: South Baltimore, Southeast Baltimore

Police Chief: officer may have been wrong to accept Rice autograph

A week after a Baltimore County police spokesman said the officer who accepted an autograph from Ravens running back Ray Rice did not do anything wrong, the county's police chief, James W. Johnson, called me to clarify.

If you remember, the officer stopped Rice in his white Range Rover on Nov. 8 in the parking lot of an Owings Mills shopping center. The officer verbally warned the player that the tint on the vehicle's windshield appeared darker than the law allows.

Rice then posted this on Twitter: "Just got pulled over for my tints … but gave the officer a autograph for his son and he let me go." Later that day, Rice clarified his statement, telling reporters that he had offered his signature after the stop had been concluded.

Here is what Johnson had to say:

The chief agrees that the officer did not forgive a ticket in exchange for the signature. But he's contemplating whether the officer was right to accept the gift and he said he doesn't necessarily agree with the spokesman's statement that the autograph was not "a gift of monetary value."

"I think it's debatable whether this is in fact a gratuity," said Johnson, who would not rule out disciplinary action for the officer even though internal affairs detectives concluded their investigation and recommended the officer be cleared.

Johnson said the question for him is whether an autograph by a sports star "is a gratuitous act or merely an act of one human extending some arm of friendship to another. … This is not a closed matter. This is one of those cases that we need to step back on and slowly deliberate."
The chief's comments has reopened the debate and shows that it's not as clear-cut as it at first appeared. Today's story on the chief's comments can be found here. A more detailed column on questions raised by this issue can be found here.
Posted by Peter Hermann at 4:24 PM | | Comments (2)
Categories: Baltimore County, Breaking news

Juvenile services secretary steps down

Donald DeVore, the state's juvenile services secretary, is stepping down to pursue other opportunities, according to a statement from the agency.

DeVore, a former federal monitor for juvenile programs who was appointed in 2007, had come under fire at yesterday's Board of Public Works meeting for millions in contracts that were not bid and were brought to the state for approval after work had already begun.

Asked after the meeting whether he planned remain as secretary through O'Malley's second term, DeVore said he was having "private conversations" with the governor about that.

Under DeVore's tenure, juvenile homicides decreased nearly 50 percent - with even steeper drops in Baltimore - and facilities under no longer under federal oversight. But the agency remained plagued by some of the same problems he inherited, and a teacher at the Cheltenham Youth Facility was killed earlier this year, with a student charged in the murder.

More: Maryland Politics blog.

Posted by Justin Fenton at 4:22 PM | | Comments (0)

Fire dog dies of cancer in Arundel

The Anne Arundel County Fire Department announced today that one of its dogs used to help in arson investigations has died. Iris, a Black Lab, had cancer. She had put her talents to use throughout the area, including helping in the Dawson case, the Baltimore family that perished in a fire set by drug dealers angry that the Dawson's had called police on them.

Here is a statement and an obit on the dog:

County Executive John R. Leopold and Fire Chief John Robert Ray regretfully announce that the County Fire Department’s first Accelerant K-9, a Black Lab named Iris, has succumbed to cancer.  In August 2010, K-9 Iris was diagnosed with cancer. A cancerous tumor was removed form her right leg.  In November 2010, the tumor returned, ruptured, and was deemed in-operable.  K-9 Iris was laid to rest on the afternoon of November 17, 2010.  

“The loss of a pet, especially a pet who has not only been a companion, but a work partner can be very difficult.  My heart goes out to Investigator Wilson and K-9 Iris’ extended Fire Department Family.  As a pet owner I know this sense of loss” said County Executive John R. Leopold.  

K-9 Iris was born on February 7, 1999. She was raised in Edgewater, Maryland, surrogate puppy raisers for the Guiding Eyes for the Blind’s Guide Dog Program. Iris went to the Seeing Eye K-9 training program in Massachusetts when she was 18 months old.

Unfortunately, she did not successfully complete the program because she would rather chase squirrels than lead people. She was then referred to the Federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms (ATF).

For more information:

K-9 Iris was sent to the ATF K-9 Training Academy in Front Royal, Virginia for the testing of accelerants and explosives. She completed an eight week imprinting process where she learned to recognize the ignitable liquids ranging from alcohol to gasoline.

At the end of that period, she was joined with her new handler Investigator Doug Wilson of the Anne Arundel County Fire Department where they completed an additional five weeks of intense training.  K-9 Iris and Investigator Doug Wilson graduated from the ATF K-9 Training Academy on March 21, 2001.

Upon graduation K-9 Iris was made a full member of the Anne Arundel County Fire Department. Her badge number was 911. She wore her badge on her collar proudly. “K-9 Iris was a great asset to the Fire Department and an integral part of the investigatory team.

Her work over the last decade has helped to protect and save lives in Anne Arundel County and surrounding Jurisdictions’.”  

On April 1, 2001, K-9 Iris and Investigator Wilson became the first Accelerant Detection K-9 team in the history of the Anne Arundel County Fire Department. Over the next seven years, Investigator Wilson and K-9 Iris assisted in fire investigations in numerous states along the Mid-Atlantic region. K-9 Iris participated in over 70 arrests; including, three where she identified the arsonists as they stood in the crowd at incident scenes.  

K-9 Iris also participated in several highly publicized fire investigations. The first was the Dawson family fire in Baltimore City. In this case, K-9 Iris identified numerous articles of evidence which played a major role in the conviction of the drug dealer responsible for setting the fire.  K-9 Iris also participated in the D.C. serial arsonist investigation, where she was involved in multiple property searches.

The ATF obtained convictions in both of these cases, with the assistance of the Accelerant Detection K-9 teams who were involved.

K-9 Iris also showed off her talents at the Anne Arundel County Fire Department Fire Expo every year she was in service. During the Fire Expo, hundreds of her trading cards were given out to children.  She also made appearances at many county schools and showed off her accelerant detection skills.

K-9 Iris retired from the Anne Arundel County Fire Department in February 2008 at a ceremony at the Arundel Center in Annapolis where County Executive John R. Leopold presented “Iris” with a great big bone in honor of her service to the County.

K-9 Iris quickly became accustomed to retired life learning how to eat out of a bowl and getting treats she had never experienced while being on the job. K-9 Iris spent most of her time with her handler who also retired shortly after K-9 Iris. The two of them enjoyed retirement together as man and his best friend.

Shortly after K-9 Iris’s retirement, a second Accelerant K-9 was obtained by the County Fire Department in the spring of 2009. The current K-9 named Kinder, is a yellow Labrador Retriever who proudly serves the Department.

Posted by Peter Hermann at 3:21 PM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Anne Arundel County

Man in standoff found dead

A man who police say shot and wounded his wife and then barricaded himself in his Baltimore County house in Randallstown for hours was found dead inside this afternoon, a police spokesman said.

Police identified him as Terrence Joseph Wilson, 36, who lived in the 9500 block of Oak Trace Way in a subdivision off Liberty Road. His wife, who escaped the house before the standoff, was being treated at Maryland Shock Trauma Center for multiple gunshot wounds. The couple's 8-year-old boy also escaped unharmed and was being taken care of by relatives.

Police did not immediately say how the man died.

The standoff started about 9:30 a.m. when the wife called 911 to report an assault. Officers pulled up to the house, heard a commotion and said the wounded woman ran outside with the child. The man remained inside with a gun, police said.

Lt. Robert McCullough, a Baltimore County Police spokesman, said tactical officers went into the house about 1:15 p.m. and found the man dead.

Posted by Peter Hermann at 1:28 PM | | Comments (2)
Categories: Baltimore County, Breaking news

Police at scene of shooting, barricade in Randallstown

A man shot a woman this morning inside her house in Randallstown and has now barricaded himself inside, according to Baltimore County Police. Heavily armed SWAT officers are the scene in the 9500 block of Oak Trace Way, in the Kings Park community off Liberty Road.

Cpl. Mike Hill, a police spokesman, said the wounded woman along with a child escaped. The woman has been flown to Maryland Shock Trauma Center, but her condition and types of wounds have not yet been disclosed. The child was not harmed.

Hill said the woman called police about 9:30 a.m. to report an assault. Officers pulled up and heard a commotion, Hill said, and then the woman ran out of the house with the child. The relationship between the woman and man is not yet known, Hill said.

Police said the man does not have any hostages but that he is armed. The neighborhood has been sealed off due to the standoff. 

Posted by Peter Hermann at 10:17 AM | | Comments (4)
Categories: Baltimore County, Breaking news

Juveniles charged in nature center break-in

Two youths, ages 11 and 14, have been charged as juveniles with breaking into the Carrie Murray Nature Center and stealing a dozen animals. A police spokesman confirmed the charges this morning but had no further details.

The boys could have been arrested or charged and left in the custody of their parents pending their court date. Police said the nature center at the edge of Leakin Park was broken into twice, once over the weekend, and then again Monday night or early Tuesday.

Among the animals stolen were gechos, chameleons, turtles, an iguana and a Madagascar hissing cockroach. A tip led police on Tuesday to a house near the center, where they found all the animals unharmed. 

Posted by Peter Hermann at 7:47 AM | | Comments (12)
Categories: Breaking news, West Baltimore

Two shootings in Baltimore

Baltimore police issued this statement on an overnight shooting in West Baltimore and an update on a fatal shooting that occurred Wednesday afternoon:

11/18/10 - 0230 Hrs
2900 Blk of Edison Hwy (Northeast District)
On the above date at approximately 02:30 Hrs officers responded to the 3400 Blk of Elmora Avenue in response to a shooting call for service.  Upon arrival they discovered the victim (b/m 16yrs of age), suffering from a gunshot wound to the arm.  The victim advised that he was shot as he walking within the 2900 Blk of Edison Hwy when he was approached from the rear by two males, one of which who asked him to turn around.  As he did, one brandished a handgun and fired, striking the victim.  He was transported to an area hospital and expected to recover.  At present, no suspects or motives.  
HOMICIDE (Additional Info)
11/17/10 - 12:37 Hrs
2000 Blk of W. Lanvale Street (Western District)
On the above date and time officers responded to the location for report of a shooting.  Upon arrival they discovered victim, Marcus Brown (b/m 2/2/90), laying on the sidewalk suffering from apparent gunshot wounds.  Medics responded and transported Mr. Brown to Shock Trauma were he was pronounced at 13:25 Hrs.  At present, no suspects or motives.

Posted by Peter Hermann at 7:38 AM | | Comments (1)
Categories: East Baltimore, West Baltimore

November 17, 2010

Human trafficking, violence in Annapolis brings indictment

The Annapolis Capital reports on a 2008 double shooting that left one man dead and sparked a two-year investigation into a prostitution ring being run by illegal aliens in Annapolis, Easton and elsewhere. It notes strong-arm tactics employed by rival pimps trying to intimidate each other, and women forced into prostitution:

The investigation into the murder of Ricardo Humberto Rivas-Ramirez, 34, and the shooting of the woman at 12:30 a.m. Sept. 13, 2008, led to the unraveling of the suspected prostitution enterprise and Monday's arrests, authorities said.

As Annapolis detectives worked the case, it was apparent the operation had spread to multiple jurisdictions. In March of this year other agencies - including ICE, police in Easton and Washington, D.C., and Delaware and Virginia state police - were brought in to assist. Authorities said the case came under federal jurisdiction when evidence was found that the women involved in the ring were transported across state lines.

Read more here.

Posted by Justin Fenton at 8:28 PM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Anne Arundel County

Comptroller "fed up" with "sloppiness" at Juvenile Services agency

Comptroller Peter Franchot blasted the state Department of Juvenile Services for "administrative sloppiness" that led to a request this morning for the approval of $171 million in no-bid contracts for which work has already been performed, reports Julie Bykowicz over at The Sun's Maryland Politics blog.

DJS Secretary Donald W. DeVore said he has made personnel changes and warned his agency officials of "dire consequences" if they continue to circumvent state procurement procedure. He also said he is implementing better contract tracking tools, included a color-coded "dashboard."  

"I'm fed up with it," Franchot said, adding that DeVore has "no credible explanation for why it happened." The multi-year contracts date to July 2008, though some were entered as recently as August of this year, and were uncovered by state auditors.

Posted by Justin Fenton at 3:53 PM | | Comments (1)

Does this man deserve a parking ticket?

Here's the quandary of the day:

Whit MacCuaig lives on Gough Street in Upper Fells Point. He's twice been victimized by crime (an assault and a burglary) and lives near where several people were violently attacked this past summer.

Twice a week, he comes home late from school, and to avoid lugging his laptop computer on dark neighborhood streets, he double-parks, runs in to dump off the computer and comes back to begin what can be an arduous search for a parking space.

In September, he got a $252 ticket for impeding traffic.

Gough Street is wide and he says cars were able to get by both him and the parking agent as she wrote the ticket.

Question is does he deserve to be ticketed? A full story is posted here and many have already weighed in, pro and con, with some suggesting he's wrong and deserves the fine and other saying he was trying to be prudent and shouldn't be penalized.

I've seen many people in my neighborhood double park, sometimes blocking an entire street, to quickly unload groceries or take babies inside. That seems acceptable and being patient is part of understanding the difficulties of parking in the city.

Should the parking agent investigated a bit and use what some readers are calling "common sense" to determine that the driver has a good reason for briefly double-parking? Or did the agent have every right to issue the fine? 

Posted by Peter Hermann at 2:41 PM | | Comments (8)
Categories: Southeast Baltimore

New details in indictment of Clarksville couple tied to Johnson corruption probe

The owners of a Langley Park liquor store who were swept up as part of a broad corruption probe paid bribes to Prince George's County officials and hid $400,000 in cash in their closet, federal prosecutors said in court Tuesday according to the Washington Post.

FBI wiretaps captured conversations between Amrik S. Melhi and public officials about bribes Melhi paid in exchange for official acts, Assistant U.S. Attorney David Copperthite said during a detention hearing for Melhi. Melhi, 51, and his wife, Ravinder K. Melhi, 49, also talked to each other about paying off county officials.

Prosecutors did not specify who allegedly received the bribes or what the officials did in exchange for the payoffs. But the revelations in U.S. District Court in Greenbelt show the broadening scope of the federal corruption investigation in Prince George's.

Posted by Justin Fenton at 11:38 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Crime elsewhere

Arundel police trying to ID theft suspect

From Anne Arundel County Police:

Over the past several months, there have been several thefts from vehicles parked in county parks, school parking lots and other public parking lot areas. These thefts have occurred in the Pasadena and Crofton areas. In many of these cases, credit cards were stolen.

The Anne Arundel County Police Department is attempting to identify the female in the attached video surveillance photographs. This female has used credit cards stolen from some of these vehicles to purchase items from the grocery stores in Pasadena, Crofton and Glen Burnie. There may also be other people involved in these thefts as well.

The Anne Arundel County Police Department is asking anyone who can identify the female seen in the photographs or who might have any information pertaining to these thefts to contact Detective Price of the Anne Arundel County Police Department’s Eastern District Detective Unit at 410-222-6145 or contact Detective Connor of the Anne Arundel County Police Department’s Western District Detective Unit at 410-222-6155.

Metro Crime Stoppers:

If you have information on the above incidents, please call, email, or text your tip to Metro Crime Stoppers Hotline Available 24-Hours A Day Toll Free at 1-866-7LOCKUP or Text “MCS plus your message” to CRIMES (274637). Visit the website at

Phone calls are not recorded and callers remain anonymous. You may also be eligible for a cash reward of up to $2,000    

Posted by Peter Hermann at 9:00 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Anne Arundel County

Man shot on East Northern Parkway

Baltimore police are investigating a shooting in Northeast Baltimore. A department spokesman, Kevin Brown, issued a statement with morning, which includes some updated crime stats showing drops in homicides and non-fatal shootings this year compared to last:

11/16/10 - 01:15 Hrs
1500 Blk of E. Northern Parkway (Northeast District)
At approximately 01:20 Hrs, officers responded to the above location in response to a shooting call for service. Upon arrival they discovered the victim (b/m 8/18/80) suffering from a gunshot wound to the leg. Same advised that as he was approaching a doorway within the block when he was approached by two unidentified black male subjects dressed in all black clothing who displayed a handgun. The victim then began running and was shot as he fled. Same was transported to an area hospital and expected to recover. At present, no suspects or motives.  
2010: 193
2009: 201
Thus, we are down 8 actual homicides for a 4% reduction over last year at this time.
2010: 369
2009: 399
Thus, we are down 30 actual non-fatal shootings for a 7.5% reduction over last year at this time.

Posted by Peter Hermann at 8:48 AM | | Comments (2)
Categories: Northeast Baltimore

Man gets 12 years in assault that blinded officer

James Kimble, 20, was sentenced to serve 12 years in prison for attacking a Baltimore police officer in Harford County -- an assault so severe that it left the officer legally blind and probably unable to work again.

The Sun's police reporter, Justin Fenton, wrote:

The doctors told Detective Jermaine Cook that the injury to his left eye was like placing a grape in a bag, slicing it in half, and then smashing it flat.

The beer mug slung at his face by a Joppa man in May had caused irreparable damage. Cook, a Baltimore police officer who patrolled the toughest parts of the city, is now legally blind and can't drive long distances or at night. He's had trouble taking care of his children without assistance and has seen his income — which used to include significant overtime pay — drop substantially.

He may never be able to return to work, said his wife Tuesday, reading a letter from Cook to Harford County Circuit Court Judge Stephen M. Waldron as Cook looked at the floor.

Prosecutor Daniel Ryden was even less optimistic about Cook's prognosis.

"The damage to his eye was nothing short of catastrophic," Ryden said. "He will never work as a police officer again."

November 16, 2010

Exotic animals stolen from nature center recovered

The exotic animals stolen in two break-ins at the Carrie Murray Nature Center in West Baltimore have been found safe in a rowhouse in West Baltimore, according to city police.

Anthony Guglielmi, the department's chief spokesman, said detectives got a tip from a resident that he saw juveniles carrying the animals into a house in the 5000 block of Clifton Ave. Within the hour, police were at the house and said they found the dozen animals unharmed. They include an iguana, several turtles and a Madagascar hissing cockroach.

Earlier today, police suspected an inside job because in break-ins over the weekend and Monday night, the alarm had been turned off. Entry had been gained through a rear door and an unlocked window.

But now police said they suspect neighborhood youths. No charges have filed yet; Guglielmi said detectives are "debriefing the people" inside the house. "At this point, it does not appear to be an inside job."

The house in which the animals were found are on the western edge of Leakin Park, near the Carrie Murray Nature Center.

Posted by Peter Hermann at 2:44 PM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Breaking news, West Baltimore

Body found in box off I-70 in Western Maryland

Maryland State Police issued this statement a few minutes about a body found along a highway in Western Maryland:

Maryland State Police homicide investigators are investigating a body found inside a box off of a highway in Frederick County. The victim can only be described as an adult at this time.  No identification has been found.

The body has been taken to the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner in Baltimore for an autopsy and to continue efforts to identify the victim.

The preliminary investigation indicates that at approximately 9:45 a.m. today, a  State Highway Administration maintenance crew was working roadside along westbound I-70, at mile marker 48 near Braddock Mountain, when they discovered a box. The box was barely visible off the shoulder of the highway in a wooded, roadside embankment. The contents of the box appeared to be that of a deceased human body. The workers immediately called state police.  

Due to this being a possible homicide, members of the State Police Homicide Unit responded to conduct the investigation. They were assisted by sheriff deputies and state troopers from the Frederick County Bureau of Investigation, crime scene technicians from the State Police Forensic Sciences Division and forensic experts from the Office of the State Medical Examiner.  

At this time, the cause of death has not yet been determined. Investigators are awaiting autopsy results.  It is unknown, at this time, how long the body has been in the wooded, roadside embankment.

Police are asking anyone with information that may be relevant to this case to please contact Frederick County Law Enforcement Center 301-600-4151. This investigation is active and ongoing.

Posted by Peter Hermann at 1:31 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Breaking news, Crime elsewhere

Nature center broken into again

UPDATE: Baltimore police say two chameleons were stolen in the latest break-in at the Carrie Murray Nature Center. Police said someone got in through an unlocked window. Over the weekend, someone broke in through a door and authorities said they alarm system had been turned off. Police are now investigating whether a staffer or a volunteer is responsible.


Baltimore police confirmed this morning that they are back at the Carrie Murray Nature Center in Leakin Park investigating another break-in. As you may recall, someone got into the preserve over the weekend and stole several animals, including a beloved iguana, turtles, two geckos and a Madagascar hissing cockroach.

The police report for that incident noted that the building's alarm system "has been suspended for over two years." 

This morning, Baltimore police spokesman Jeremy Silbert said: "We are on the scene of another reported burglary at the location. There were some animals that were taken. I have no specifics yes as to what it was."

UPDATE: A spokeswoman for the Baltimore Department of Parks and Recreations told me this morning that no animals were taken but that the center was vandalized. We'll have fuller details once police finish up at the scene.

Posted by Peter Hermann at 10:57 AM | | Comments (5)
Categories: Breaking news, West Baltimore

Officer linked to federal investigaton is fired

Last week, word spread quickly through the Baltimore Police Department that an officer had been arrested in connection with a federal drug investigation. Charges haven't been filed, but police are confirming that the officer was fired and his attorney is discussing the arrest in a story in this morning's paper.

Officer Keith Nowlin, who was assigned to the Northeast District, was communicating with a suspected drug dealer who asked him to run a tag number of a vehicle being operated by an undercover law enforcement officer. Attorney Warren Brown calls the incident are "much ado about nothing," saying that interaction was the only time Nowlin is documented as helping the dealer out.

Of arguably greater interest is how Nowlin joined the force at all:

Records show Nowlin came to the department with a long legal history. In the court system's online database, Nowlin appears more times as a defendant — in numerous civil and domestic violence cases — than he does as an arresting officer.

Between 2002 and 2005, he was listed as a defendant in five domestic violence cases in Prince George's County and Baltimore involving two women. In 2002, he was acquitted of burglary and felony theft charges in Baltimore Circuit Court when the case was dropped.

Brown has represented Nowlin in some of those cases and said his client also worked as a bail bondsman.
Posted by Justin Fenton at 7:48 AM | | Comments (3)
Categories: Northeast Baltimore

November 15, 2010

Missing cockroach, other wildlife

If you see a Madagascar Hissing cockroach, call Baltimore police.

Same for six turtles ( one Eastern Box, two Susquehanna Maps and three Red-Ear Sliders), two geckos (a Gargoyle and a Tangerine Flat Tail) and one 3-foot-long iguana.

These are among the exotic wildlife stolen over the weekend during a break in at the Carrie Murray Nature Center in West Baltimore’s Leakin Park, according to a Baltimore police report filed on Monday.

The preserve, named after Orioles great Eddie Murray’s mother, helps educate youth and others about a variety of animals, from insects to hawks and beavers to song birds.

Two months ago, the center held its 11th annual bug fest that included cockroach races, bug hikes and insect cuisine. City police say they have no suspects in the break-in, which occurred sometime between 4:30 p.m. Saturday and 9:17 a.m. Monday.

A naturalist told police that he had “locked and made sure the center was secured” when he left Saturday but returned Monday to open and found the front and back doors unlocked and mulch from the cockroach cage covering the floor.

Posted by Peter Hermann at 4:41 PM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Breaking news, West Baltimore

Man arrested in theft from mayor's husband's car

A 45-year-old man has been charged with stealing a satellite radio from the vehicle of Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake's husband last week, police announced.

The radio was stolen from the vehicle of Kent Blake, which was apparently unlocked and parked out of view of the mayor's executive protection detail in the Coldspring neighborhood of North Baltimore. But cameras captured an image of the suspect, and officers located him in the neighborhood over the weekend and took him in for questioning.

Anthony Thomas was wearing the same outfit as the man in the video, and he admitted that he stole the radio because he was hungry and needed money to support his drug habit, according to Anthony Guglielmi, the department's chief spokesman.

Thomas told police that he sold the radio for $10. He is charged with larceny, Guglielmi said.

Posted by Justin Fenton at 1:33 PM | | Comments (17)
Categories: North Baltimore

Three PG County cops arrested by FBI

UPDATE: The U.S. Attorney's Office just sent out a press release and the indictments, which make no mention of the Johnson case. According to the documents, the officers are charged in an extortion scheme involving the transport of untaxed cigarettes and alcohol.

Here's the statement:

"In two indictments unsealed today, a federal grand jury has indicted a total of nine defendants, including three Prince George’s County Police officers.  Seven defendants, including two of the officers, are charged in the first indictment with conspiring to commit extortion under color of official right in a scheme involving the transport and distribution of untaxed cigarettes and alcohol.  The second indictment charges the third officer and another man with a drug and gun conspiracy.  The indictments were returned on October 14, 2010 and unsealed following the arrests of the defendants and execution of search warrants today, in a coordinated operation that involved approximately 150 law enforcement officers."


The Washington Post is reporting that three Prince George's County police officers have been arrested in the investigation centered on County Executive Jack Johnson, who was arrested Friday at his home.

Two of the officers taken into custody Monday morning have been identified as Sgt. Rich Delabrer and Cpl. Chong Kim, sources familiar with the arrests told the Post. A third as yet unidentified officer was also taken into custody in Beltsville.

Prosecutors on Friday called the arrests of Johnson and his wife the "tip of the iceberg" in a long-term investigation.

Posted by Justin Fenton at 10:27 AM | | Comments (2)
Categories: Crime elsewhere

State police rescue hiker with helicopter

The Maryland State Police aviation unit rescued a hiker in Frederick on Sunday. Here is a statement describing the incident:

Two Maryland State Police Helicopters collaborated with a regional Helicopter Emergency Aerial Tactical, or "HEAT" team, comprised of members from the Frederick County Advanced Technical Rescue Team, to successfully rescue an injured hiker from a steep and rugged area on the face of Sugarloaf Mountain.

At approximately 12:59 p.m. on Sunday, November 11, 2010, SYSCOM, the communications center for the Maryland State Police Aviation Command, received a request from the Frederick County Emergency Operations Center for a hoist rescue and medevac of a 17 year-old male hiker who had fallen approximately 30-50 ft down the mountain, sustaining serious injuries.

Due to the remote location of the patient and the steep terrain that would have to be overcome, it was determined that an overhead hoist rescue would be the safest means of removal, for both the
patient and the rescuers. SYSCOM in turn dispatched the two closest multi-mission helicopters to the scene.

MSP Helicopter Trooper 3, based in Frederick County, was dispatched along with Trooper 2, based in Prince George’s County. Trooper 2 responded to the scene to meet Trooper 3. After size-up and coordination, it was determined that Trooper 2 would utilize the hoist to lower a rescue litter to 6 HEAT personnel who had been able to maneuver to the patient on foot utilizing ropes. Once the HEAT personnel had the rescue litter on the ground, they loaded the patient into it and then tended trail lines, to guide the victim, as he was lifted by Trooper 2’s hoist, back up to the

The patient was flown back to a hard surface landing area where Trooper 3 was waiting. The injured
hiker was seamlessly transferred to Trooper 3, where the victim was subsequently transported to the R Adams Cowley Shock Trauma Center in Baltimore. The victim remains hospitalized at this time, recovering from his injuries.

HEAT Teams are regionalized resources of specially trained firefighters who are equipped and available Statewide to assist MSP Aviation Command with performing a wide range of rescues using the multi-mission capabilities of MSP helicopters. The Frederick County Advanced Technical Rescue HEAT Team generally assists on all aerial rescue requests in the mid-western portions of the State.

The Maryland State Police Aviation Command has served Maryland citizens since 1970, and operates a fleet of eleven (11) helicopters from seven (7) bases throughout the State on a 24/7/365 basis. Missions include medevac, law enforcement, search & rescue, homeland security, and disaster assessment. The success of rescues performed by the Aviation Command depends a great deal on the cooperative effort of local fire, rescue, EMS, and law enforcement agencies.

Posted by Peter Hermann at 10:07 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Heroes

Police make arrest in weekend slaying

Baltimore police have charged an uncle with killing his nephew Saturday night in Highlandtown. Here is a release just issued by city police:

400 Blk of East Street
11/13/2010 - 21:51 Hrs
In reference to the stabbing death of David Lawrence Hopkins (b/m 12/4/90), Dewayne Hopkins (b/m 12/23/65) [pictured at left] has been arrested and charged with murder yesterday evening. It appears that the incident stemmed from a family altercation. Suspect (uncle) victim (nephew). In the interim, please find attached his booking photo.

Meanwhile, here's some additional information on a shooting:

1700 Blk of Ellamont Ave (SWD)
11/14/2010 - 17:04 Hrs
On the above date and time officers responded to the location in response to a shooting call for service. Upon arrival officers located the victim, (b/m 12/29/88) lying in the grass suffering from gunshot wounds to a hand and leg.  Same was transported to an area hospital for treatment and expected to recover.  He advised that he was walking within the block when a small vehicle approached and a male exited, fired at him, returned to the vehicle, and fled.  No word as of yet on suspects or motives.

Here are some updated crime stats from the police:
2010: 193
2009: 200
Thus, we are down 7 actual homicides for a 3.5% reduction over last year at this time.
2010: 368
2009: 397
Thus, we are down 29 actual non-fatal shootings for a 7.3% reduction over last year at this time.
Posted by Peter Hermann at 8:25 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Breaking news, Confronting crime, East Baltimore

Has anyone been shot tonight?

Anyone who has staffed the phones at any city newspaper can recall a treasure-trove of off-the-wall calls. This one came into to our night reporter Jessica Anderson on Friday night:

Female caller: Hello. I live in Baltimore and I was just calling see if there were any shootings tonight.

Reporter: No, not that I am aware of. Have you heard of something?

Caller: No. I’m just trying to decide if I want to go out tonight.

Reporter: Well nothing yet but they tend to happen overnight. I think you are OK.

Lady: Oh. OK. Good!

Posted by Peter Hermann at 7:55 AM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Confronting crime, Crime humor

Violent weekend in city, counties

Shootings and other violence marred the weekend, and it wasn't limited to the city. There was a stabbing at a mall in Anne Arundel County, a teen arrested in a killing at a Glen Burnie pizza shop, a shooting in downtown Baltimore and windows shot out of cars in Cockeysville.

The picture here by Colby Ware for the Baltimore Sun shows a vigil held Sunday for a slain tow truck driver, 23-year-old Andy Joyce, who was shot and killed Nov. 1 in West Baltimore. 

Here are links to the stories:

A teenager was shot in the stomach Saturday night after he exchanged words with the driver and passengers of a vehicle in downtown Baltimore, near St. Paul and Lexington streets shortly after 10 p.m. A few minutes earlier, in the Highlandtown area, police were called to the 400 block of South East Avenue, where they found a 19-year-old man, David Lawrence Hopkins, who had been stabbed. Hopkins died Sunday.

A recent series of armed robberies on college campuses has Maryland students and security personnel on high alert. At least five people were held up on three campuses last week — at knife point at Loyola University Maryland and at gunpoint at both Towson University and the Essex campus of the Community College of Baltimore County.

Police have made three arrests in the Saturday night stabbing of an 18-year-old in the Arundel Mills Mall. The stabbing occurred at about 8:30 p.m. in the mall's food court, police said. Officers on foot patrol in the mall found the victim with a stab wound in the back.

Baltimore County police are investigating a shooting Sunday afternoon near the Loch Raven Reservoir in Cockeysville, where windows on several vehicles were shot out as the drivers slowed to navigate a bend in the road, said Cpl. George Erhardt. In Prince George's County, police are investigating more than 100 shootings of car windshields with a BB gun.

Anne Arundel County police have arrested a Pasadena teenager in the Friday night shooting death of a 20-year-old Glen Burnie man in a pizza shop on Baltimore-Annapolis Boulevard.

Horns blaring and yellow lights flashing and twirling, a caravan of tow trucks from a dozen companies filled the 500 block of Mosher St. in West Baltimore Sunday night, the same block where 23-year-old Andy Joyce was shot to death two weeks ago while making a service call that his boss says would have netted the young driver $15.

Cops, ethics and Ray Rice

It was a simple autograph.

Ray Rice gave it to a Baltimore County cop last week after getting stopped for having his windows on his Range Rover tinted darker than the law allows. At first, the question was whether the Ravens running back got a special favor.

The player Twittered after the stop: "... gave the officer a autograph for his son and he let me go."

Rice quickly denied a quid-pro-quo and both he and the Police Department said Rice got a verbal warning and then offered his autograph to the officer. Both said the officer did not solicit the signature.

A county police spokesman said no discipline would be handed out because the signature was not considered something of monetary value.

In Sunday's Crime Scenes, I explore this issue a bit further, recounting one of my own ethical issues and whether this whole issue has become overblown. Interestingly, I found that Rice's signature, especially it was on piece of police paraphernalia, could fetch $1,000:

Even if there was no quid pro quo, should the officer have accepted the autograph? In other words, should the officer have accepted a gift from a citizen he's investigating for a possible crime? Even if that crime is a traffic infraction? Even if the gift is just an autograph?

Lt. Robert McCullough, the chief spokesman for the Baltimore County Police Department, said the officer "treated Mr. Rice no differently than he would have treated any other motorist."

The agency has rules forbidding officers from accepting gratuities, but McCullough told me, "This was not a gift of monetary value." I'm sure the officer didn't even think beyond bringing a smile to his son's face, and who could begrudge a cop who puts his life on the line to protect us from accepting a token of appreciation every now and then?

Robbie Davis, the owner of Robbie's 1st Base in Lutherville, said Rice's is the Ravens' third-most-sought-after autograph after Ray Lewis and Joe Flacco. And he said Rice just signed an exclusive deal with a New York marketing company.

"A Ray Rice autograph, a week ago, was worth maybe $50," Davis told me. "Over the weekend, because of the deal, it's probably worth $100 now."

That's not all. It's unclear what item Rice put his signature on, but Davis said if it was the back of a police ticket book or any paper or item that would be exclusive to police work, the signature could be worth substantially more than $100.

"It's unique, Davis said. "If I had that autograph from that policeman, I could get a thousand bucks for it."
Posted by Peter Hermann at 7:28 AM | | Comments (3)
Categories: Baltimore County, Top brass

More time in school means less crime

It might seem obvious, but keeping kids in school does translate into less crime. The Baltimore Sun's Erica L. Green documents this trend with a story that combines interviews with kids, police and school officials.

The dropout rate for city students has plummeted this year, along with the rates for juvenile-involved crime and arrests, according to figures provided by the city school system and law enforcement agencies.

The encouraging development, officials say, is due in large part to close cooperation between the leaders of the city school system, the Police Department and the state juvenile corrections agency. City officials and others are expressing hope that Baltimore may have begun to break a cycle that some call the school-to-prison pipeline.

Since 2006, the number of children killed in the city has plunged by 80 percent, and the number of juveniles suspected in killings has dropped by about the same percentage.

The numbers come on the heels of the city recently celebrating a historically low dropout rate of 4 percent, and a record 66 percent graduation rate that the Baltimore school system said is driven primarily by achievements of black males.
Posted by Peter Hermann at 7:22 AM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Confronting crime, Courts and the justice system, Top brass

November 12, 2010

P.G. Exec Johnson charged with witness tampering, destruction of records

Newly unsealed documents show a frenzied Jack and Leslie Johnson attempting to hide evidence as FBI agents descended on their home this morning. Jack Johnson, the outgoing, two-term Democratic Prince George's County Executive, and Leslie Johnson, newly-elected to the Prince George's County council, had a brief hearing in federal court in Greenbelt this afternoon on charges including witness tampering and destruction of records.

The affidavit lays out Jack Johnson, who had been confronted by FBI agents this morning after being observed accepting a $15,000 check from a developer, speaking to his wife, who wanted advice on what to do about the agents waiting at the front door of their Mitchellville home. The Johnsons were unaware that his cell phone had been under a wiretap since January 2010.

"Don't answer it [the door]," Jack Johnson told his wife, according to the records. He told her to go to a bedroom drawer and grab a check from a developer - believed to be for $100,000, agents wrote. Leslie Johnson asked if she should get rid of cash that was in the drawer as well.

"Tear it up!" he said of the check. She asked about cash that was in the basement. "Put it in your bra and walk out or something, I don't know what to do," he told her.

He again told her to tear up the check, and she asked if she should flush it down the toilet. Agents wrote that a flushing sound could be heard over the call. That explains why a plumber was called to the home, as the Washington Post reported earlier today.

When agents entered the home, they searched Leslie Johnson and found $79,600 in cash in her underwear, according to records.

More broadly, the documents allege that since at least 2006, "certain real estate developers based in Prince George's County and their associates were regularly providing things of value to public officials in exchange for official acts that were favorable to these individuals and their companies."

Agents say Jack Johnson was recorded on Nov. 5 accepting $5,000 from a developer in return for him using his official influence and authority for the benefit of the developer and his companies. 

In another meeting, which documents say was "on or about Nov. 12," Johnson was recorded receiving $15,000 in cash from the same developer. FBI agents entered the room where the payment took place, identified themselves, and asked Johnson about the payments. He told them it was for a party marking the end of his tenure as county executive. He told the FBI he had "no business dealings with Developer A." Agents claim that exchange forms the basis to charge Johnson with making false statements to the FBI.

The agents seized the $15,000, and took his cell phone, which had been part of a wiretap investigation since January 2010. Johnson was told that he was not being arrested and was free to leave, and his phone was returned. It was then that Johnson and his wife exchanged a series of phone calls, all while agents listened in, according to records.

Here's more from the U.S. Attorney's Office press release:


U.S. Attorney Rod Rosenstein stated, “The investigations referenced in the criminal complaint are ongoing. Additional charges are expected.”

Special Agent in Charge Richard A. McFeely of the Federal Bureau of Investigation said, “These charges are the result of a long and complex investigation by the FBI in Prince George's County. Rooting out corruption is the FBI's top criminal priority and one we excel at.  This investigation will continue to seek out corrupt officials and acts within all levels of Prince George’s County government.  I encourage anyone with direct knowledge of illegal acts or who has any information concerning corrupt officials or acts in Prince George's County to contact the FBI at 410-265-8080.”                 

“IRS Criminal Investigation provides financial investigative expertise in our work with our law enforcement partners,” said IRS Special Agent In Charge Rebecca Sparkman. “Pooling the skills of each agency makes a formidable team as we investigate allegations of wrong-doing. Today's actions demonstrate our collective efforts to enforce the law and ensure public trust.”

According to the affidavit filed in support of the criminal complaint, the FBI initiated an investigation into allegations that certain real estate developers in Prince George’s County, Maryland were bribing public officials in exchange for official acts favorable to the developers and their companies.  The affidavit alleges that this and a related investigation led to a series of wiretap orders from September 2009 to the present.

The Prince George’s County Department of Housing and Community Development (“DHCD”) administered the HOME Investment Partnerships program, which provides federal grants to states and localities to fund the construction, purchase and/or rehabilitation of affordable housing for rent or home-ownership. According to the complaint, the Director of  DHCD has the authority to recommend which developers should receive HOME funds for development projects in the County.  A developer with projects in Prince George’s County sought and obtained HOME funds from the County for the developer’s projects.  The complaint alleges that Jack Johnson received cash and checks, including a $100,000 check, from the developer in return for Johnson’s help, in his official capacity as County Executive, in securing HOME funds for the developer’s projects.  

Further the complaint alleges that on November 12, 2010, the developer provided Jack Johnson with $15,000 in return for Johnson using his official influence and authority for the benefit of the developer and his companies.  Following the payment, FBI agents entered the room where the payment took place and asked Johnson about the payment.  Johnson was searched and the agents recovered the $15,000.  After Johnson was searched, he left the area and the affidavit alleges that he and Leslie Johnson exchanged a series of telephone calls and took steps to destroy evidence.  FBI agents entered the home and met Leslie Johnson at the door.  The agents searched Leslie Johnson and recovered approximately $79,000. 

Jack and Leslie Johnson face a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison each for tampering with a witness and evidence relating to the commission of a federal offense and for destruction, alteration and falsification of records in a federal investigation.  The Johnsons had their initial appearance in U.S. District Court in Greenbelt this afternoon.  They were released under the supervision of U.S. Pretrial Services.  Some of the conditions of their release include no financial transactions over $1,000 without prior approval; no destruction of evidence; and no obstruction of justice or hindering the FBI investigation.  In addition, Jack Johnson is on home detention with electronic monitoring.


Posted by Justin Fenton at 5:09 PM | | Comments (10)
Categories: Crime elsewhere

Prince George's County executive arrested

There are few details, but the Associated Press is reporting that Prince George's County Executive Jack Johnson has been taken into federal custody. Sources told the Washington Post that his wife, who was recently elected to the county council, was also arrested, and federal agents were executing search warrants on the county administrative building.

Johnson, a Democrat, has been executive since 2002, and was set to step down due to term limits. 

The Gazette reported in June that the state prosecutor's office had begun calling witnesses to investigate allegations that Johnson and several County Council members solicited bribes and favors while considering a $1 million annual lease for the county Department of Housing at the Four Points by Sheraton complex in New Carrollton last year. It was unclear whether today's arrest was connected to that investigation.

[AP photo]

Posted by Justin Fenton at 1:19 PM | | Comments (4)
Categories: Crime elsewhere

Tutor charged with stealing $100k from city school system meant for special education students

A 40-year-old Baltimore County woman has been indicted on charges that she billed the city school system for more than $100,000 in tutoring services that she never provided, the state prosecutor's office announced.

Prosecutors say that for three years, Tracy Denise Queen (seen at right) submitted false documentation and invoices to the school system for tutoring services for special education students through her home-based company Queen's Mobile Education.

School officials terminated her contract last year after discovering the scheme, but not before she had billed more than $100,000 for services that were not provided. Queen, who in an online resume says that she worked for 10 years overseeing special education services for the city school system, is also charged with attempted theft for invoices she submitted that were denied after officials realized the scheme.

State Prosecutor Robert A. Rohrbaugh said one of his first cases involved a group of people who conspired to defraud the city school system out of more than $4 million. Fourteen people were charged in connection with that scheme, which included charges of bribery and billing the city for unnecessary work.

"Six years later, we're still here," Rohrbaugh said. "Where's our state legislature in making sure the money they appropriate is properly used? The city schools system only has … three auditors for a billion dollar budget. Outrageous."

In a statement, he said "stealing from the school children of Baltimore City is a reprehensible offense that will not be tolerated."


Posted by Justin Fenton at 12:26 PM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Schools

November 11, 2010

City police union overwhelmingly rejects contract

The Baltimore police union voted overwhelmingly Thursday to reject a one-year contract that would have reduced wages by nearly 2 percent in exchange for five additional vacation days.

Ninety-five percent of the members of the Fraternal Order of Police voted against the proposal, angered by pay cuts coming on the heels of an overhaul of the public safety pension system implemented by Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, union president Robert F. Cherry said.

"It's not just a rejection of the city's best offer," said Cherry. "It's a rejection of the mayor and her inability to respect what these men and women do for the city every day and every night."

In an emailed statement, a spokesman for Rawlings-Blake said she was "disappointed but confident we can come to an agreement."

The mayor "is grateful that city employees understand that this economy has affected everyone," said spokesman Ryan O'Doherty. "The men and women of Baltimore Police Department have made tough sacrifices and continue to do their jobs even during tough times."

Posted by Justin Fenton at 9:19 PM | | Comments (1)
Categories: City Hall

Radio stolen from vehicle of Rawlings-Blake's husband

UPDATE: Police just made available the incident report, which states that an officer did not respond to take a report until 6:45 p.m., 12 hours after the theft was discovered and almost four hours after we first inquired. Police spokesman Anthony Guglielmi calls it a technicality, saying that the mayor's executive protection detail was notified immediately and that it took some time for the case to be turned over to the district.

A satellite radio system was stolen from the vehicle of Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake’s husband last night near their home in North Baltimore, officials confirmed.

The incident occurred Thursday morning, and officials said it appeared that the doors to the vehicle had been left unlocked as there was no damage to the vehicle.

The mayor’s security team was outside the Coldspring home at the time, but Kent Blake’s vehicle was parked out of view, said spokesman Ryan O’Doherty. Police spokesman Anthony Guglielmi said that the theft was discovered when Blake got into his car in the morning and realized the equipment was missing.

Officials declined further comment.

Last February, police and the Downtown Partnership launched a public relations campaign aimed at curbing car break-ins, asking people to help by not leaving items of value in their vehicles.

“We just need people to be responsible. Common sense. Secure your valuables,” Police Commissioner Frederick H. Bealefeld III said at the time.

The mayor can take solace in city crime statistics that show larcenies from automobiles this year are down 9 percent. However, they are up 6 percent in the Northern District, where she lives, compared with this time last year.

City officials, including past mayors, have not been immune from crime. In 2003, a 22-year-old homeless man was charged with stealing a gym bag from a truck parked behind the home of then-Mayor Martin O’Malley.

In 1972, then-Mayor William Donald Schaefer had a watch valued at $42 snatched from his wrist as his arm dangled out of his car at a stoplight. Schaefer chased the man but lost him. A man was shot near the home of Mayor Sheila Dixon in 2007, and sought help from an officer stationed outside her Southwest Baltimore home.

City Council President Bernard C. “Jack” Young, who lives in East Baltimore, also has a permit to carry a concealed handgun after he said he had been threatened by drug dealers.

Posted by Justin Fenton at 5:03 PM | | Comments (11)
Categories: Breaking news, City Hall, North Baltimore

Celebrity DJ from Baltimore charged in drug ring

Baltimore native Darrin Ebron, known to some in Hollywood as "the poor man's Puffy" for his fashion and entertainment businesses that endear him to stars such as Kanye West, Christina Aguilera and Justin Timberlake, has been accused in a suspected drug-smuggling operation that moved hundreds of pounds of cocaine to Baltimore, the Washington Times reported today.

[Photo from]

Mr. Ebron, who "kept the guests dancing" as the disc jockey when actor Eddie Murphy exchanged wedding vows with Tracey Edmonds in 2008 on a private island off Bora Bora, is named in a criminal complaint filed in federal court in Los Angeles as part of a drug conspiracy that shipped cocaine aboard private planes from Los Angeles to Baltimore for later distribution along the East Coast, the Times reported.

According to the complaint, Mr. Ebron and eight suspected co-conspirators were caught on surveillance and wiretaps plotting to distribute "large quantities of cocaine" to Baltimore, where Mr. Ebron was described as one of the "primary distributors."

The complaint, which authorizes Mr. Ebron's arrest, says the drugs were received from a Los Angeles supplier named Heriberto "Big Dog" Lopez and flown to Baltimore in 100-plus pound loads in private planes chartered by a Maryland man, Ricky James Brascom, who then arranged for the cash from the sale of the drugs to be flown back to Los Angeles.

As of this morning, Ebron's web site and his Facebook and Twitter pages had been disabled.

Posted by Justin Fenton at 10:17 AM | | Comments (1)

Stabbing, shooting in Baltimore

The Baltimore Police Department just released this statement about two overnight violent crimes:

11/10/10 - Approx. 18:60Hrs
4100 Blk of Amos Ave.
At approximately 18:55hrs officers responded to an area hospital for a cutting call for service.  Upon arrival they spoke to the victim, an adult black male (9/17/85) who advised he had been stabbed after an altercation over a debt incurred after a football game wager.  Investigation continues, to include cultivation of suspects. At last check the victim was in stable condition.  
11/11/10 - Approx. 0100Hrs
1200 Blk of Ward St. (Outside)
On the above date and time officers responded to the location for a shooting call for service.  Upon arrival they discovered the victim, an adult black male (11/3/88), who advised that he was driving through the location and as he stopped he exchanged words with a male standing in the block.  As he (the victim) exited his vehicle the unknown male pulled out a gun and fired, striking the victim twice (right hand and right leg). Victim was transported to an area hospital and is in stable condition at last check. At present, no suspects or motive.  
The homicide numbers are as follows:
2010 YTD: 191
2009 YTD: 193

Posted by Peter Hermann at 9:23 AM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Confronting crime, South Baltimore, West Baltimore

Plenty of crime headlines today

Today's news brings us lots of crime, from a conviction of a former Frostburg student in a slaying to computers stolen from a private school in Baltimore County:

* Shortly after Tyrone Hall was sentenced Wednesday for the fatal shooting of Brandon Carroll and the wounding of Ellis Hartridge Jr., the families and friends of all three young men involved in the incident last April stood outside Allegany Circuit Court. Some cried openly; others seethed quietly. Neither side seemed satisfied with Judge W. Timothy Finan's decision to send the 21-year-old Glen Burnie man to prison for five years.

* The empty desks in the computer room, left with nothing more than dust and a few old cables, tell the story of the burglary as vividly as any anecdote. Thieves who broke into a private Christian school in Northeast Baltimore over the weekend seemed to know exactly where the most valuable items were, school officials said Wednesday, prompting the theory that the perpetrators are former students. The burglars made off with 17 new desktop computers that had been set up just two weeks ago, as well as sound and music equipment from behind a stage.

* Baltimore County police have charged a 17-year-old in the Oct. 31 murder of Dequan Burks, in Lansdowne. Sterlin Corday Matthews, of Baltimore, has been charged as an adult with first-degree murder in the shooting of Burks, 16, of Baltimore, on Halloween night.

* Baltimore County police have identified a man who was shot Tuesday night in Dundalk as 22-year-old Jean Hoffman of the 2000 block of Guy Way and said they were looking for three suspects. According to police, three men knocked on Hoffman's door and asked to speak with him. He went outside, where they argued, and Hoffman was shot once in the abdomen, police said. He was able to get back inside his home, and the three men fled.

* Last month, federal investigators searched a Calvert County house as part of an investigation into a series of thefts in September from a locker room used by the U.S. Naval Academy's baseball team and from the head coach's office.

Bank robber may have tossed loot during chase

A bank robbery in Anne Arundel County on Wednesday brings this report from The Sun's Andrea F. Siegel:

Cash reportedly flew out of the window of a car chased by police Wednesday on the Baltimore-Washington Parkway, after a bank robbery in Millersville, police said.
Around 10:30 a.m. a man went into the Washington Savings Bank in the 600 block of Old Mill Road, passed a robbery note, received cash and then fled onto Veterans Highway in a red Pontiac Firebird, said Justin Mulcahy, a county police spokesman.

That reminded of this gem published in The Sun in 1998 headlined: "Law and Disorder on the Interstate":

Three bank robbers in a Subaru sedan outran nearly 30 local, state and federal police cruisers during a high-speed chase through Baltimore and Washington suburbs yesterday, tossing stolen tens and twenties out the window as they sped down Interstate 95."This guy was just driving like a maniac; there is no other way to put it," said Maryland State Police Sgt. William Hayes, who was involved in the pursuit, which reached speeds in excess of 110 mph.

At one point, some police cars with lights flashing and sirens blaring raced more than 30 miles around the Capital Beltway, through Montgomery County and Northern Virginia before the officers realized the robbers had shaken them back in Silver Spring.

The 33-mile police chase started in Northwest Baltimore about 10: 15 a.m. and wound its way along several local streets before hitting I-95. A city police helicopter followed the car's twists and turns before it ran low on fuel and had to turn back.    A state police helicopter picked up the aerial surveillance on I-95.

By the time police lost the car at the Colesville Road exit in Silver Spring, officers from eight jurisdictions driving everything from Ford Crown Victorias to Geo Trackers had joined the chase.

The pursuit "involved anybody and everybody," said Special Agent Peter A. Gulotta Jr. of the FBI. Police said they were amazed that no one was injured and nobody crashed.
Posted by Peter Hermann at 7:01 AM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Anne Arundel County, Confronting crime

November 10, 2010

Balto. Co. won't discipline officer who got Ray Rice autograph

Posting from Peter: 

Baltimore County police will not discipline the officer who received an autograph from Ravens running back Ray Rice during a traffic stop in Owings Mills on Monday, a department spokesman said.

Lt. Robert McCullough said investigators confirmed that the officer got the prized signature after he had verbally warned Rice that the tint on his car's windshield was darker than the law allows.

Rice had posted a statement on Twitter that indicated he got out of a ticket in exchange for the autograph. He quickly deleted the post and told reporters that it had been poorly worded and that it was he who offered his signature after getting the warning.

McCullough said on Wednesday that "we determined that the officer didn't give Mr. Rice special treatment. He treated Mr. Rice no differently than he would have treated any other motorist."

The spokesman said it is unusual for an officer to accept a gift from a citizen on a call but he said the officer, who he did not identify, did not break any rules and faces no disciplinary action.

"It is unusual but this was not a quid pro quo. Mr. Rice offered his autograph for the officer's son."

Posted by Anica Butler at 3:16 PM | | Comments (19)
Categories: Baltimore County

Rawlings-Blake to push for tough gun sentencing

Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake today announced that she will seek legislation that would enhance the penalties for illegal gun possession and make the crime a felony.

Speaking before a group of top law enforcement officials, Rawlings-Blake called for a change to state laws that would create a minimum sentence of 18 months and a maximum sentence of 10 years for defendants arrested with an illegal, loaded firearms. The current penalties call for sentences between 30 days and three months years.

Aides say Rawlings-Blake plans a grassroots effort to lobby for the bill - she has been pitching the proposal in meetings with community groups and plans to launch a website and social media efforts to get citizens behind it.

"Too many of these convicted gun offenders are quickly released back into the community and go on to commit other gun crimes," Rawlings-Blake said.

Mayor Sheila Dixon made the same push for an 18-month minimum last year, but Rawlings-Blake's legislation also calls for increasing the maximum to 10 years.

The mayor's office said that statistics show that very few offenders charged with misdemeanor gun crimes serve significant jail time - 82 percent of all jail time imposed by the courts for misdemeanor gun offenders this year was suspended. The average amount of jail time served by misdemeanor gun offenders for cases handled in District Court is only four months.

It'll be an uphill battle given how other efforts have fared in the legislature. Circuit Court Judge M. Brooke Murdock said the bench was opposed to legislation establishing mandatory sentences. Key legislators have said the same thing in the past.

Posted by Justin Fenton at 1:50 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: City Hall

Arundel police search for assault suspect

Anne Arundel County police put out this alert:

The above suspect is being sought in reference to an active Sexual Assault Investigation. The assault occurred on November 8, 2010, around 7:11 p.m. in the area of the 8100 block of Scenic Meadow Drive in Laurel, Maryland.

Description:    Black Male with a “chunky” build
    Facial hair with razor burn / bumps
    Approximately 6’0” Tall
    Early 30’s
Last seen wearing a maroon hooded pullover sweatshirt, dark colored sweat pants and white shoes.

If any jurisdiction or individual has information about the above suspect, please contact Detective J.R. Hartzell of the Sex Offense Squad at (410) 222-3750. CRIMINAL INVESTIGATION DIVISION – SEX OFFENSE SQUAD 41 COMMUNITY PLACE CROWNSVILLE, MD 21032

Posted by Peter Hermann at 10:27 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Anne Arundel County, Breaking news

Prison officials taking money from prisoners

Talk about turning the tables on the crooks.

State auditors have found that corrections employees in Baltimore have been regularly taking money from prisoners for their own use. The Sun's Yeganeh June Torbati reports today on a hearing in Annapolis where this practice was discussed:

Released last week, the audit found serious deficiencies in two accounts — a fund that contains inmate money, and another fund of public money used to finance small expenditures. The review found that the five Baltimore sites in the state prison system gave some employees easy access to blank checks and the signature plates needed to authorize checks drawn on the public account with no supervisory oversight; and perhaps as a result of those gaps, could not account for tens of thousands of dollars in missing funds.

The report also disclosed that some prison employees were drawing money from the inmate account to pay salary advances. While such advances, intended for newly hired employees awaiting their first biweekly paychecks, are allowed, prison workers were mixing the funds from the inmate and public accounts. There was no documentation to justify why some veteran employees were drawing advances.
Read the full audit report.

Posted by Peter Hermann at 8:28 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Confronting crime, Prisons

Police commissioner feeds homeless

Baltimore City Police Commissioner Frederick H. Bealefeld III spent part of Tuesday evening handing out bags of meal to homeless men to raise awareness for St. Leos Church's Little Italy Hands and Hearts program.

The program, founded in 2007, gives out about 85 bags of meals, donated by nine Little Italy restaurants, every Tuesday at Baltimore Street and Central Avenue outside Baltimore Rescue Mission.

These photos were taken by The Sun's Kenneth K. Lam.

Posted by Peter Hermann at 7:15 AM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Confronting crime, Southeast Baltimore, Top brass

November 9, 2010

In Chicago, city reports success in taking lawsuits against police to trial

Chicago's year-old strategy of going to trial with lawsuits against police officers instead of settling cases is paying off, city officials tell the Chicago Sun-Times. Last fall, police Superintendent. Jody Weis told Chief U.S. Judge James Holderman of the change in legal strategy.
"If plaintiffs know their complaint will in fact be litigated, more focus and concern will be given to the factual validity of the complaints signed," Weis said. In the past, the city often settled "defensible" cases because the city's legal expenses could far exceed the cost of a settlement. One reason for launching the new strategy was a concern by officers that settlements can reflect poorly on them even if they did nothing wrong, said Karen Seimetz, the city's first assistant corporation counsel.

A year later, the results are "astonishing," according to a report the Law Department prepared for this year's City Council budget hearings. Lawsuits filed against cops -- and settlements of lawsuits -- have both fallen dramatically, the report said.

This year, the city anticipates that 50 percent fewer police misconduct cases will be filed than in 2009. The share of cases resolved through settlements has fallen from about 67 percent in 2009 to about 24 percent this year through the end of September, officials said.

Also, the city is projected to pay about $1.7 million to settle "small cases" against officers this year -- compared with $9 million in 2007 and $9 million in 2008, the Law Department report said. Small cases are defined as those that are settled for less than $100,000 each, according to the city.
Posted by Justin Fenton at 6:20 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Crime elsewhere

Baltimore police make pot bust

Baltimore police announced that its Violent Crime Impact Section, working with federal authorities, busted a suspected marijuana growing center in the 4800 block of Curtis Avenue in South Baltimore.

A police spokesman said officers seized "over 400 'starter' marijuana plants and assorted growing paraphernalia, as the site was a large-scale marijuana growing operation.

The suspects were identified as Jesse Duffy (left), 29, of Severn, and Vincent Davis (right), 30, of South Baltimore.

Here is the report:


Drug Report
Posted by Peter Hermann at 1:37 PM | | Comments (5)
Categories: Breaking news, South Baltimore

Ray Rice brags about escaping traffic ticket


Ravens running back Ray Rice tweeted last night that he got pulled over by police for having tinted windows "but gave the officer a autograph for his son and he let me go." (Screen grab via Inside Charm City). He went on to write: "And the officer admitted to being a die hard redskins fan I def got lucky tonight."

"Inside" first posted about the twitter messages, and it was picked up by NBC's Pro Football Talk.  The Sun's Ravens insider blog says the running back was expected to address the issue at today's practice. Stay tuned.

UPDATE: Lt. Robert McCullough, the chief spokesman for the Baltimore County Police Department, confirmed a few minutes ago that an officer from his agency stopped Rice. The spokesman declined further comment but said more information would be forthcoming. said police had not talked to the officer and would not comment today.

UPDATE 2: For his part, Rice said after practice this afternoon that he was in a parking lot to buy the new Call of Duty video game and was stopped by an officer for the tinted window, according to The Sun's Jamison Hensley. He said the officer gave him a warning and then he gave the autograph. He said there was no special treatment.

So what's the state law on window tint? The Berwyn Heights Police Department in Prince George's County, addresses it here:

"The 35% Window Tint Law in Maryland means that the TOTAL amount of light being transmitted through the glass of a motor vehicle cannot be less than 35%.  In other words, it doesn't make any difference what percentage the actual window tinting film is rated at, you still cannot exceed 35% total Light Transmittance Value, or LTV for short.

Be forwarned [sic] that if you get stopped with illegally tinted windows, it's YOU that gets the $55.00 ticket, not the shop that installed it. Plus you'll have the added cost of having it removed from your vehicle, which is probably as much as it was to have it put it on!"

If a "safety equipment repair order" has been issued for a window tint violation, the problem must be corrected and the vehicle reinspected within 10 days by a member of the Maryland State Police Automotive Equipment Safety Division.

In the 1990s, a federal appeals court ruled that window tint gave police the right to search a car. "We can conceive of almost nothing more dangerous to a law enforcement officer in the context of a traffic stop than approaching an automobile whose passenger compartment is entirely hidden from the officer's view with darkly tinted windows," a judge wrote.

-Peter Hermann and Justin Fenton

Posted by Peter Hermann at 12:58 PM | | Comments (36)
Categories: Baltimore County, Breaking news

Halloween slaying still unsolved in Howard County

Howard County police are looking for help in a year-old slaying during a Halloween party. In May, the Howard County Times broke new details of the case by reviewing investigative documents. Reporter Luke Broadwater wrote (full story here):

Witnesses to a fatal shooting at a Halloween party last year at a $1.6 million Columbia mansion described a chaotic scene in which at least four fights broke out, party-goers passed guns through windows to avoid security and a bottle was cracked over a young man’s head.

The documents, based on interviews with more than 100 witnesses, paint a chaotic scene. But they also help explain why prosecutors say they were forced to drop murder and attempted murder charges against two young men initially accused in the crime.

Though 164 people were interviewed by police, no one at the party immediately named as the gunman 23-year-old Devon Dixon, of Elkridge, the man police initially accused of the murder of Aaron Brice, 19, of Silver Spring and attempted murder of Nathaniel Quick, 22, of Columbia. The only person who identified Dixon as the gunman was a confidential informant, the documents show.
Howard County police released this statement asking for help:
A year after a Halloween party shooting that killed one man and injured another, Howard County police and the murder victim’s family are renewing their calls for help and information from the public.  Police have increased the reward to up to $7,500 and hope that someone with information will come forward now that a year has passed.

In the early morning hours of Nov. 1, 2009, police responded to a party in the 11500 block of Manorstone Lane in Clarksville where shots had been fired. At the scene, Aaron Thomas Brice, 19, of Silver Spring, was found deceased outside, with gunshot wounds. Nathaniel Quick, 22, of Columbia, was also found suffering from gunshot wounds inside the basement of the home. Quick survived his injures but was paralyzed by the gunfire. Police found shell casings that indicated two different guns were fired from outside the residence.  Detectives do not believe a gun was fired inside the home and believe the gunfire that struck Quick came from outside the residence.

Police initially charged two men in the shooting based on an eyewitness statement from a partygoer. At the time, police had recently become aware that one of the men was involved in gun and drug trafficking. While serving a search warrant during the homicide investigation at the suspect’s home, police located a gun that was the same type as the weapon used in the shooting.  This coupled with the eyewitness account resulted in the arrest of this suspect and his acquaintance.  But later, ballistics tests revealed the recovered gun was not the murder weapon. Through further investigation and witness interviews, police came to believe the men were not in attendance at the party and ruled them out as suspects in the homicide.  However, in cases separate from the shooting, both men have been federally indicted on weapons and drug charges.

Earlier reports in this case indicated that shots also were fired outside the same house at a party on June 20, 2009. No one was injured. Through investigation, police have now determined that the gun involved in the June shooting was the exact same gun that fired shots in the Halloween shooting.  In the June case, police responded to a party at the residence just before 3 a.m. for a report of disorderly subjects. As police attempted to disperse the large crowd outside, shots were fired into the air from a vehicle being driven away by unknown suspects.

Investigators have interviewed more than 160 people as part of the case and have received many different pieces of information. Anyone with additional information is asked to call police at 410-313-STOP. Callers may remain anonymous.
Posted by Peter Hermann at 12:50 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Howard County

Retired city police officer convicted of assault

The Baltimore State's Attorney's Office sent out this statement on a retired city police officer convicted of assault. He had been retired at the time of the incident:

A Baltimore jury convicted Daniel Marshall, 61, of Eldersburg, MD of first-degree assault, use of a handgun in the commission of a crime of violence and reckless endangerment. Jurors deliberated approximately two hours before reaching a verdict on November 5, 2010 after a five day trial.

Judge M. Brooke Murdock scheduled sentencing for January 7, 2011. Marshall faces a  maximum possible penalty of 45 years in prison.
For more details:

According to trial testimony, on July 5, 2009 shortly after midnight in the 2700 block of Boston Street a victim suffering gunshot wounds to his leg and hip flagged down a patrol officer.  Investigation reveled that the victim was involved in a verbal altercation with a friend of the defendant, Daniel Marshall, who drove to the scene.

After a brief conversation Marshall approached the victim yelling, “Why are you hassling this old man?” Marshall attempted to assault the victim and became frustrated that he was not able to knock the victim down and returned to his car where he retrieved his gun.  He walked back to the victim, shooting him in the lower leg and hip and stating that “the next one is in your head.”  Marshall then got into his car and left.  

Police investigated and recovered two .38 caliber casings from the crime scene.  Police obtained a search warrant for Marshall’s house and recovered a .38 caliber handgun that matched the casings from the scene. The victim and three independent witnesses positively identified Marshall as the shooter. Defense attorneys argued that Marshall was acting in self defense.

Marshall retired from the Baltimore City Police Department in 1986.

Assistant State’s Attorney Roya Hanna of the Firearms Investigation Violence Enforcement (FIVE) Division prosecuted this case.

Posted by Peter Hermann at 10:07 AM | | Comments (2)
Categories: Breaking news, Courts and the justice system

Block of death

City work crews found the body of 21-year-old Derrius Currie on Saturday, inside a vacant house on West Lexington Street. It was the third killing in that block this year, the most of any block in Baltimore this year.

Several blocks have had two killings and at least twice two people have died in the same shooting on the same block. But I could not find a block with three violent deaths this year (though several neighborhoods have experienced more in a several-block radius).

I visited the block this morning and found the vacant where the body had been found, next to an empty lot filled knee-high with trash (photo at left), and that was next to another vacant building. Work crews for a private development company will soon be here to tear all this down and replace it with low-income housing, which residents said can not come soon enough.

I'll have more on this block in my Crime Scene column. And here is a story on the killing by The Sun's Justin Fenton.

Posted by Peter Hermann at 8:42 AM | | Comments (3)
Categories: Confronting crime, West Baltimore

November 8, 2010

Man, shot to death in vacant house, found by DPW crew

It appeared as though the city had gone its third weekend since mid-September without a homicide, but now comes word that a 21-year-old man was found dead inside a vacant home on Saturday morning.

According to police, a Department of Public Works crew that was cleaning in the area found the body of Derrius Currie inside a vacant. He had been shot in the head. Police gave no suspects or a motive, though Currie had a slew of drug arrests and convictions and had just been sprung from jail on Oct. 26 after he was convicted and received time time served for car theft as robbery charges were dismissed.

Robert Murrow, a spokesman for the Department of Public Works, said a special services crew, which responds to 311 requests, was cleaning out two vacant homes. Records show at least one of the homes was sold last month by the city to a development company.

Currie is the third person killed in the 800 block of W. Lexington St. this year, following the deaths of David Mitchell, 16, on April 29 and Arthur Peacock, 34, on Sept. 30. That block includes the Poe Homes housing project.

There was also a homicide that went unreported in late October. Edwin Green Jr., 44, was found on a sidewalk in the 3600 block of Fairview Ave. on Oct. 29. He was taken to Sinai Hospital, where he was later pronounced dead. That case remains open as well.

For the year, police report a 49 percent clearance rate on homicides; the national average was about 64 percent in 2009.

Posted by Justin Fenton at 1:22 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: West Baltimore

Locust Point city's safest community?

Jamie Smith Hopkins over at the Real Estate Wonk blog has put up a post on a group that named South Baltimore's Locust Point the safest large neighborhood in the city.

She wants to know if people agree (weigh in here).

Locust Point, a neighborhood with deep blue-collar roots (see map here), has a location alongside Baltimore's waterfront that has brought it high-end residential development in recent years.

WalletPop, which relied on NeighborhoodScout for the data and analysis, says it ranked the safest neighborhood of at least 1,000 people in each of the nation's largest cities. Those neighborhoods tended to be either wealthy or "more modest income neighborhoods with many tightly-knit working class families."

The chances of becoming a crime victim in a year of living in Locust Point are 1 in 84, better odds than in 70 percent of U.S. neighborhoods, WalletPop said.

I know one thing going for Locust Point is that it's located on a peninsula and there is only one major road in and out -- Fort Avenue. Residents believe that keeps outside criminal agitators out, because it's too easy to for them to become trapped.

This year, a Locust Point man was killed. His body was found in a shallow grave in Patapsco Valley State Park in Anne Arundel County. One of the suspect's was from neighboring South Baltimore.

That was the neighborhood's only murder thus far this year (police determined the victim was killed by blunt force trauma at a Locust Point residence). See the Baltimore Sun's homicide map for more details.

Posted by Peter Hermann at 8:30 AM | | Comments (8)
Categories: Neighborhoods, South Baltimore

More trouble for Philly cops

The Philadelphia Police Department is going through more trouble, with the arrest of a high-ranking police commander over the weekend on corruption charges.

Remember, that department's chief, Charles H. Ramsey, nearly became Baltimore's police commissioner under former Mayor Sheila Dixon. And Ramsey, even after leaving DC's police department, still had trouble following mass arrests at a protest.

Troy Graham of the Philadelphia Inquirer brings this report (you can read it in full here):

On Friday, FBI agents went to the home of the inspector, Daniel Castro, a 25-year veteran and one of the highest-ranking officers on the force, and arrested him.
Indicted in an extortion scheme that portrays him more like a gangster, Castro became the 15th member of the Police Department to be arrested since March 2009.

Six of the officers were taken down in three drug investigations, four were charged with sex crimes, and two faced murder charges after off-duty shootings. The sudden jolt of arrests can't be explained by Ramsey's oft-cited commitment to root out corruption.

A third of the officers were caught in federal investigations, and two others were nabbed in a sting after state investigators got a tip about cops working with drug dealers.

The sheer number of arrests has left the department's leaders embarrassed, and focused their attention on the city's police culture, particularly a code of silence whereby many honest officers - the great majority of the force - feel unable to turn in those who betray the badge.

Posted by Peter Hermann at 8:06 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Crime elsewhere, Top brass

"Call of Duty: Black Ops," games stolen in armed robbery

The much-anticipated video war game "Call of Duty: Black Ops" isn't due out until Tuesday, so if you're playing it now, it might have been stolen at gunpoint this weekend.

The Sun's Jamie Smith-Hopkins reports that three robbers armed with semi-automatic handguns burst into a GameStop store in the Festival of Bel Air Shopping Center Saturday night and stole four cases of the game:

While the robbery at the Bel Air store was under way on Saturday, two customers stopped by and were forced into a storage area at gunpoint. Neither they nor store employees were hurt, the sheriff's office said.

The "Black Ops" games stolen Saturday night had been set aside for sale on Tuesday, said Monica Worrell, a spokeswoman for the sheriff's office. Fans across the country have pre-ordered copies to avoid missing out.
A statement from the Harford County Sheriff's Office and descriptions of the robbers:


(Bel Air MD, November 7, 2010) On Saturday, November 6, 2010 at approximately 9:20pm, Harford County Sheriff's Office patrol deputies responded to a 911 call regarding an armed robbery in progress at the Game Stop Store located at the Festival at Bel Air - 5 Bel Air South Parkway, Bel Air MD.
As the store was closing for the evening, the suspects armed with black semi automatic handguns, entered the store stealing cash from the register, several X-Box game systems and portable game systems.  In addition, they stole an assortment of new release video games, including the video game, "Call of Duty-Black Ops", which is not scheduled for release for sale until November 9, 2010.
While the robbery was in progress, two customers approached the front door of the store.  They were originally told by one of the robbers that the store was closed, but one of the suspects then let the customers in to the store, ushering them at gunpoint into the store's back storage area. Neither employees nor customers were physically injured during the robbery.
Detectives believe that there are at least two suspects involved in this armed robbery and may be the same individuals who committed the armed robbery of the Game Stop in Aberdeen on October 21, 2010.  
Suspects' descriptions
•    Suspect # 1 is described as a black male with shoulder length brown, black dreadlocks.  Height - approximately  5'8" tall.  Weight -  approximately 160 lbs. He was wearing a red do rag style head covering, a green and brown leather jacket, blue jeans and black biker glasses and black boots
•    Suspect # 2 is described as bald black male.  Height - Approximately 6'0" tall.  Weight - approximately 180 lbs.  He was wearing a NC blue baseball cap, dark blue jeans and a lighter blue hoodie with holes through out it.
•    At this time it is believed, that a late model white mini van - possibly a Dodge Caravan, was used as the suspects getaway car.

If anyone has information regarding this crime are encouraged to contact Harford County Sheriff's Office Detective Phil Golden at 410-836-5430.

Posted by Peter Hermann at 7:56 AM | | Comments (4)
Categories: Harford County

Baltimore not the only place suffering from crime

Up in Harford County, Sheriff L. Jesse Bane is employing urban-style policing methods to combat crime in an area of Edgewood he has dubbed "a killing zone."

This year, two slayings and six shootings in the area have occurred, numbers that reflect violence that broke out here two years ago. Even with the the shift in strategy, the violence continues in one of Baltimore's northern-most suburbs.

And while the killings and shootings pale in comparison to Baltimore, to the residents of Harford County, this trend is disturbing. The Baltimore Sun's Jessica Anderson delves into the issue in a story today:

Edgewood is joining the list of communities far from the most dangerous neighborhoods in downtown Baltimore where residents and officials are struggling to get a handle on violence before it spins out of control.

The trend is frustrating residents like Shedrick E. Cain, who moved to Edgewood in 1990 and said the area reminded him of his "small, rural" hometown in Virginia.

"The population has grown. Crime can be just about anywhere. It doesn't matter if you are in the city or suburbs," he said. "It's individuals who make bad decisions."

Crime is down in Harford County, but the pockets of violence in and around Edgewood trouble some residents. The story focuses on Tamar Pair, who left Baltimore several years ago seeking a safer place to live. Shes in the above picture, taken by The Sun's Lloyd Fox.

In October, her 16-year-old son, Derrick Wingate, was shot to death in front of their Edgewood home. "I wish I could sell my house," Pair told Anderson. "I feel like if I didn't buy this house, it wouldn't have happened."

Posted by Peter Hermann at 7:11 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Confronting crime, Harford County

November 5, 2010

Man beaten at Westport light rail dies; police name other recent victims

City police said a 44-year-old man who was beaten last month at a light rail stop has died from his injuries, while the agency released the identities of several recent homicide victims.

Police said that on Oct. 22, Winslow Thomas walked to a home in the 2200 block of Sidney Ave. and said he had been assaulted at the Westport light rail station in the 2200 block of Kloman St. He was taken to Maryland Shock Trauma center where he was treated for cuts and blunt force injuries and was pronounced dead Wednesday at 9:15 p.m.

Three recent victims of killings this week were also identified.

Police said Jerry Harden, 21, was the man found inside a burning home in the 7000 block of McClean Blvd. in Northeast Baltimore. Harden had been stabbed in the chest prior to the fire being set, an autopsy determined.

Harden is the second person killed this year at the apartment complex, which is near Parkville. Darius Ray, a 20-year-old Marine, was stabbed at a party there in January. A 30-year-old man was also fatally shot nearby in July.

Kevin Anderson, 30, was the man found dead on a sidewalk in the 200 block of S. Woodyear St. just before 3 a.m. Thursday. He was shot in the back and died at shock trauma. The incident happened in the Mt. Clare neighborhood and occurred in the department's Southern District.

Police also identified Malcolm Hill, 53, as the man found shot to death on the front porch of a home in the 2500 block of Robb St. of the Coldstream Homestead Montebello neighborhood where he lived. Police did not provide motives or descriptions of suspects for any of the killings.

Posted by Justin Fenton at 6:31 PM | | Comments (2)
Categories: Northeast Baltimore, Schools, South Baltimore

Police arrest three more suspects in beating outside Inner Harbor hotel

Baltimore police have arrested three more suspects in last month's beating of four men outside a hotel near the Inner Harbor. The Sun's Justin Fenton reported the first arrest on Wednesday.

Police got their break from a dropped cell phone:

Four men, who police said were highly intoxicated, said they were attacked as they stood outside the Intercontinental Hotel in the 500 block of Light St. in the early morning of Oct. 24. As a group of six people walked by, one of them asked if the group standing outside the hotel was laughing at him, and punched one of the men in the face.

That led to a fight, sending the four men to University of Maryland Medical Center with injuries. One victim's wallet was taken during the fight, and one of the attackers dropped a cell phone.

According to court records, two days later, a security guard at the hotel asked a co-worker if an iPhone had been left behind after the attack. The security guard said that "his boys" had "laid a beating" on some men and that one of them had dropped their phone.

The first man arrested was identified as Earl Cruz Jr., 23. Police said the other three suspects are Travis Birdsong, who turned 24 on Thursday (above middle), Ayodele Oni, 23 (above right), and Jasmine Ragler, 22 (above left). All have been charged with assault and robbery counts.

Posted by Peter Hermann at 12:38 PM | | Comments (27)
Categories: Breaking news, Courts and the justice system, Downtown

ACLU targets "stop and frisk" police tactic in Philadelphia

The ACLU in Pennsylvania has sued the Philadelphia Police Department over it's stop and frisk tactics, adding Philadelphia to a list of cities targeted for what civil rights groups call harsh policing methods that unfairly target minorities.

Read a copy of the complaint here.

Police officers in Baltimore and New York have come under fire for stopping and searching people on the streets, often times without arresting them or finding evidence of a crime. Supporters say the practice drives down crime, while opponents say it violates people's rights.

In Baltimore, stop and frisk was part of a zero-tolerance policing program that in the mid 2000s led to cops arresting more than 100,000 people, filling the jail to capacity and drawing complaints form citizens and prosecutors that many of the arrests were unlawful.

Baltimore Police Commissioner Frederick H. Bealefeld III has shunned the practice, promoting smarter arrests targeting violent gun offenders. His officers have arrested tens of thousands fewer people than his predecessors, and has driven down crime and homicide to historic lows.

In 2007, Bealefeld told The Sun that he found the volume of arrests in previous years "mind-boggling. ... Did we really accomplish a lot doing that?" He said that instead of filling the city's Central Booking and Intake Center "with a whole bunch of arrests for arrests' sake, ... we're going to be much more focused."

In June, the Maryland chapter of the ACLU settled with the city over this city's mass arrest policies, costing the city $870,000 and requiring a monitor to examine arrest data. New York City has received similar complaints, and now Philadelphia appears the next target.

The Washington Post reports on the Philadelphia suit in today's editions. The Philadelphia Inquirer reported that city officials are defending the practice:

City Solicitor Shelley Smith, however, said [Charles] Ramsey has beefed up police training and supervision, responded quickly to allegations of abuse and meted out discipline when warranted. Last month, Ramsey added more investigators to the Internal Affairs Bureau. "The Police Department and Commissioner Ramsey take seriously the need to protect the constitutional rights of citizens," Smith said. Yesterday afternoon, Nutter said he had not yet reviewed the suit. But he said the "stop and frisk" policy was legal and effective if used correctly. Since taking office in January 2008, Nutter has championed "stop, question and frisk" policing as part of a plan to fight crime and get guns off the street. Nutter stressed that overall crime, including violent crime, is down and said race is not a factor in who gets searched. He also noted that "stop and frisk" - in which police stop people suspected of criminal activity and pat them down for illegal weapons - was being used before he became mayor.
(Ramsey, you might recall, came under fire when he was chief of police in DC for mass arrests during a protest in 2002. Just recently, a judge approved a settlement that cost the city more than $8 million. For more details, see the Washington Post's Crime Scene blog).

While Baltimore police are curtailing the practices, The New York Times reported in May that its department has more than quintupled the number of stop and frisks over the past few years. Last month, the group Center for Constitutional Rights, released a report criticizing the NYPD for its stop and frisk tactics. Here is there statement:

The New York City Police Department (NYPD) has engaged in a pattern of unconstitutional stops that disproportionately affects Black and Latino New Yorkers, according to an expert report filed in federal court in the Southern District of New York. The report, based on a six-year analysis of the NYPD’s own data, reaches the conclusion that the Department’s controversial stop-and-frisk policy is at its core based on race rather than crime statistics.

Prepared by Jeffrey Fagan, Professor of Law and Public Health at Columbia University, the report supports the claims in Floyd v. City of New York, a class action lawsuit of the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) that challenges NYPD stops-and-frisks and alleges violations of the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments. Among the report’s conclusions, the following findings were made:

•    Nearly 150,000 stops over the last six years are unconstitutional and lack any legal justification. Another 544,252 stops may be unconstitutional but were not documented sufficiently to determine this. All together, 30 percent of all stops are either illegal or of questionable legality;

•    Most stops occur in Black and Latino neighborhoods, and even after adjustments for other factors including crime rates, social conditions and allocation of police resources in those neighborhoods, race is the main factor determining NYPD stops;

•    Black and Latino residents are more likely to be stopped than Whites even in areas with low crime rates where populations are mixed or mostly White;

•    Nearly half of all stops are justified by citing the vague category “furtive movements,” as opposed to only 15 percent citing “fits relevant description”;  

•    In more than half of all stops, the officers cite “high crime area” as an “additional circumstance” even in precincts with lower than average crime rates. The Supreme Court has found specifically that it’s unconstitutional to stop and frisk a person simply because they are in a so-called “high-crime” neighborhood;

•    Black and Latino suspects are treated more harshly in instances in which police officers make the determination that a crime has occurred. Black and Latino suspects are more likely to be arrested rather than issued a summons when compared to White suspects who are accused of the same crimes. Black and Latino suspects are more likely to have force used against them; and

•    The rate of gun seizures is nearly zero—0.15 out of a hundred stops—a disturbingly low return for a law enforcement tactic the NYPD claims is designed specifically to remove illegal guns from the streets.

“This exhaustive and meticulously researched report makes clear what hundreds of thousands of young Black and Latino people know from their everyday lives; the NYPD stops and frisks them because of their race,” said CCR staff attorney Darius Charney.

“It’s time for the City to come to grips with the reality that they need to find an effective way to fight crime without resorting to racial profiling,” added Jonathan Moore, attorney with Beldock, Levine & Hoffman.

On January 31, 2008, CCR and the law firms of Beldock, Levine & Hoffman and Covington & Burling filed a class action lawsuit charging the NYPD with engaging in racial profiling and suspicion-less stops-and-frisks of New Yorkers.  The named plaintiffs in the case—David Floyd, Lalit Clarkson, Deon Dennis and David Ourlicht—represent the hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers who have been stopped on the way to work, in front of their house or just walking down the street, without any cause and primarily because of their race.

Shootings, stabbings

Here's a quick update on some violence reported this morning:

A man was found with gunshot wounds early Friday morning in Randallstown, according to Baltimore County Police, who said he later died. A woman called police from the 5400 block of Old Court Road at 3:06 a.m. to report a friend outside her back door, ringing her buzzer and trying to get in, police said.

Howard County Police are searching for a man who, while being escorted from an Ellicott City restaurant Wednesday night, stabbed a security officer in the neck. Officers were called just after 10 p.m. to the La Palapa Grill in the 8300 block of Main Street where security guard Brian Johnson, 44, of Rockville was stabbed with an unknown sharp object, police said.

Baltimore detectives are still working to identify a man was fatally shot in the back in West Baltimore on Thursday morning, according to Baltimore Police. The shooting was reported at 2:58 a.m. in the 200 block of South Woodyear St., in the New Southwest/Mount Clare neighborhood, police said.

For more information on Baltimore slayings, check out the city homicide map.

Posted by Peter Hermann at 8:33 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Baltimore County, Howard County, West Baltimore

Maryland's top court to hear police records case

The Maryland Court of Appeals is to hear today arguments in a case that could open up police disciplinary records.

At issues is a claim by the ACLU and the NAACP that monitoring how state police are investigating complaints of racial profiling is impossible when authorities withhold the records.

The groups entered a consent decree to settle a lawsuit with the state, and have been told that all complaints lodged against troopers alleging they pulled someone over because of skin color were resolved in the favor of the officers. The groups want to see the records to see how the complaints were handled.

I wrote about this issue and another one that is tied to it earlier this week in Crime Scenes.

The Sun's Andrea F. Siegel previewed the case today:

The attorney general's office, which represents the state police, contends in its brief that the documents are personnel records, making them private and exempt from disclosure. The troopers' identities were not sought by the NAACP, but redacting the names does not protect the identity of the troopers, the attorney general's office argues.

"[R]ecords of investigations of complaints against state police officers and employees remain confidential," the office said in its brief.

"If the MSP were have its way, it could throw complaints of indisputably unconstitutional behavior in the trash without any investigation, and no one would ever know," lawyers for the NAACP wrote in their brief.

November 4, 2010

Female bank robber sought

Baltimore County police are seeking help identifying a female bank robber. Here are the details from the department:

Baltimore County Police need the public’s help identifying a woman responsible for robbing the Patapsco Bank in the 1300-block of Merritt Boulevard, 21222 on October 27 at approximately 2:50 p.m.

The suspect is described as a black female, 25-30 years of age, 5’8” tall, with a medium build and a medium-length black afro hairstyle.

Detectives say that the suspect entered the bank, walked up to a teller, and produced a handgun and 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 10:31 AM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Baltimore County, Breaking news

Deaths in fire, shooting add to city's homicide totals

A shooting early today on Woodyear Street in Southwest Baltimore and a fire in Northeast Baltimore has claimed two lives. City police said they're investigating the fire death as a homicide.

Firefighters found the body of a man while battling the blaze about 2:25 a.m. on McClean Boulevard in a townhouse development. No further details have been released, but crews at the scene told WMAR that the man had been stabbed and then set on fire to cover up the crime.

About 2 minutes later, shortly before 3 a.m., police responded to the 200 block of South Woodyear Street and found a man who had been fatally shot in the back. No arrests have been made.

More than 186 people have been killed in Baltimore so far this year. For a detailed look at the city slayings, check out our homicide map.

Posted by Peter Hermann at 7:49 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Northeast Baltimore, West Baltimore

New plan to combat city vacants

Baltimore's mayor has unveiled a new plan to more quickly deal with the thousands of vacant houses that pockmark the city's landscape, such as at left in this picture by The Sun's Jed Kirschbaum shortly after a fire ravaged a string of vacants in West Baltimore. The houses not only spread blight, but attract crime, and as we recently saw in West Baltimore, can feed the flames of fire consuming entire city blocks.

The Sun's Julie Scharper wrote:

Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake said she would accelerate redevelopment of Baltimore's more than 30,000 vacant properties by cutting bureaucracy and speeding the sales of city-owned properties.

"Vacant houses are more than just an eyesore," Rawlings-Blake said at a Wednesday morning news conference. "Just ask someone who lives next door to one."

Vacant properties constitute one of the city's most pernicious problems, depressing home values and blighting the landscape. Officials have counted 16,000 unoccupied buildings, which harbor vagrants, attract vermin and pose fire hazards. The city owns 10,000 of the vacant properties, on 4,000 of which sit empty structures.

Last month, The Sun's Jessica Anderson brought us to Calhoun Street, where two simultaneous four-alarm arson fires on Sept. 8 destroyed two sides of a city block and taxed the Baltimore Fire Department to the point it needed unprecedented help from neighboring counties. Fire trucks from as far away as Washington responded.

The mayor's plan was already in the words when the fires broke out, but they served as yet another reminder of one of Baltimore's most persistent urban ills, and one that stands out to anyone who drives through these areas.

Here are the mayor's prepared remarks on her plan for vacant houses:

Good morning.   

Thank you for being here today to discuss one of Baltimore’s most pressing and stubborn challenges.

Vacant houses are more than just an eyesore. They pose a serious public safety and public health threat to our citizens. They depress the value of surrounding homes and they deplete already scarce city resources.  

The problem is not new.  

In 1950, nearly a million people lived in Baltimore City.  According the last full census in 2000, we now have 640,000 residents. This was the among the largest percentage decreases in population among the 50 largest U.S. Cities during that time period.  The unprecedented exodus of population and jobs was fueled by a rising crime rate, inferior schools, and other factors, including ugly racial prejudice.

And, the most visible and heartbreaking result of this 50-year period of disinvestment is the roughly 16,000 vacant buildings that we see today.

Baltimore is finally turning the corner on the very sad factors and trends that brought us to this point.   Together, over the past decade we have driven violent crime to historic lows and we continue to make progress:

•    From 1999 to 2008, Baltimore experienced the third largest reduction in violent crime among the 20 largest U.S. Cities, according to FBI crime statistics.   
•    Baltimore had the most significant drop in property crime during the same period.  
•    And, homicides and nonfatal shootings have reached the lowest level since the 1980’s.

Together, we’ve made nation-leading progress reforming our school system to improve academic achievement and accountability:

•    African American males are now a driving force of our improving high school graduation rate.  
•    Elementary and middle school test scores are on the rise.   
•    Zoned schools have improved while failing schools have been shuttered. Dozens of new charter and transformational schools are up and running.
•    Families now have more choices to meet the needs and interests of their children.
•    And, for the first time in decades, enrollment in our public school system has increased two years in a row.  

Today, racial and cultural diversity are celebrated. Diversity is recognized as a cherished asset that can help make neighborhoods stronger, more vibrant and exciting.  

The fundamentals of the healthcare, tourism, financial, energy and small business sectors of Baltimore’s economy remain strong and are poised for growth, even in this tough economy. 

November 3, 2010

Police looking for stolen computers

Baltimore police are asking for help locating more than $800,000 worth of computers taken from a stolen truck last month. Police sssued this statement today:

Please be advised that the Baltimore Police Department's Regional Auto Theft Task Force is seeking information on a notable truck/cargo theft that occurred on October 13, 2010. A tractor-trailer was stolen from the Eagle Trucking Co. (500 Blk of No. Dean Street) on that date and recovered a short time later within the vicinity. Its cargo, however, of 1,660 Compaq computers, were no longer present. We are asking anyone with information regarding the theft to contact the Regional Auto Theft Task Force at 410-887-6247.  As always, tipsters can remain confidential.

Posted by Peter Hermann at 7:01 PM | | Comments (2)
Categories: Confronting crime

Former city police officer gets prison time

A former city cop was sentenced to five years in federal prison for an assult. The Sun's Tricia Bishop reports that the cop had been convicted in state court, but that it was overturned. Federal authorities took over the case against Gregory Mussmacher:

"The power that accompanies a police officer's badge does not give the officer the right to violate the civil rights of those in his or her custody," Thomas E. Perez, Assistant Attorney General for the DOJ's Civil rights Division, said in a statement. "The Justice Department will aggressively prosecute any officer who abuses their power and violates the public trust in this way."

Here is a statement from the U.S. Department of Justice:


WASHINGTON – A federal judge in Baltimore today sentenced a former Baltimore Police Department officer to serve five years in prison for violating the civil rights of a juvenile arrestee, the Justice Department announced today.  Gregory Mussmacher was convicted by a jury in May 2010 for physically abusing a juvenile in his custody and for obstructing justice to cover up what he had done. 

The abuse incident occurred in April 2004, when the defendant used his police-issued baton to strike a handcuffed and shackled juvenile in the head and face.  Following the incident in 2004, Mussmacher was tried for assault and was convicted in state court.  However, that conviction was later reversed, and federal authorities assumed responsibility for the case.  Prosecutors with the Civil Rights Division of the Department of Justice conducted an independent investigation of the matter and brought charges against three officers, including Mussmacher, for civil rights and obstruction violations.  The other two officers, Guy Gerstel and Wayne Thompson, pleaded guilty before trial and testified against Mussmacher. 

“The power that accompanies a police officer’s badge does not give the officer the right to violate the civil rights of those in his or her custody,” said Thomas E. Perez, Assistant Attorney General for the Civil rights Division.  “The Justice Department will aggressively prosecute any officer who abuses their power and violates the public trust in this way.”

“Any police officer who abuses a suspect, writes false reports and obstructs justice must be held accountable,” said Rod J. Rosenstein, U.S. Attorney for the District of Maryland.  “This case is an embarrassment to the many officers who earn our confidence by performing their duties with honor and integrity.”

Gerstel, who pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI during the investigation, will be sentenced on Nov. 18, 2010. Thompson, who pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor obstruction charge, was sentenced on Sept. 30, 2010, to serve 6 months of home detention.

This case was investigated by the Baltimore Division of the FBI, and was prosecuted by Civil Rights Division Attorneys Forrest Christian, Jeff Blumberg and Kevonne Small, with the support of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Maryland.

Posted by Peter Hermann at 6:26 PM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Breaking news, Confronting crime

Bank robber sought in Arundel

Anne Arundel County police are seeking help identifying this suspected bank robber. Here is their statement:

On November 1, 2010, at approximately 1:15 p.m., officers from the Southern District responded to the 5500 block of Muddy Creek Road in West River for a report of a bank robbery at the Bank of America.

Upon arrival, officers spoke with the bank teller, who stated that a male suspect approached the counter and passed a note demanding money and implying that he was armed. The teller handed over an unknown amount of money to the suspect, who fled the scene. Several officers and a K-9 unit responded to the scene, but were unable to locate the suspect.

Suspect: Black male in his 30’s, approximately 5’8”- 5’9”, 150 pounds, wearing a black Nascar hat with the #24 in yellow writing on the front, red and white striping and the #24 on the rear of the hat, a gray sweatshirt and dark colored sunglasses.

Posted by Peter Hermann at 9:20 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Anne Arundel County, Breaking news

New State's Attorney prepares to take over

The real drama in the race for Baltimore State's Attorney ended in the primary, when Gregg Bernstein defeated incumbent Patricia C. Jessamy in a contentious race. Tuesday's general election was forgone conclusion; Bernstein was unopposed.

He's at left with his wife, Sheryl Goldstein, giving his victory speech. The photo was taken by The Sun's Lloyd Fox.

So the only question left is what he's going to do once he takes over. Baltimore Sun courts reporter Tricia Bishop brings us a preview today:

Bernstein has spent the past several weeks winding down his private practice as a defense attorney, which is how he has spent most of his legal career, and meeting with deputies and division chiefs from the state's attorney's office, to better understand and evaluate their operations.

That changes this week. Bernstein plans to meet with the office of 400 employees, roughly half of them prosecutors, and to examine financial information that has been unavailable until now, in preparation for his January inauguration.

He won't go so far as to say the office needs a complete overhaul — what it needs, he says, is a "new organizational structure" designed to "more effectively target and convict violent repeat offenders."

That means some people will lose their jobs, many others won't and everyone will be subject to professional training, Bernstein said. Employees will finally get voice mail on their phones and BlackBerries in their pockets, he added.

November 2, 2010

Police: slain teen had been reported missing

City police say a 16-year-old who was fatally shot last week in Northwest Baltimore had been reported missing by his mother two weeks earlier.

The boy, identified Tuesday as Alan Chavis, was found fatally shot in the 4000 block of Barrington Rd. in the Arlington neighborhood on Oct. 26. An anonymous caller reported to police at 2:20 a.m. that the Pimlico teen was lying in the street bleeding.

Another teen, 18-year-old Ronald Clark, was fatally shot two blocks away later in the day in what police described as a drive-by shooting.

Police located Chavis’ mother, who said she had not seen him since reporting him missing on Oct. 14. The boy had recently been arrested on drug charges, and have not said whether his death and the shooting of Clark were linked.

Posted by Justin Fenton at 7:03 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Northwest Baltimore

Update: Coppin runner still in critical condition

A short update on the condition of Dale Dunn, the Coppin State University track star who was shot in the chest during a robbery try last week: 

Roger McAfee, the sports information director for Coppin, said Dunn is still in critical condition and hooked to a ventilator. 

"They feel like he's doing better, but it's going to be quite a process," McAfee said. "He's still critical and honestly, not a lot has changed, but in relative terms, he's doing well."

Dale Dunn, a 24-year-old on full scholarship from Jamaica who is an academic All-American, was shot Oct. 26 as he walked back from the grocery store to a home he shared with teammates in the Mondawmin neighborhood. He was able to make it back to the home, and his friends drove him to a local hospital.

Athletic director Derrick Ramsey called Dunn an "incredible young man." A management sciences major who maintains a 4.0 grade point average, he was one of seven Jamaican members of Coppin's track team last year. Over the summer, Dunn was named to ESPN The Magazine's track and field and cross country Academic All-America second team.

Posted by Justin Fenton at 5:10 PM | | Comments (1)
Categories: West Baltimore

BPD promotions become official

Last week I wrote about some imminent promotions within the Baltimore Police Department, affecting several top district commander positions, which are some of the primary points of contact for members of the community. Today they became official, and there's one additional move that I hadn't been privvy to. Here's the statement from the police department:

"Late into the evening on Monday, Police Commissioner Frederick H. Bealefeld met individually with each of the new commanders and outlined he and Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake's expectations to continue the positive momentum in the crime fight and build upon the public safety accomplishments in Baltimore. The Department will continue its focus on targeting the city's most violent offenders and building upon our collaborative partnerships with the community and our criminal justice partners.

-Maj Anthony Brown - transferred to Special Operations from the Southwest District. 
-Dep Major Eric Russell - promoted to Major and transferred from the Central District to lead the Southwest District.
-Dep Major Margaret Barillaro- promoted to Major and will become the permanent commander of the Southern District.
-Lt Mark Partee- promoted to Dep Major from the Inner Harbor Unit and will be assigned to Central District.
-Lt Dorsey McVicker- promoted to Dep Major from the Central District and will be assigned to Southern District.

Posted by Justin Fenton at 2:45 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: City Hall, Top brass

Arrest made in Inner Harbor attack

Let's see if this works any better:

Police have arrested a 23-year-old man in connection with a beating and robbery of four men outside an Inner Harbor hotel, after a security guard at the hotel inquired about a piece of evidence left at the scene.

Four men, who police said were highly intoxicated, said they were attacked as they stood outside of the Intercontinental Hotel in the 500 block of Light St. in the early morning hours of Oct. 24. As a group of six people walked by, one of them asked if the group standing outside the hotel was laughing at him, and punched one of the men in the face. That led to a fight, sending the four men to University of Maryland Medical Center with injuries.

According to court records, two days later a security guard at the hotel asked a co-worker if an iPhone had been left behind after the attack. He said that "his boys" had "laid a beating" on some men and that one of them had dropped their phone. The security guard said he worked with one of the suspects at the Tremont Hotel. The co-worker alerted his supervisors, and detectives were able to learn the identity of one of the suspects - Earl Cruz Jr.

In an interview with detectives, Cruz said he had been at a party on a boat at the Inner Harbor and that one of the victims made "some sort of comment" that one of his friends took offense to, sparking the fight.

One of the victims had told police that Cruz chased him through the hotel lobby, which was recorded on hotel security cameras, and pulled a knife. Cruz denied that he had a knife.

Cruz was arrested Oct. 28 and released the next day on $2,000 bond. Police had not arrested the other suspects named in the charging documents.

With two groups of people and many of the suspects either unidentified or with pending warrants, this is a tough one to explain. Here goes:

Police have arrested a 23-year-old man in connection with a beating and robbery of four men outside an Inner Harbor hotel, after a security guard at the hotel inquired about a piece of evidence left at the scene.

According to court records, a security guard asked a co-worker if an iPhone had been left behind after an attack that sent four people to University of Maryland Medical Center on Oct. 24. He said that "his boys" had "laid a beating" on some men and that one of them had dropped their phone. The security guard said he worked with one of the suspects at the Tremont Hotel, information that the co-worker passed along to investigators. They interviewed the security guard, and learned the suspect's identity - Earl Cruz Jr.

A group of men, who had been drinking and were extremely intoxicated, were jumped as they stood outside the Intercontinental Hotel in the 500 block of Light St. In an interview with police on Oct. 27, Cruz said he had been at a party on a boat at the Inner Harbor and one of the victims made "some sort of comment" that one of his friends took offense to, sparking the fight.

The victims told police that Cruz pulled a knife and chased one of the victims through the hotel lobby, which was recorded on hotel security cameras. Another victim's wallet was taken, but Cruz's iPhone was left behind. One of the victims suffered a mild concussion, while the others were treated for cuts and bruises.

Cruz denied that he had a knife. He has no prior criminal record, according to court records.

He was arrested Oct. 28 and released the next day on $2,000 bond.

Calls to the Tremont Hotel were not returned. 

Police had not arrested the other suspects named in the charging documents.

Posted by Justin Fenton at 2:09 PM | | Comments (16)
Categories: Downtown

Some additonal crime headlines

It's Election Day, and that typically means a slow crime day. It was a busy weekend, and here are some additional headlines on the crime front:

A woman sentenced to stealing more than three-quarters of a million dollars from her employer.

Man pleads guilty to shooting a city police officer.

Linthicum man sentenced for burning his own home.

Trial starts in JROTC rape case.

Parkville man guilty of producing child pornography.



Posted by Peter Hermann at 9:16 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Confronting crime

November 1, 2010

Tow truck driver was man fatally shot this morning

A 23-year-old tow truck driver from Linthicum was killed early Monday in West Baltimore as he finished up his shift, according to police and the man’s father.

Andrew Joyce, seen at right with his six-month-old son, was found dead from gunshot wounds inside his truck in the 500 block of Mosher St. at about 2:30 a.m., police said. Mike Joyce, his father, said he was completing a shift that began at 5 p.m. It was the Ellicott City native’s second month on the job.

Mike Joyce said his son was one week away from completing his probation stemming from a 2009 drug conviction. The Eagle Scout had been deeply affected by the deaths of his older twin brothers, who suffered from a rare genetic disorder called Batten Disease, which rendered them blind and mute and caused seizures and dementia. The family’s efforts to bring attention to the disease brought them regularly to Capitol Hill.

Andrew Joyce began self-medicating with drugs, and spent time at a treatment facility in Utah. The arrest dashed his hopes of becoming an EMT, and he vowed to do better.

“It was always the dark side vs. the good side,” Mike Joyce said of Andrew. “After the drug arrest, he said, ‘I’ll never do this again. I’ll never be in jail again.’ He had literally straightened things out.”

Police said they located his tow truck with its bed down, about to load a vehicle. He had been shot one time in the chest and was pronounced dead at the scene.

Mike Joyce said the tow truck company said that he had been at the site of a tow request, confirmed by the vehicle’s GPS. But nothing was stolen, and the motive was unclear.

His father said he didn’t want special attention for his son’s death, but said he was frustrated that such crimes seem all too common.

“This is just something that happens too many times on a weekly basis down in Baltimore City,” he said. “We think about these poor boys overseas fighting in the war, but we’ve got a war going on in the inner cities of this country, and it’s a war we’re ignoring.”

Posted by Justin Fenton at 4:05 PM | | Comments (34)

Rally to oppose new youth jail

Several hundred people gathered on Paul Laurence Dunbar High School's football field Sunday afternoon to protest state plans to build a $100 million, 230-bed detention facility in Baltimore for juveniles criminally charged as adults.

The two-hour rally culminated in a candle-lit march to the proposed construction site, a quarter-mile away next to the Baltimore City Detention Center, where protesters — chanting "educate, don't incarcerate" — used bolt-cutters to strip away the chain link fence protecting the property. Once inside, they planted yellow signs reading "Money for jobs and education, not jails" on the grounds and left books behind as a symbolic message.

"This is our property," declared Deverick Murray, vice president of programming for Leaders of a Beautiful Struggle, which describes itself as "Baltimore's progressive policy think tank" and helped organize the event.

Juveniles facing adult charges, typically for violent crimes, are now held in a wing of the Baltimore City Detention Center, which the U.S. Department of Justice has called inadequate. The new facility, in the works for five years, would provide a separate space to keep teens away from the adults, which corrections officials say is desperately needed. Construction is scheduled to begin this fall.
Posted by Justin Fenton at 12:56 PM | | Comments (4)
Categories: East Baltimore

At least two dead after crash with stolen vehicle

UPDATE: Police now say all three victims died, while the suspect was on probation for a theft charge in Baltimore County. Here is the updated story

Two men were killed and a woman was left in critical condition after their vehicle was struck by a stolen car at W. Ostend and S. Hanover streets late Sunday night, according to Baltimore Police.

Two men stole a Lincoln Town Car and were driving at a high speed on W. Ostend Street when it struck a Ford as it crossed Hanover at 11:35 p.m., according to Baltimore Police. The Ford had three occupants: two men who died and a woman, police said.

An officer in a police vehicle pursued and apprehended two men as they tried to flee from the Lincoln, according to police. The identities of the two men have not been released by police.

A reader posted this account of the crash scene in the comments section of the story:

I heard the crash and ran outside to what look like a war zone! Debris was everywhere! It was horrific...the cars parked along Hanover were damaged, one truck was pushed up onto the curb. The men and woman were laying outside the vehicle...a neighbor performed CPR on the woman, as she was, at the time, the only one showing some life.

I saw the cops chasing the men, one ran up my alley and the other tried to get away running up Hanover. We were lucky to have so many patrol men and women on duty last night as they were able to apprehend those men fairly easily.

I will never forget what I saw last was truly horrible!

Posted by Justin Fenton at 10:51 AM | | Comments (7)
Categories: South Baltimore

Two killed in West Baltimore

Baltimore Police were investigating a fatal Monday morning shooting in West Baltimore, which in the 500 block of Mosher Street at 2:35 a.m., according to police. Other details were not immediately available.

The shooting follows a weekend in which a woman was found fatally shot early Sunday morning — also in West Baltimore, on the 2300 block of Braddish Ave. — and police reported two nonfatal shootings Friday night and Saturday morning in East and Southwest Baltimore.

County police were also investigating a fatal shooting in Halethorpe that injured two others. Scant details on that case at the moment as well.

Posted by Justin Fenton at 9:40 AM | | Comments (2)
Categories: Baltimore County, West Baltimore
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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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