November 28, 2011

Police find 8 pounds of marijuana in Mount Vernon home

Baltimore police officers serving a warrant on a man wanted in a minor crime said they stumbled on a stash house in Mount Vernon where more than eight pounds of marijuana worth an estimated $25,000 on the street was being stored.

Det. Jeremy Silbert said the rowhouse where the drugs were found on Monday is in the 800 block of Cathedral St., near the Baltimore School for the Arts and Mount Vernon Park, where the Washington Monument. A holiday lighting festival is scheduled there on Thursday.

Police said officers with the Warrant Apprehension Task Force were looking for a man wanted for failing to appear in court on a drug charge. Silbert, a city police spokesman, said the officers arrested the man when he answered the door.

Seeing suspected drugs, Silbert said officers obtained a warrant and members of the Violent Crime Impact Section searched the rowhouse, near West Madison Street, and found what he said was eight pounds of marijuana and large amount of cash.

The suspect’s name was not immediately released pending the filing of formal charges related to the drug seizure.

Posted by Peter Hermann at 7:15 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Downtown

November 21, 2011

Woman arrested for administering illegal butt implant injections

A Georgia woman was arrested last month in Washington after a stripper from Baltimore's red light district told authorities that the woman was administering illegal buttocks implants in downtown hotel rooms, according to court documents.

Kimberly Smedley, 45, seen at right, has been under investigation by the Food and Drug Administration since a Baltimore dancer was hospitalized in March following four silicone treatments in a room at the Renaissance Hotel, records show. The woman paid $1,000 for each injection but later became ill, and doctors found that the silicone had spread from her hips and buttocks to her lungs, according to records.

The dancer told investigators that she met "Kim" at an undisclosed club on The Block, where most of Baltimore's strip clubs are located. The victim "said she heard through word of mouth from other exotic dancers of a woman who administrated silicone injections into the buttocks of customers so they would have larger and fuller buttocks."

After the procedure went awry, the victim sent a text message to Smedley saying, "You almost killed me." 

Smedley, who is not a licensed doctor or nurse, has been apparently performing such surgeries for years. The New York Post, in a 2008 article titled "Rear and Present Danger" that was found by authorities doing an Internet search for Smedley, sent a reporter undercover to receive injections from Smedley. They met in a Manhattan hotel room, where Smedley brought a Poland Spring jug full of silicone.

"It's illegal here, but legal in other countries, like Mexico," Smedley told the reporter, according to the article. "It lasts forever." 

The dancer said she met Smedley in October, December, February, and March, and agents confirmed that Smedley had checked into the Renaissance on those dates. She had checked into Marriott hotels across the country 106 times from Jan. 16, 2010 to May 2, 2011.

The Smoking Gun, which first reported Smedley's arrest, said she was taken into custody at a Washington hotel, where she was carrying three 18-gauge medical needles in one of her handbags and had a text message on her phone from a DC woman indicating that they were to meet for a procedure.

Agents reviewed Smedley's bank accounts and believe she may have purchased the silicone from stores like Lowe's and Home Depot.

An arrest was made in a similar case in Miami recently. The photo that accompanies this story is rather unique.

Posted by Justin Fenton at 10:04 AM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Downtown

November 15, 2011

Gunshots reported near Lexington Market

The University of Maryland Baltimore campus put out a crime alert on Monday afternoon. It was not Tweeted by the Baltimore Police Department, perhaps because no one was struck by the gunfire: 

"ATTEMPTED ASSAULT by SHOOTING AT CAMPUS RELATED LOCATION: 500 Block West Lexington Street (Near Lexington Market).

On November 14, 2011 at 1:05 PM, an attempted assault by shooting at occurred in the 500 Block of West Lexington Street near Lexington Market. The Baltimore Police Department and the University of Maryland Police Force responded to the scene. According to information from the scene, the suspect fired one shot from an unknown caliber handgun at the victim before running away from the scene. Neither the suspect nor victim could be located. It appears that the victim and the suspect are possible acquaintances; neither are affiliated with the University of Maryland.
Suspect: Black male, 25 - 30 Years of age, medium build, wearing beige jacket, green sweat shirt and brown two tone sneakers."
Posted by Peter Hermann at 6:47 AM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Downtown

November 11, 2011

Feds file more charges in Block trafficking case

Federal authorities in El Paso, Texas have filed additional charges against 10 people from Baltimore being held in a trafficking case involving The Block and strip clubs across the country. Prosecutors are calling the case a "forced prostitution" scheme.

The alleged leader, Alarcon Allen "Tha Don" Wiggins, 43, and nine other city residents had been charged with transporting for the purpose of prostitution. A superseding indictment unsealed on Thursday charges the defendants with conspiracy to commit human trafficking and sex trafficking by force.

The U.S. Attorney's Office in Texas alleges the group leaders called themselves concert promoters to allegedly lure women into their group and then force them to dance at strip clubs, including at The Block, and to be prostitutes. One of the bars mentioned in the indictment is Chez Joey on East Baltimore Street, shown above in the picture by The Sun's Gene Sweeney Jr.

Prosecutors said the group had strict rules, confiscated the women's cell phones and identification cards, and set minimums for pay, all of which were taken by the leaders. Rules, prosecutors said, "prohibited any communication by the victims and personal interaction with anyone outside the group without the defendants permission."

On Sunday, The Sun published a long article on the case and interviewed one of the women involved. The story documents how several women escaped, helped others to get out and then helped the FBI. All 10 suspects were arrested at a single family house off Harford Road in Northeast Baltimore.

Here is a statement from federal prosecutors on the case:

Continue reading "Feds file more charges in Block trafficking case" »

Posted by Peter Hermann at 7:08 AM | | Comments (7)
Categories: Crime elsewhere, Downtown

November 9, 2011

Search for escapee continues; another detainee stabbed

Baltimore police and correctional officers are still searching for a man who escaped from the downtown booking center and forced authorities to briefly shut down the Jones Falls Expressway when he apparently ran across the highway.

In an unrelated incident at the city detention center, located near the booking center, prison officials said a detainee was stabbed during an altercation at recreation.

Correctional officials said the detainee who escaped, Maury Figueroa, 29, got through a secured, controlled entryway while working on a sanitation detail. A statement says an officer tried to stop him as he climbed a fence in an employee parking lot.

Both directions of the elevated JFX ear the West 28th Street bridge were reopened after about 15 minutes. Police initially reported being in a standoff with the suspect, but later said he got away. The escapee was described as a low-level offender behind held on $75,000 bail on drug charges.

More details:

Continue reading "Search for escapee continues; another detainee stabbed" »

Posted by Peter Hermann at 4:50 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Downtown

November 8, 2011

Man who robbed Fells Point thrift shop, and beaten by customer, sentenced to 20 years in prison

In 2009, Michael Voorhis used a baseball bat to beat a man attacking his girlfriend as he held up the Fells Point store where she worked.

"I don't regret it at all," Voorhis told me today, after the suspect was sentenced to 20 years in federal prison. His girlfriend, Brittany Byers, called the ordeal "absolutely terrifying" but still works at the store, Killer Trash, on Broadway.

Federal prosecutors said the suspect Mark Lomax, 41, was sentenced to prison on Tuesday. He was convicted by a federal jury in June at a trial during which both Byers and Voorhis testified. Lomax committed 14 other holdups in a month during the summer of 2009 at shops in Mount Vernon, Fells Point and downtown.

Lomax held up Killer Trash three times in eight days. On the final time, Voorhis, worried about his girlfriend, was waiting. When Lomax came in, he hit him over the head with a baseball bat, bragging later that he had gotten "three or four clean shots at his head."

The suspect got away, but dropped the $4 he managed to get from the register and his baseball cap. Both items had DNA that matched Lomax, prosecutors said. Police said he used a collapsible wooden yard-stick covered in tape and wrapped in a plastic bag to resemble a firearm.

Byers, who joined her boyfriend in going after Lomax, hitting him with a jewelry bag, said: 

“It was absolutely terrifying. It was intimidating to see him again in the courtroom. But there’s a part of you that says, you have to stick up for yourself. I couldn’t back down out of fear. This store is my livelihood. I’m not going to let somebody bully me out of my life.”
The picture of Voorhis was taken in 2009 by The Sun's Lloyd Fox.

November 7, 2011

Sex ring linked to The Block

The young woman who told her tale about being caught up in a sex ring and forced to strip and prostitute herself difficult to sit through. I asked her to start at the beginning and she finished 90 minutes later.

It was, she assured me, the short version.

What she had told me she told to the FBI, and it was a harrowing account of hooking up with a group she through were music promoters but instead took her on a cross-country sex tour, with stops in Laurel, New Orleans and El Paso.

She and others, according to the FBI, were forced to work at strip clubs on The Block and elsewhere and have sex for money. ID cards, driver's licenses, cell phones and laptops were confiscated, they said, and they were beaten if they didn't make enough money. All their proceeds went into the hands of their captures, authorities said.

Sunday's story recounts the woman's story and the FBI investigation that led to 10 arrests at a house off Harford Road in Northeast Baltimore, and details what happened in Texas. It also tells how many of the women managed to escape.

The photo above is by The Sun's Gene Sweeney.

Posted by Peter Hermann at 4:38 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Downtown

November 3, 2011

Police poorly supervised when Torbit shot by fellow officers, report says

A report released today blames Baltimore police commanders for poorly supervising a chaotic response to the shooting outside Select Lounge in which four officers fatally shot a plainclothes officer they mistook for a gunman.

The long awaited report by an independent commission into the shooting of Officer William H. Torbit Jr., and of a man who was fighting him, recommends police better train officers and supervisors in how to handle crowds. The report says Torbit inflamed tensions that led up to the shooting.

The Baltimore State's Attorney's Office cleared the officers of criminal wrongdoing. At left, The Sun's Kim Hairston captures Police Commissioner Frederick H. Bealefeld III holding the report.

Read a summary of the report.

Read the full report.

Watch video of the shooting.

Look at crime scene pictures.

Read account of the shooting by officers involved.    

Posted by Peter Hermann at 3:41 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Confronting crime, Downtown, Police shootings, Top brass

November 2, 2011

In case you missed it ...

It was a busy day on Tuesday's crime front. The picture by The Sun's Kenneth K. Lam is from Occupy Baltimore, which is embroiled in security issues (see blurb below).

Catch up on the latest headlines:

Today: Attorneys are scheduled to make closing arguments in the bribery trial of state Sen. Ulysses Currie in federal court. Currie, a Prince George's Democrat, is accused of selling his influence as chairman of the Senate Budget and Taxation Committee to do political favors for Shoppers Food Warehouse. Read how the state's power brokers are rallying around Currie, and other stories.

* The man convicted of killing a Towson gas station owner for money apologized Tuesday in Harford County Circuit Court to the victim's family and friends, saying "I'm sorry to the last fiber of my being." The apology came shortly before a jury was to begin deliberating whether Walter P. Bishop Jr. will be sentenced to death or life in prison.

* The Occupy Baltimore protest is now entrenched at the Inner Harbor, but its members are questioning whether they can sustain the movement amid a dwindling number of core leaders and allegations of crime and drug use. Reports that a woman was sexually assaulted in a tent, deemed unfounded by city police, have nevertheless put public safety at the forefront.

* A 52-year-old man died after being shot during a robbery at a carryout restaurant in Better Waverly on Monday night, renewing concerns in the community about the crime connected to the beleaguered business. The Yau Brothers carryout, in the 2900 block of Greenmount Ave., was closed Tuesday, as it was after similar shooting incidents in the past two years: In 2010, 72-year-old security guard Charles Bowman was fatally shot in a robbery there, a year after three men were shot following a fight that broke out inside.

* A former professional basketball player pleaded guilty Tuesday in the pistol whipping of his girlfriend's brother after a dispute at a cookout in Arnold.

* Towson University students and employees were briefly alerted to stay inside Tuesday afternoon, because police were looking for a man with a gun on campus. But the man turned out to be carrying a prop gun for an acting class, said Towson spokeswoman Gay Pinder.

November 1, 2011

Police: Report of sexual assault at Occupy Baltimore unfounded

Baltimore police are saying they have no evidence to suggest that a woman was sexually assaulted at the Occupy Baltimore protest at the Inner Harbor. Police released a report that suggests the woman had a bundle of money stolen from her as she slept in a tent at the protest site.

Police said the tent had an open flap and could have been accessed by anybody. Police did question a potential suspect but did not file any charges. The woman complained of having a sore buttocks, and detectives had her examined at Mercy Hospital for a possible sexual assault.

Police issued this statement:

"Baltimore Police are investigating a reported assault and larceny that occurred Friday, October 28th at Mckeldin Square. This incident was reported to police Monday morning and detectives immediately began to investigate the allegations.  At this time, the facts and evidence do not suggest that a sex offense occurred.

While the victim at no time reported a sexual assault to police, detectives offered the victim a precautionary SAFE Exam at Mercy Hospital and reached out to the advocacy community to provide her with support. Detectives continue to investigate the alleged assault and larceny and are working with the advocacy community to provide outreach and support to the victim."

Earlier today, we posted about how the claims - which were apparently sparked by a report on Fox 45 - had led to discussions at Occupy Baltimore about broader issues of security. A document detailing how to handle sexual assault allegations had also drawn controversy last month. 

Posted by Peter Hermann at 2:54 PM | | Comments (3)
Categories: Downtown

City police investigating assault at Occupy Baltimore

Baltimore police are investigating an assault and theft that allegedly occurred at the Occupy Baltimore protest movement at the Inner Harbor's McKeldin Square. Police said only that the attack occurred Friday, but wasn't reported to them until Monday morning.

Authorities released no other details. But that coupled with another report on Fox 45 TV of an anonymous woman who said she was sexually assaulted has sparked internal debate among the protesters over safety.

At a volatile General Assembly meeting at the square Monday night, people debated the role of police, their own security teams and a general feeling from some that the encampment is not safe for people staying overnight in tents.

Last month, the group distributed pamphlets that suggested victims of sexual assaults not contact police, but instead deal with the issue internally. Those guidelines were later revised to encourage contacting police, but they created a debate over whether the group can, and should, handle such issues themselves.

Baltimore police and city leaders have thus far taken a hands-off approach to the tent city, and have not enforced a curfew or the denial of a permit from the Department of Recreation and Parks. Police in other cities have broken up encampments.

We're awaiting more information from police and other city officials. This morning, the Occupy Baltimore movement issued this statement:

Continue reading "City police investigating assault at Occupy Baltimore" »

Posted by Peter Hermann at 9:47 AM | | Comments (5)
Categories: Downtown

October 26, 2011

City ticket agents boot car owned by city

You'd think that the one person who could escape a parking ticket from the city, and a boot, would be someone driving a city vehicle.

Think again.

 Apparently no one can escape the wrath of the parking agents, who have targeted a vehicle owned by the very same city that writes their checks.

And for anyone hopping mad over a fine, here's a picture guaranteed to brighten your day. Yes, someone, I would assume a ticket agent, booted a car owned by the housing department.

The Sun's city government reporter Julie Scharper snapped this pic  [go to Julie's Twitter page] outside City Hall this morning, and we're awaiting an answer from transportation officials. Read more on the politics blog.

So far, they haven't been able to say how the car got booted, and whether one city agency owes another city agency money for parking tickets.

Can't wait for to see someone try to argue this one in front of a judge.

Posted by Peter Hermann at 1:48 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Downtown

Mayor declines to say how officials will deal with Occupy Baltimore

With a deadline looming for the Occupy Baltimore movement to vacate its overnight encampment at the Inner Harbor, the city's mayor would not describe what action authorities might take. The Sun's City Hall reporter, Julie Scharper, reports:

Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake declined to say whether police or city officials would take action at the midnight curfew, saying that officials would deal with protesters “on a case-by-case basis.”

“I have absolutely no interest in a violent exchange,” she said, although she declined to say whether police had been instructed to arrest protesters who violated the curfew.

Rawlings-Blake said she sought to balance the protesters’ right to free speech with city laws prohibiting long-term camping in parks.

“If the point is to talk about inequity to talk about how we can work together to have a more just society or a more equitable Baltimore, it’s not about pitching a tent, it’s about getting the work done,” she said. “Nobody’s talking in the middle of the night – they’re camping out, and that is what this is about. They’re free to protest with signs with their voices with music and dance all day long.”

“Their right to free speech does not trump the rest of the public’s right to enjoy that space,” she said.

Posted by Peter Hermann at 12:52 PM | | Comments (3)
Categories: Downtown

Occupy Baltimore awaits city action; revises sexual assault guidelines

A day after the city declared the Occupy Baltimore movement an illegal encampment, protesters are awaiting the next move from authorities. But it appears the police aren't moving in just yet.

The Sun's Luke Broadwater reports that at last night’s meeting of what the group calls their General Assembly, protesters said city officials had indicated to them that a representative from the city’s Department of Recreation and Parks would attend tonight’s 8 p.m. meeting. City officials did not immediately confirm that information, but had tentatively set today as a deadline for the protesters to come to an agreement with City Hall.

In the photo above by The Sun's Karl Merton Ferron, college student Brandie Cross holds a flag raised in distress, whose stars are instead symbols of large corporations.

Police and city officials have been circumspect about telegraphing their next move, perhaps to avoid a confrontation similar to what has occurred in other cities, most recently Oakland, where police moved in with tear gas, or to keep the element of surprise. What does seem clear is that the city is gearing up for some action to evict what they've determined has morphed from a protest to a campground.

Also today, after having distributed pamphlets that advocates and police said discouraged victims of sexual assault from going to authorities, the Occupy Baltimore has revised its guidelines.

The new pamphlet now lists services available to victims. Gone is controversial language that said the protesters would rather handle complaints amongst themselves, and that while they wouldn't prevent someone from going to police, they would prefer not to involve law enforcement.

The memo now reads, in part: 

Instances of sexual abuse and assault will be handled according to the expressed desires of the victim. The Security and Medical teams are equipped with a list of resources, including contact information for the police, hospitals, sexual assault hotlines, and women's shelters. In these instances, #Occupy Baltimore welcomes the involvement of the Baltimore City Police and encourages victims to report crimes.

The complete memo on sexual assault is below:

Continue reading "Occupy Baltimore awaits city action; revises sexual assault guidelines" »

Posted by Peter Hermann at 10:53 AM | | Comments (11)
Categories: Downtown

October 21, 2011

Bank robber sent away for 20 years for stealing $157,000

A 37-year-old man was sentenced to 20 years in prison on Thursday for helping rob a bank in Harbor East and stealing $157,000. Federal authorities said that the man's accomplice has already been sent to prison for 15 years.

Bank robberies in Baltimore typically net only a few thousand dollars -- the so-called "bait money" that tellers set aside. The typical bank robber is armed with a note more often than a gun. But this case was far more brazen.

Prosecutors with the Maryland U.S. Attorney's Office said the gunmen hit the Harbor Bank branch in the 1000 block of Lancaster St. on March 11, 2010. The man sentenced Thursday, Jenerette Dixon, 35, jumped over the counter and forced tellers at gunpoint to open the vault.

Police said the Dixon and his accomplice used a fake bomb to slow police response.

More details from the Maryland U.S. Attorney's Office below:

Continue reading "Bank robber sent away for 20 years for stealing $157,000" »

Posted by Peter Hermann at 6:43 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Courts and the justice system, Downtown

October 19, 2011

Deaths at Park Charles not linked, police say

The deaths 14 months apart of Harsh Kumar, 30, and Emily Hauze, 23, are purely coincidental, city police said on Wednesday. That the two victims went down the same trash chute at the same apartment building, the Park Charles, is a bizarre coincidence, the police say.

Beyond that, police have released next to no information on how Hauze, a recent honors graduate of Loyola University Maryland, died on Sunday morning. Her family has not talked, and neither have officials at the school.

Tenants of the high-rise apartment at Charles Center have expressed doubt that anyone could accidentally or purposely go down the chute, which have oven-like doors that are heavy and spring-loaded.

But police reiterated on Wednesday that Kumar likely died an accidental death. An autopsy report I reviewed on Wednesday shows that Kumar had been drinking and taken powerful sleeping pills before he died:

The report says he suffered numerous cuts on his head, face, arms, chest and legs, and that his fingernails were dirty and bloody. It also says that his black tank top had “large tears and blood stains.” Kumar was 5 feet 7 inches tall and weighed 156 pounds, according to the report.

The report concluded that Kumar “bad been consuming alcoholic beverages prior to his death and also took Zolpidem concurrently.” Zolpidem is a sedative that slows the brain to help people sleep and is prescribed to treat insomnia. The manufacturer warns that sleep can come quickly and last several hours, and that the drug should not be taken with alcohol.

Pathologists did not say how much alcohol Kumar had consumed or how many pills he had taken. The report concluded: “The facts of the investigation did not demonstrate overt signs of suicidal intent.”
Relatives of Kumar have also declined to talk to us.

Posted by Peter Hermann at 6:57 PM | | Comments (4)
Categories: Downtown

Occupy Baltimore pamphlet on sexual assault causes alarm

The Occupy Baltimore movement is trying to become its own community, complete with its own rules, committees and general assembly. But a pamphlet advising how victims of sexual assaults should handle alleged crimes has gotten rape counselors concerned.

The pamphlet instructs victims to report to the "security committee" and advises that the group would prefer to mediate issues internally. One paragraph reads:

Though we do not encourage the involvement of the police in our community, the survivor has every right and the support of Occupy Baltimore, to report the abuse to the appropriate law enforcement.

A spokeswoman and the author of the memo -- herself a victim of a sexual assault -- say the directive in no way discourages victims from contacting police. But heads of advocate groups, such as Jacqueline Robarge of Power Inside, complained the tone says different.

"It might actually passively prevent someone from seeking justice," Robarge said.

The pamphlet came to our attention from a blogger posting on Andrew Breitbart's big government web site. The memo's author told me she only wanted to make sure victims knew they had an alternative to calling police.

Trouble is that victims of sexual assault already can get help at places such as Mercy Medical Center, and not involve police. Nurses there will preserve files and physical evidence for up to a year in case the victim changes her mind.

Here is the pamphlet in full:

Continue reading "Occupy Baltimore pamphlet on sexual assault causes alarm" »

Posted by Peter Hermann at 6:23 PM | | Comments (8)
Categories: Downtown

For now, police let occupy protesters be at Harbor

For now, it appears that Baltimore police are taking a wait-and-see attitude toward the Occupy Baltimore protesters who have pitched tents at McKeldin Square at the Inner Harbor. That's in contrast to police in other cities who have removed the groups from various places, in some cases by force.

Police report making no arrests and it appears the group is seeking a permit. The rules allow up to 25 protesters at the triangle-shaped park but any more requires permission from the city. That guideline was put in place while the ACLU and city finish negotiations over a free-speech lawsuit filed by the ACLU on behalf of a protest group arrested by police eight years ago.

At the moment, it seems police and protesters are locked in a battle of uncertainty. The protesters (seen above in a picture by The Sun's Gene Sweeney Jr.) don't have demands or clear goals, other than to raise awareness, and police say they have no timetable for acting. Of course, Baltimore's movement hasn't attracted nearly the numbers of other cities.

Here's what city mayoral spokesman Ryan O'Doherty told The Sun's Jean Marbella: 

"That's not to say we will not do that in the future. If we do take such measures, it will be at the time we think is appropriate."

O'Doherty said the city is responding to specific complaints, such as concerns about trash or pedestrian traffic being blocked, rather than the protest as a whole. Officials wanted to make sure, for example, that protesters would "share space" with the recent Baltimore Marathon, he said, and everything ran smoothly.

"There's no broad policy toward the protest movement to interfere with it in any way," he said. "We're trying to have a constructive dialogue with the protesters so things are dealt with respectfully."

Posted by Peter Hermann at 8:00 AM | | Comments (2)
Categories: Downtown

Little information released on trash chute death

Baltimore police have been unusually quiet about the 23-year-old Loyola University Maryland student whose body was found at the bottom of a trash chute on Sunday at the Park Charles apartment building in the city's downtown.

What was Emily Hauze doing there? What led up to her death? Was she killed before someone put her down the chute? Compounding the mystery is that she's the second person to go down the chute in the past 14 months at the same building. That has got residents concerned.

The cause of death of the man who died last year was ruled undetermined (we are seeking the autopsy report but I wasn't able to obtain it on Tuesday). The Medical Examiner has not made a ruling on how Hauze died.

Hauze's relatives have not said anything publicly and the university has said nothing beyond a brief statement that their "thoughts and prayers" are with the family.  I'll keep you updated as we learn more. Photo above taken by The Sun's Jerry Jackson. 


Posted by Peter Hermann at 7:42 AM | | Comments (8)
Categories: Downtown

October 18, 2011

Mysterious trash chute death investigation continues

The investigation into the mysterious death of Loyola University Maryland graduate Emily Hauze, whose body was found at the bottom of a trash chute at the Park Charles apartment building, continues with many unanswered questions.

We are pursing the case vigorously, including trying to determine how she died and got into the chute. One question raised by many readers and apartment residents is how anyone could've gotten into the chute.

Occupants describe the door as heavy and small -- roughly 14 by 16 inches -- and spring-loaded, so it closes automatically. Residents say they have to hold it open and struggle to get a trash bag inside, so they can't imagine anyone being able to climb in on their own.

Last year, police said a 30-year-old man did just that, and fell 16 stories to the trash compactor below, where he died. Now, police are trying to determine how Hauze got into the same chute. Here's a picture of a trash chute door from the Park Charles taken by a resident.

Posted by Peter Hermann at 9:18 AM | | Comments (2)
Categories: Downtown

October 17, 2011

Frederick police confirm hospital shooting victim was stabbed in March

The Frederick County Sheriff's Office is confirming that the man shot during an apparent robbery in a downtown parking garage owned by the University of Maryland, Baltimore had been stabbed in March during a home invasion there.

The victim was identified through that home invasion as Amir Abbas Doulatshahi, 45, of Middletown, Md. Capt. Tim Clarke, the special operations commander for the Frederick County Sheriff's Office said investigators have turned over their files from that case to Baltimore Police, but would not comment on whether they believe the cases are related. "It's too early," Clarke said.

Sources had told The Sun that the shooting victim was in the parking garage near University of Maryland Medical Center for a follow-up appointment related to surgery for injuries he suffered during that home invasion. Clarke said Doulatshahi had come home on March 26 and encountered two men in his home, and was stabbed and knocked unconscious. According to news reports, he woke up six hours later and called police.

In the shooting incident, a police report shows Doulatshahi was found by a woman in the parking garage, suffering from multiple gunshot wounds to the back. He told her had been robbed and shot, but was unable to speak when police found him. 

City police have provided any updates on the shooting investigation, which as of last week was classified as an aggravated assault. 

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

For 2nd time in a year, body found in apartment trash chute

Police were continuing to investigate the discovery of a body at the bottom of a trash chute at a downtown apartment building Sunday morning – the second time a body has gone down a trash chute in that building in the past year.

There were few details released by police. Officials said only that the woman's body bore no obvious signs of trauma and that she appeared to be in her early 20s. The body was found at 8:12 a.m. in the Park Charles building in the 200 block of N. Charles St.

In a letter to apartment residents, property manager Kisha Peterson wrote that “an isolated incident occurred on the community that resulted in death. This incident is currently under investigation and we have no details at this time that we are able to release.”

But residents questioned whether the incident was in fact isolated – in August 2010, a 30-year-old resident of the building was found dead after apparently falling down a trash chute and into a trash compactor.

Harsh Kumar, a resident of the 16th-floor, had no injuries to his body except those consistent with a fall, and the death was ruled an accident.

Current and former tenants told The Sun at that time that the trash chutes on each floor have a spring-mounted door that residents must pull. Justin Sausville, 29, a former resident of the building, said the opening is about 3 feet high by 2 feet across, and opens on an angle.

Another resident, who did not want to be identified, said he usually has to “push a little bit” to get a standard garbage bag to fit into the opening.

“It would be very difficult for someone to have put a body in the trash compactor without more signs [of a struggle] on the body,” police spokesman Anthony Guglielmi said last year of Kumar’s death. “We don't know why he would go down the trash chute or if he was impaired by anything, but that's where we are, and that's where the evidence is taking us.”

Such incidents are not unheard of. On Oct. 11, a man was found dead after falling down a trash chute from the ninth floor of a San Diego apartment building. Two years ago, a 34-year-old man fell 25 stories down a garbage chute in New York last year after jumping out of a cab without paying and running into a luxury apartment building, according to news reports. And last February, a Central Illinois man became stuck in a trash chute and suffocated.

Posted by Justin Fenton at 10:59 AM | | Comments (2)
Categories: Downtown

October 14, 2011

Condition of man shot in hospital garage robbery improves

[This post has been updated]

A 45-year-old Frederick County man and hospital patient who was shot and seriously injured Thursday evening in a downtown parking garage was a victim of an apparent robbery, officials said.

Police said that the condition of the unidentified man, who is from Middletown, Md., had improved and confirmed that the man had been a patient at a nearby hospital, but declined to specify a motive for the shooting, which occurred on the sixth level of an underground garage at Greene and Redwood streets.

Robert F. Cherry, president of the city police union, took to the union's Twitter page and said that the victim had been shot three times in a robbery try. He had been visiting the hospital for treatment after being stabbed in a recent home invasion, Cherry said.

A source with knowledge of the investigation corroborated that information, saying the gunman demanded the man's keys and wallet. The man refused, the source said, and was shot at four times as he ran away. Three of the bullets struck him in the back.

Cherry blasted the city and police department for not releasing more information.

“A patient leaving the University of Maryland is robbed and shot and no news from the BPD or City? This should outrage every citizen!” Cherry wrote on Twitter Thursday night.

Councilman William Cole IV also said police should release more information to the public. “I want to know as quickly as humanly possible what's going on. I do think the public needs to know what's happening, and at the same time I'd like to know what the next steps are going to be. I'd like to know if it was captured on video,” Cole said.

“The more information the better, so that people can respond appropriately,” Cole said.

Students at nearby University of Maryland, Baltimore were also critical of a lack of information disseminated while the crime scene was unfolding. An “alert” message went to students at 1:38 p.m. Friday.

The shooting occurred just before 6 p.m. in the busy garage, which is patrolled by a private security force. Officers were nearby, but not on that floor, a source said.

The victim has no prior criminal record, but detectives were exploring any possible correlation between the home invasion and the shooting, the source said. However, preliminary indications were that the shooting was a robbery gone awry.

Friday afternoon, the University Maryland sent out an e-mail to students and staff describing the suspect as a black male in his 20s, who was wearing a Ravens hat, a white t-shirt and blue jeans.

“The University of Maryland Police Force remains vigilant in its effort to keep the Campus and its surrounding community safe through the continued cooperation and intelligence sharing with the Baltimore Police Department. We have increased our patrols on Campus and in the garages,” the e-mail said.

Posted by Peter Hermann at 8:05 AM | | Comments (2)
Categories: Downtown

October 13, 2011

Shooting in downtown parking garage near University of Maryland Medical Center

[Raw video of police press briefing embedded from YouTube page of James MacArthur, who was at the scene]

A man was shot multiple times in the back just before 6 p.m. on a lower level of an underground parking garage in the heart of the University of Maryland, Baltimore and Medical Center campus, The Sun's Steve Kilar is reporting.

The victim, who appears to be in his mid-40s, is in critical condition but stable at a local hospital, said Detective Kevin Brown, a police spokesman. After the shooting, the assailant fled, he said. No shooter description was available by 9:15 p.m.

Police union President Robert F. Cherry, attributing information to a source, said on the union's Twitter page that the victim was a hospital patient who was robbed and shot three times. Cherry claimed the victim had been previously stabbed in a home invasion and treated at Shock Trauma.

Later, apparently incredulous that the city had not released more information, Cherry tweeted: "A patient leaving the University of Maryland is robbed and shot and no news from the BPD or City? This should outrage every citizen!"

Officers were still conducting a forensic investigation of the scene about 7:15 p.m., Brown said, and surveillance footage will be reviewed.

The University Plaza Garage, which is owned by the university and has an entrance off Redwood Street between Greene and Paca streets, is six floors deep, according to Patricia Fanning, a spokeswoman for the University of Maryland, Baltimore.


Source from UMMS says shooting victim was a patient who just left clinic preparing for an operation tomorrow. Victim robbed & shot 3 times.
Oct 14 via Twitter for BlackBerry®FavoriteRetweetReply

Posted by Justin Fenton at 9:48 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Breaking news, Downtown

October 11, 2011

Records: DNA links man to fourth rape

Court records show DNA has linked a 50-year-old drifter to a fourth rape.

Carroll Thomas Santos was charged in November 2009 in connection with two separate rapes. As he awaited trial on those charges, police linked him to two additional cases, the latest a 2008 attack that occurred near the Walters Art Gallery, according to court records.

Police said the victim, who was 55 at the time, was walking in the 500 block of Cathedral St. on Sept. 16 at about 12:30 a.m. when a man grabbed her from behind and put her in a chokehold and told her not to scream. She was dragged into an alley and raped, police said. The man looked through her purse and then fled, police said.

Police received the DNA hit for Santos on Nov. 22, 2010 and assigned the case to a detective from the sex offense unit's cold case squad, who showed the woman a photo lineup in September. She said she had not had consensual sex with any of the men pictured, but could not identify her attacker.

Santos is set to go to trial on the other three cases on November 1, court records show. 

Last year, the Sun explored the difficulties prosecutors face even when they have seemingly slam-dunk DNA evidence. That story can be read here.

Santos has a prior record of sex crimes - in 2002 he was convicted of second degree rape and received 20 years in prison, but 15 years of the sentence were suspended. In 2008, he was convicted of indecent exposure, court records show.

Posted by Justin Fenton at 5:21 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Downtown

October 10, 2011

Three stabbed early Sunday outside Mt Vernon club

[Above, video shot by @Guttermagazine outside Eden's Lounge early Sunday]

Three people were stabbed early Sunday after an altercation inside a popular Mount Vernon club, police confirmed this morning.

Harold Edwards, the club's owner, said "this is not what Eden's Lounge stands for."

"This is not typical at our venue, and we don't know how it got started or why adults still act like this," he said.

According to the police report, officers were outside Eden's Lounge in the first block of W. Eager St. for routine crowd control when a man stumbled out of the club, his back covered in blood. The officer said the victim was "confused and highly intoxicated," and the officer asked him to remove his shirt, revealing five cut wounds to his upper back.

As the officer was assessing the man's injuries, two other men ran out of the club. Both had blood covering the top portion of their t-shirts, and were suffering from wounds to their back and necks. 

All three victims told the officer that they had not seen the person that assaulted them, and did not know what had prompted the stabbing, according to the report. Police haven't reported any arrests or a description of the suspects.

Eden's Lounge is located in the heart of Mount Vernon, and there's typically a strong police presence outside as its crowd along with several other clubs empty out into the intersection of Charles St. and Eager. 

Despite assertions from some residents that the club is a problem, liquor board chairman Steve Fogleman said they've received few complaints. Still, the stabbings will result in an inquiry by the board, he said. "There was a period ending about three or four years ago, where it was a little crowded, and had security issues from time to time. But lately, as far as 311 complaints, it's really not been on our radar. We're all a little surprised," Fogleman said.

What a scene on Charles St. cops clearing Grand Central now. #livethiscity
Oct 09 via EchofonFavoriteRetweetReply

Posted by Justin Fenton at 9:51 AM | | Comments (16)
Categories: Downtown

After burglary, showcases bare at city silver shop

Sun reporter Jacques Kelly recently talked to the owners of Imperial Half Bushel, who were burglarized and lost more than $100,000 in merchandise. We write a lot in this space about violent crime and gun violence, but this is a reminder of the toll of property crime:

The door at 831 N. Howard St. swings open to one of Baltimore's more charming salesrooms. But Friday, when I stopped by the place known as the Imperial Half Bushel, it was a dispiriting and depressing sight.

The 19th-century walnut and oak showcases were empty. Gone were the silver forks and spoons made by Baltimore silversmiths. The water pitchers, the cups, the napkin holders had disappeared. Sometime between Sept. 17 and Sept. 20, thieves looted $100,000 worth of silver from this little shop located on a stretch known as Antiques Row.

Fred and Nancy Duggan and their son, Patrick, opened their silver business in 1976. They operate an old-fashioned Baltimore shop, complete with marble steps and a brass rail and a set of louvered green shutters at the front door. They offered an inventory of estate silver — used and antique pieces — neatly displayed and well-polished in showcases you might encounter in an old museum or a great-aunt's dining room.

Patrick Duggan said that on Saturday, Sept. 17, he locked the front door and turned on the burglar alarm when he closed the shop for the weekend. When he went to reopen it the following Tuesday morning, the alarm did not sound momentarily, as it normally would. He walked in and saw that his showcases were virtually empty. The thieves had entered through a back window and cut the alarm telephone lines. When rifling through the showcases, they left the knives behind, apparently knowing the blades are not silver.

Posted by Justin Fenton at 8:00 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Downtown

October 4, 2011

So far, police, protesters in harmony

So far, Occupy Baltimore, the Occupy Wall Street knock-off, looks nothing like New York.

Baltimore's so-far tamer version at McKeldin Park at the Inner Harbor attracted up to 50 protesters, not the hundreds or even thousands that have showed in New York. And Baltimore police, at least on the first day, took it all in stride.

A few motorcycle cops sometimes buzzed through the brick plaza, the helicopter circled but didn't hover long, and at most three police commanders stood casually on the other side of the square,  watching but doing nothing much else. The picture above was taken by The Sun's Amy Davis.

Yes, the police commanders in Baltimore wear white shirts (see picture), just like in New York, but we didn't have an incident here like they did there, where a deputy chief used pepper spray on a woman already fenced in by officers.

The New York Times reported Monday that the "white shirts," as they are called there, had taken on the "enforcer role" and were on the front lines instead of in the back supervising. New York police have arrested hundreds, drawing criticism that the cops were trying to prevent instead of protect the demonstrators.

Read how Baltimore police handled the first day:

Continue reading "So far, police, protesters in harmony" »

Posted by Peter Hermann at 6:21 PM | | Comments (3)
Categories: Downtown

October 3, 2011

Occupy Baltimore to test Inner Harbor free speech policies

The "Occupy Wall Street" movement will materialize in Baltimore on Tuesday at the Inner Harbor, according to organizers. In New York, clashes between protesters and police may have helped draw attention to the already well attended event, with top commanders are now under scrutiny for their actions.

Here's what Baltimore Police are saying about Occupy Baltimore, via The Sun's Erik Maza and Jill Rosen:

In Baltimore, police were monitoring social media and news reports for updates on the protest, said spokesman Anthony Guglielmi. He said it wasn't clear if the protesters needed a permit. Police are only concerned that the protesters stay organized and don't disrupt traffic.

He declined to say how many officers would be deployed to the scene. "We will make sure we have resources in place so that it doesn't become a distraction."

We've written in this space before about the tricky free speech restrictions at the Inner Harbor, the subject of an eight-year-old lawsuit:

The American Civil Liberties Union sued the city in federal court in 2003 over what it says are restrictive free-speech rules in what it regards as a public park. Eight years later, the two sides are still engaged in talks meant to clarify how the First Amendment applies to the Inner Harbor.

"We're looking forward to the lawsuit being settled so everyone knows what the rules are," said Laurie Schwartz, the head of the Waterfront Partnership of Baltimore, a group that promotes the harbor, helps to keep it clean and employs security guards.

Posted by Justin Fenton at 10:57 PM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Downtown

September 26, 2011

Police disrupt human trafficking operation at downtown hotel

Court records show authorities last week disrupted a human trafficking operation in which underage girls were providing sex for money in a downtown Baltimore hotel room.

Detectives with the Maryland Child Exploitation Task Force, looking for young girls that might be working in the Baltimore area, were led to a website where women were soliciting sex, police wrote in charging documents.

At 5 p.m. on Thursday, an undercover officer contacted someone from the site and set up a meeting with two girls and was told to go to the Marriott Hotel in the 100 block of S. Eutaw Street, according to records.

Three hours later, the officer went to the room and exchanged money with a 20-year-old woman and discussed sexual acts with her and a 17-year-old girl, according to records. Officers then closed in on the room and placed them under arrest.

Continue reading "Police disrupt human trafficking operation at downtown hotel" »

Posted by Justin Fenton at 2:50 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Downtown

September 23, 2011

Former Ravens player found dead

Former Ravens player Orlando Brown has been found dead in his downtown Baltimore home, officials and the team said. He was 40.

Ravens coach John Harbaugh announced Brown's death at the beginning of his news conference with reporters on Friday afternoon. City police and fire officials confirmed that they were at the player's home at the Harborview complex in South Baltimore. 

Fire Department spokesman Kevin Cartwright said medics were called after the player was found unresponsive in his home in the 1200 block of Harbor Island Walk. Medics called police to the scene at about 11 a.m. as a matter of protocol, and police say there were no signs of foul play or any initial indications as to the cause of death. The state medical examiner will perform an autopsy.

Official said "preliminary reports did not suggest a crime scene," though four hours later the street near the home was inaccessible and blocked off by crime scene tape. [Pictured above]

Brown played for the Ravens from 1996 to 1998, as well as a second stint from 2003 to 2005. He may be most well known for an incident when he played for the Cleveland Browns, when he was hit in the eye with a penalty flag, causing significant injuries and leading to an injury settlement with the NFL.

Continue reading "Former Ravens player found dead" »

Posted by Justin Fenton at 1:20 PM | | Comments (13)
Categories: Downtown

September 20, 2011

Free speech at harbor under renewed debate

When a police officer put Mark Chase in handcuffs for selling his paintings at the Inner Harbor on Sunday, he sparked a fresh debate over free speech at the waterfront attraction.

Chase, a self-professed agitator, had already won a temporary victory in Ocean City when a federal judge ruled that requiring permits for street venders was an unconstitutional violation of free speech. Now, Chase has taken his form of protest to Baltimore, which has similar laws.

Tying peddling laws to the First Amendment could complicate ongoing settlement talks between the ACLU and city attorneys over a lawsuit filed eight years ago when police officers arrested members of the peace group Women in Black for protesting at the harbor. The discussions are meant to develop broad guidelines for conduct at the city's premier tourist attraction, which the ACLU says also serves as Baltimore's town square.

Now, Chase's argument that the city not only cannot restrict speech, but also cannot regulate peddlers, adds a new dimension to the talks. Say what you will about chase -- he practically demanded a police officer arrest him -- but he knows how to make a point.

But does the judge's ruling, if it becomes permanent, mean that the Ocean City boardwalk and the Inner Harbor becomes an unrestricted free-for-all for anyone selling anything?

Picture of Chase was taken by Patrick Smith.

Read a complete article about the issues involved here. The police report is below:

Continue reading "Free speech at harbor under renewed debate" »

Posted by Peter Hermann at 7:33 AM | | Comments (5)
Categories: Downtown

September 19, 2011

Man who wins right to paint in Ocean City denied in Baltimore

Mark Chase had just won a temporary victory when a federal judge ruled that he could paint along Ocean City's boardwalk, at least while his suit against the city moves forward. On Sunday, he took his work to the Inner Harbor area, and promptly got arrested.

A video captured part of the exchange between Chase and officers (Read The Sun's Andrea K. Walker's full story here:

The video shows Chase explaining that he had won a court injunction in U.S. District Court and had a right to paint where he was. Officers argued the laws were different in Baltimore.

"It is my constitutional right to be here without prior approval," Chase said to the officer at one point.

"Your constitutional rights have nothing to do with the law," the officer said.

"If you don't have a permit, you're trespassing," the officer said at another point.

In the federal case, the judge ruled that Ocean City could not enforce a permit process on street artists. Read The Sun's Tricia Bishop's story on the ruling.

Over the summer, Baltimore police officers moved city school teacher Bruce Friedrich out of the Inner Harbor for passing out fliers. Both of these incidents cry out for settlement of a years-long pending lawsuit filed by the ACLU protesting what the group calls restrictive rules governing free speech at the harbor.

The Harbor is actually a patchwork of quasi-public and private space with different rules governing assembly at different spots. What's allowed at one end of the harbor is not allowed at the other end. Talks between the two sides in the lawsuit are supposed to fix this.

Chase was in front of Harborplace, at Light and Pratt streets. We'll see today how that particular spot is interpreted. The ACLU believes the Harbor is entirely a public space. 

Posted by Peter Hermann at 7:20 AM | | Comments (4)
Categories: Downtown

September 2, 2011

Police want people off rooftops near Grand Prix

Think you’ve snagged the perfect, and free, spot to watch the Grand Prix by standing atop a building overlooking the track?

Think again.

Baltimore police are not happy with rooftop spectators that began popping up around the downtown on Thursday. Authorities say it’s too dangerous for the people watching, to the fans in the stands and to the racers themselves.

Police sent out an alert on Twitter: “Baltimore Police will gain access to these buildings and remove spectators from high roofs if needed to ensure safety. Many of these roofs are not suitable for seating or standing by unauthorized individuals and could pose a safety hazard.”

City police are even using surveillance cameras, of which there are an abundance downtown, to “monitor the area for improper standing or sitting on unsecure rooftops.”

Police spokesman Anthony Guglielmi could not provide specific addresses or the height of some of the buildings people had been spotted on top of. He could not say whether standing on a roof is a crime, but stressed, “It’s a public safety issue.”

The spokesman said the request does not apply to rooftop decks on private homes or elevated portions of private buildings designed for people to be on. He said police are concerned with commercial buildings with flat roofs that are “not equipped to handle people.”

Picture above is by The Sun's Jerry Jackson, from Friday's practice.

Posted by Peter Hermann at 4:27 PM | | Comments (6)
Categories: Downtown

Police doubt report that Grand Prix crew member robbed

UPDATED at 11:15 p.m.

A friend of a Baltimore Grand Prix official who purportedly was robbed of her cell phone and wallet Thursday night is refusing to speak with city police, who are trying to determine whether an attack took place and should be investigated.

“We are unable to locate a crime scene,” said the city police department’s chief spokesman, Anthony Guglielmi. “We are unable to locate a victim. We have no calls for service for something like that. I just cannot confirm that it happened or took place.

“We have several hundred officers who are trying to make this event safe,” the spokesman said. “We encourage victim cooperation. I think the circumstances of this are questionable. It is suspect that this took place.”

Word of the alleged robbery came from Tom Blattler, who runs Sports Management Worldwide, a public relations consulting firm based in Indianapolis that was hired by the Baltimore Grand Prix to run the media center.

Blattler told police that members of the Grand Prix crew — two men and a woman — had been robbed.

An earlier version of this blog post misstated that Blattler told a Sun photographer about the alleged crime.

Posted by Peter Hermann at 4:20 PM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Downtown

August 30, 2011

Family of man who drowned in harbor sues man who pushed him

Four years for pushing a man into the Inner Harbor, killing him, is not enough time for the victim's family. The Sun's Justin Fenton writes:

Dissatisfied with the punishment expected to be handed down Tuesday by a city judge, the family of a 22-year-old man who drowned after being pushed into the Inner Harbor in 2008 said it has filed a $5 million wrongful-death lawsuit against the man convicted for his death.

Wayne Black, a 21-year-old from Pasadena, is scheduled to be sentenced to a four-year prison term as part of his plea agreement. He pleaded guilty to shoving Ankush Gupta, a University of Maryland engineering student, into the harbor three years ago. The circumstances of Gupta's death had been a mystery until police received a tip that he had been pushed by Black, who later confessed.

Black was initially charged with first-degree murder, which prosecutors later downgraded to second-degree murder. He pleaded guilty on July 28 to involuntary manslaughter It carries a maximum penalty of 10 years.

Read full story here.

Read about the suspect's guilty plea.

Posted by Peter Hermann at 7:47 AM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Courts and the justice system, Downtown

August 29, 2011

Irene gone, time to return to crime

It seems forever since last week when a Ravens player broke up a fight at an Inner Harbor restaurant. But now that Irene has blown through, we can return to our other all-consuming interest, and catch up with some crime we may have missed while battling winds and rain.

It didn't take long for the hurricane to pass before the gunmen came out: A 25-year-old man was in critical condition after he was shot in the chest Sunday afternoon by a masked assailant in northwest Baltimore, police said.

Here are some other headlines from the weekend:

* With a tap on his smartphone, University of Maryland student Shiv Krishnamoorthy can instantly alert police as he walks through the dimly lit corners of the College Park campus — and share with them his precise location, plus live video and audio.

* While concern about the economy has grown since the last mayoral election, crime remains the top worry among likely voters in Baltimore's Democratic primary next month. Thirty-nine percent of respondents to The Sun Poll rated crime, criminal justice or drugs as the most important challenge facing the city. That is down from 68 percent four years ago. Twenty-eight percent of the respondents ranked the economy, jobs or high taxes as the biggest challenge.

* A 15-year-old high school honors student in Ellicott City was secretly arrested when federal prosecutors say he went online to solicit money for a woman who called herself "Jihad Jane" and "Fatima LaRose." Authorities say that in Web postings two years ago, the youth "appealed for urgent funds" for the woman suspected of being a terrorist, whose real name is Colleen R. LaRose, 47, of Philadelphia. "I know the sister and by Allah, all money will be transferred to her," he allegedly wrote in a posting.

(Note: The Philadelphia Inquirer broke this story. Here is their first report, and a follow-up that details more of what federal authorities allege the boy had been plotting.)

August 26, 2011

Ravens player broke up fight, then caught two passes in game

First, Tandon Doss says he broke up a fight at Five Guys at the Inner Harbor

Then, a few hours, he hit the field at M&T Bank Stadium and caught two passes for 28 yards. The picture at right, by The Sun's Barbara Haddock Taylor, was taken this year at training camp.

The Ravens wide-out, a fourth-round pick from Indiana University, got a good taste of Baltimore Thursday night. After the fight, he posted on his Twitter account: "Jus had to break up a fight at five guys. Baltimore is too ratchet!!!"

When someone asked why he intervened on game-day, the 21-year-old responded: "wat day it is I'm not gonna sit there and let someone get jumped. idk where ur from but we don't do that in Indy."

It wasn't just a scuffle. Police said one of the men had a knife and cut the manager of the restaurant. Read here for full details. And here's a profile on Doss by The Sun's Chris Korman.

Before the fight, Doss said he had been at the National Aquarium, but left because it was too crowded.

Posted by Peter Hermann at 8:11 AM | | Comments (2)
Categories: Confronting crime, Downtown

August 16, 2011

Bealefeld defends department on Steiner

Baltimore Police Commissioner went on the Marc Steiner show on Morgan State University's WEAA-Radio and confronted his critics. Listen to show here.

On police protecting their own: "One of things I've tried to do is avoid all these blanket indictments and over-generalizations. We should be constantly testing and challenging ourselves in the community. What kind of service do we provide or don't we provide? What kind of professionalism do we have?"

He noted the arrests of officers in a towing scandal and reminded people that the department lured them to the training academy under a ruse that their guns needed to be checked and then busted them. He said that despite rumors the arrest plan had been compromised, all but two officers showed, proving to him that the rumors were false. The other two had been out of town.

But he said he felt there were legitimate concerns about what sergeants and lieutenants were doing while officers were directing unsuspecting motorists to a towing company not approved by the city, but one that was paying off cops for the extra business. "If they were really paying attention to their people, why wouldn't they know?" he asked.

Continue reading "Bealefeld defends department on Steiner" »

Tshamba sentenced in killing of unarmed Marine

The police officer who fatally shot the unarmed Marine outside a nightclub last year was sentenced today to 17 years in prison, with two years suspended. Officer Gahiji Tshamba was convicted last month of manslaughter.

There's still a potential lawsuit and unanswered questions about how Tshamba, who had a history of getting into trouble while drinking, had been allowed to continue on the force. The shooting outside the club was the culmination of an argument that started when the victim grabbed or patted the buttocks of a woman outside the Mount Vernon club.

A federal judge recently ruled that the victim's family can proceed with a lawsuit against the police department. The family is accusing the city of failing to control the officer, seen here being led out of the downtown courthouse during his trial. The photo was taken by The Sun's Barbara Haddock Taylor.

More stories on Tshamba:

Judge will review Tshamba's troubled past in deciding sentencing.

A look at the victim, Tyrone Brown, and his own past as an Iraqi war veteran.

Witness accounts of the shooting.

Posted by Peter Hermann at 9:29 AM | | Comments (2)
Categories: Downtown, Gahiji Tshamba, Police shootings

August 11, 2011

In case you missed it -- daily police news

In case you missed out on today's paper, here are some police stories to ponder:

Video of Select Lounge shooting released. This is the January shooting where police officers mistook a colleague for a suspect and fatally shot him outside a nightclub. Watch the shooting.

Roommate testifies that the suspect in the killing of Johns Hopkins researcher Stephen Pitcairn confessed to robbing him in Charles Village.

Annapolis teenager pleads guilty to killing toddler.

Nathan Krasnopoler, the Johns Hopkins University student who was struck and critically injured by a car while riding his bicycle along University Parkway in February, died Wednesday morning. A lawyer for the family said the 83-year-old driver who struck Krasnopoler has agreed to forfeit her license. Read Michael Dresser's Getting There blog.

Jurors are expected to begin deliberating this morning in the case of a man charged with killing an informant in a federal drug case. The victim's statement to the FBI was leaked and posted around his Westport neighborhood.

A series of mall robberies in the city, Anne Arundel and Howard Counties are linked, and also connected to a murder in Baltimore.

A Baltimore drug dealer is sentenced to 15 years in prison for his involvement in a fatal hit and run crash.

A Glen Burnie man was fatally stabbed and his female companion is being held in her death.

July 28, 2011

Four years for pushing man into Harbor, killing him

This just in from courts reporter Tricia Bishop:

A 21-year-old Pasadena man pleaded guilty to involuntary manslaughter Thursday for shoving a stranger who couldn't swim into the Inner Harbor in 2008 — an act previously characterized by one Baltimore judge as complete stupidity.

Wayne Black, who was 18 when he pushed 22-year-old Ankush Gupta into the water and ran, will be sentenced to four years in prison at his sentencing, scheduled for Aug. 30, per an agreement cut with Baltimore Circuit Court Judge M. Brooke Murdock.

His mother dabbed tears as the deal was done, while Gupta's friends and family sat stone-faced on the other side of the courtroom. "That is not justice," Saneel John Masih said after the hearing. He and Rohit Gupta were longtime friends of Ankush, more like brothers than buddies.

Read complete story here.

Posted by Peter Hermann at 3:37 PM | | Comments (3)
Categories: Courts and the justice system, Downtown

July 11, 2011

Listen to callers on 911 on accident that claimed lives of teens

Baltimore police have released the 911 calls made moments after a car hit Courtney Angeles, 16, and Emerald Smith, 17, as they crossed Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard on June 13. Police have questioned a potential suspect in the hit-and-run, but have not yet filed charges.


Posted by Peter Hermann at 3:53 PM | | Comments (2)
Categories: Downtown

July 10, 2011

Police arrest man in July 4 Harbor stabbing

Baltimore police say the man they believe responsible for stabbing a man with a broken bottle moments after the July 4 fireworks at the Inner Harbor has surrendered. From reporters Arthur Hirsch and Jessica Anderson:

Marcus Sterlin Harris, 32, turned himself in and was charged with first degree murder in connection with the fatal July 4 stabbing of 26-year-old Joseph Lorenzo Calo, who had been in town from Alabama visiting family. Both men were involved in a shoving match outside McCormick & Schmick's Seafood Restaurant on Pier 6, police said. Calo was later stabbed in the neck with a broken bottle.

Police provided few details nor a motive into the stabbing during a brief news conference Saturday at police headquarters, where Harris had turned himself in earlier. Police also had little information about a man who they said died after being stabbed in a fight at the corner of North Charles and Fayette streets around 1:30 a.m.

Lt. Col. Jesse Oden, chief of detectives, thanked the person who provided police with the photo of Harris taken during the incident, calling it "crucial evidence." He said "numerous people came forward with his identity" after police released the photo to news media.

Harris, whose latest address listed in court records was in the 400 block of Rosecroft Terrace in Baltimore, has a string of more than a dozen arrests, according to court records. Most of those arrests relate to drug and assault charges. In 2007 he received a three year prison sentence for drug distribution.

Posted by Peter Hermann at 2:37 PM | | Comments (3)
Categories: Downtown

July 9, 2011

Man fatally stabbed after downtown fight

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A 25-year-old man was killed early this morning after a large fight broke out downtown at about 1:30 a.m., officials said.

Police said in a news release that two groups of people got into a dispute at the intersection of North Charles and West Fayette streets that became physical, and the victim was stabbed in the leg. He was rushed to Maryland Shock Trauma center, where he was pronounced dead. 

City officials often praise and have been expanded the network of surveillance cameras, which is nowhere more plentiful than in the downtown area, though the cameras appear not have helped investigators responding to the fight. A police spokesman said homicide detectives are reviewing footage in hopes of finding clues. 

The killing is the seventh to occur in the downtown area this year, according to The Sun's homicide map. That's more than the amount seen in the downtown area all of last year. It also comes on the heels of an Alabama man being fatally stabbed during a fight on Pier 5 during the July 4 fireworks, and three months after a man was fatally stabbed during a fight at the Bourbon Street club.

Posted by Justin Fenton at 11:12 AM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Downtown

July 6, 2011

Toddler shot at harbor says he would punch gunman in face

From Sun reporters Steve Kilar and Rebekah Brown:

A stick-on bandage is the only thing covering Kavin Benson’s dime-sized bullet wound.

It hasn’t stopped the rambunctious 4-year-old, who was shot moments after the July 4 fireworks ended at the Inner Harbor, from dancing, jumping and climbing all over his family’s Brooklyn apartment. And it hasn’t stopped the toddler, sporting a red T-shirt and Dr. Seuss shoes, from seeking revenge.

When he finds the person who shot him, Kavin said, he’s going to “punch him in the face.”

The small-caliber slug, possibly from a celebratory shot fired into the air, entered the top of his right thigh near his hip. It seared its way down inside the length of his leg and lodged behind his femur, where doctors were forced to leave it.

“I could dance all night,” Kavin said Wednesday afternoon as he tried to spin on his head like a top, a little boy’s version of break dancing. He proudly displayed his bandage, pulling up his plaid shorts. Being hit by the bullet, he said, hurt like “getting a shot in the arm.” Kavin hates getting shots, said his mother Caitlin Moorhead.

Posted by Peter Hermann at 7:22 PM | | Comments (4)
Categories: Downtown

Toddler shot at fireworks recovering swiftly

From Sun reporter Steve Kilar:

The 4-year-old boy who was shot at the Inner Harbor fireworks display on Monday is out of the hospital and, according to a relative, is “running like a maniac.”

“He's out [of the hospital] and he's running like a maniac,” said Kavin Benson’s great grandmother, Carla Moorhead. The hospital left the bullet in his leg, she said.

“He's a pistol,” she said. When Moorhead spoke with Kavin on the phone he was “laughing and carrying on,” she said.

Meanwhile, Baltimore police detectives are continuing to review footage from Citiwatch cameras for more information to find the source of the bullet that struck the boy’s leg minutes after fireworks ended in downtown Baltimore, a city police spokesman said.

Photo is a handout from family, from WJZ-TV.

In addition, police are still working to identify the suspect in the fatal stabbing of 26-year-old Joseph Lorenzo Calo during an altercation outside McCormick & Schmick's Seafood Restaurant on Pier 6 that night. A tourist captured images of the suspect on a digital camera, which were released Tuesday.

No one has been arrested or charged in either incident, police spokesman Kevin Brown said Wednesday.

Photo is a handout from family, via WJZ-TV.

Posted by Peter Hermann at 1:17 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Downtown

Police moving people out of downtown after violence at fireworks

A few videos of the July 4 Inner Harbor disturbances are popping up on YouTube. They show crowds moving through downtown, and being moved, either after or during the stabbing and shooting that took place right after the fireworks ended:

Posted by Peter Hermann at 8:09 AM | | Comments (7)
Categories: Downtown

Is the Inner Harbor safe?

The resounding question after the July 4 violence at the harbor is whether it's safe. Various city officials, politicians, residents and pundits contributed to our coverage today.

At left, Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake holds a picture of a potential suspect police are searching for in the fatal stabbing. A 4-year-old boy was also hit by a stray bullet. She's flanked by Police Commissioner Frederick H. Bealefeld III on the left and Fire Chief James S. Clack. The picture was taken by The Sun's Barbara Haddock Taylor.

Here is a sampling of what they said. We'd love to he hear from you:

"What goes on in these neighborhoods, it's basically hell on earth," said Ed Burns, the former city police officer who, with David Simon, wrote and produced such Baltimore-defining works as "The Corner" and "The Wire."

"We're very happy if it's confined to these neighborhoods because these people aren't us. But we can't expect it to stay in the neigbhorhoods," He said. "I'm all for people going to the harbor and having a good time. But I think people should pay more attention to their society. Consider the harbor [like] a gated community, like where the rich go to hide behind gates. When you put 600 police there, these people are relatively safe. That's a good thing. But to think that we don't pay attention to those people who aren't safe, that's another thing. It's us living in two separate worlds."

More observations:

Continue reading "Is the Inner Harbor safe?" »

Posted by Peter Hermann at 7:15 AM | | Comments (4)
Categories: Confronting crime, Downtown, Top brass

July 5, 2011

Police release photo of person of interest in fatal Harbor stabbing


City police have released an image of a man they are describing as a suspect in the fatal stabbing of a 26-year-old Alabama man in the 700 block of Eastern Ave., minutes after the downtown fireworks display had ended. The photo appears not to be from a Citiwatch surveillance camera, but a private photo taken by people attending the event. Anyone with information is asked to call the homicide unit at 410-396-2100.

A second image after the jump:

Continue reading "Police release photo of person of interest in fatal Harbor stabbing" »

Posted by Justin Fenton at 11:01 AM | | Comments (13)
Categories: Downtown

Violence erupts after Inner Harbor fireworks

Update: Police report holding a person of interest in the fatal stabbing; victim a 26-year-old from Alabama. 

On Monday evening, Baltimore's police commissioner assured residents that an earlier shooting at a garage on Water Street near thed Inner Harbor was between two rival groups, and not a random attack. He assured residents that hundreds of officers were deployed to keep people safe during the fireworks.

Then, just as the celebration ended, a man was stabbed outside a popular restaurant on the eastern side of the harbor, and an apparent stray bullet fired in a crowd hit a 4-year-boy in the leg.

Police plan a news conference for later this morning. Here is The Sun's Tricia Bishop with a story from last night:

Continue reading "Violence erupts after Inner Harbor fireworks" »

Posted by Peter Hermann at 7:34 AM | | Comments (11)
Categories: Downtown

June 27, 2011

Weekend shootings in city

UPDATE: The violence from the weekend continued into Monday -- the body of a woman who was fatally stabbed was found early today near Patterson Park, and a man was shot in the head in North Baltimore.  

In case you missed it over the weekend, several people fell victim to gunfire in Baltimore this weekend, in addition to the 15-year-old who was accidentally shot by an 11-year-old boy.

Map city homicides here.

Here is a list of weekend shootings from Baltimore police:


Continue reading "Weekend shootings in city" »

June 20, 2011

Corrections officers attacked

An officer at a prison in Jessup suffered a broken jaw and cheekbone during an attack by an inmate, and another officer at the Baltimore City jail was sexually assaulted by a detainee, according to state prison officials.

The first assault occurred Monday at the Maryland Correctional Institution at Jessup. Authorities said the officer was trying to move an inmate from one housing unit to another about 2:20 p.m. when he was hit. It took six to eight other officers using Mace to subdue the inmate, officials said.

On Saturday, prison officials said a correctional officer at the Baltimore City Detention Center reported being sexually assaulted by a detainee. Authorities said an investigation is underway and a person of interest is being questioned. No further details were released.

The Maryland Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services reports that serious assaults by inmates on officer has fallen over the past few years, with down 50 percent since 2007. Attacks involving sexual offenses are down 35 percent during that same period.

Posted by Peter Hermann at 6:49 PM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Anne Arundel County, Confronting crime, Downtown, Prisons

June 9, 2011

"I was scared, I was in fear"

Those are the words of Gahiji Tshamba, the Baltimore police officer who shot an unarmed Marine a dozen times during a confrontation outside a Mount Vernon nightclub. The officer spoke for the first time during his murder trial.

He said he was being chased, backed into a corner and shot the man as he advaanced on him. An expert witness, a retired city cop who wrote the department's rules of force, testified on behalf of Tshamba, while the judge who is hearing the case without a jury questioned the officer's account.

Read the full story here. The incident started after the Marine, Tyrone Brown, grabbed the buttocks of a woman who was with Tshamba, who'se pictured at left coming out of the courthouse on Wednesday, in a photo by The Sun's Barbara Haddock Taylor.

The officer testified:

Continue reading ""I was scared, I was in fear" " »

June 8, 2011

Police charge man with raping woman in Mount Vernon

UPDATE: Baltimore police corrected the name of the suspect -- he is Karriem Mason, 37, with a last known address in the 1100 block of McKean Ave. That's in West Baltimore, in the Sandtown-Winchestern neighborhood, two blocks from the Western District police station.

He was arrested on a charge of marijuana possession on May 28, and has a court date scheduled for June. Court records show two other drug possession arrests in 2010, but no convictions. 

Baltimore police have charged a man with raping a woman in her apartment in Mount Vernon:

This morning, 37 year old Kareem Mason has been formally charged with rape and sexual assault for the attack which took place yesterday afternoon in the 900 block of St. Paul Street. Mr. Mason is accused of raping a woman in her twenties while she was moving personal items into her apartment.

Posted by Peter Hermann at 8:13 AM | | Comments (5)
Categories: Downtown

June 7, 2011

Woman raped while moving into Mt Vernon apartment

UPDATE 2: After we made some inquiries, police provided a bit more information, saying it occurred in the 900 block of St Paul St and that a "person of interest" has been detained but not charged.

UPDATE: Another reader forwarded this e-mail that was sent two hours later:

MVBA has just been informed by Major Smith of the Baltimore City Police Department that the rape suspect involved in the rape reported earlier this evening, has been apprehended and identified by the victim and is currently being held at the police department. Our E-Link broadcast generated a few calls to the police department which helped lead to the suspect's arrest in east Baltimore.  Our thanks to those who were able to respond to this most unfortunate incident.

The following e-mail from the Mount Vernon-Belvedere Association was forwarded to us tonight. City police said they would provide more information tomorrow:

A rape occurred mid-day today as a female was moving into her apartment.  This happened in the heart of Mt. Vernon.
The rapist is described as a dark skin, heavy set black male, wearing a white t-shirt, khaki shorts, stud earring in each ear with a black cap with the letter "c" on it. 
After the rape, the victim was forced to shower and clean herself.  Items were then stolen from her apartment.
Any person with information should contact 9-1-1 immediately and ask for the Sex Offense unit.
Major Smith has alerted Midtown Safety Patrols and additional segway patrols in the area are being coordinated as we speak.

Posted by Justin Fenton at 10:12 PM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Downtown

June 1, 2011

Off-duty officer had been drinking before shooting man, prosecutors say

The off-duty Baltimore police officer who shot and killed a Marine outside a Mount Vernon nightclub had been drinking, prosecutors said two city police sergeants are prepared to testify at the officer's murder trial.

In court on Tuesday, a prosecutor said one sergeant will testify that Officer Gahiji Tshamba's speech was slurred and he appeared "glassy-eyed." Tshamba had refused to take a breath test after he shot Tyrone Brown, who had drunkenly grabbed the buttocks of one of Tshamba's female companions. The officer says Brown advanced on him and he fired to defend himself.

The prosecutor said that during a ride away from the scene right after "shooting a man 12 times," Tshamba talked about "how hot the chicks were." The trial, before a judge, is scheduled to start this morning.

Both men have troubled pasts linked to alcohol. One issue unresolved is whether the judge will allow the victim's medical records documenting alcohol abuse and other problems into the trial. The officer was disciplined several times, including for shooting a man while drunk during an argument with people in a car.

Posted by Peter Hermann at 6:32 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Downtown

May 27, 2011

Free speech at the Inner Harbor? It depends where you stand

Want to demonstrate at the Inner Harbor? Make sure you're firmly in McKeldin Square. That's a patch of land near Pratt and Light streets, the one with the fountain. Want to hand out leaflets? Make sure they're of the non-commericial kind, and that your on the prominade but away from the water, and not near the aquarium.

The rules for what you can say and how you can say it at the Inner Harbor's premier tourist attraction are complex, and confusing, and vary from place to place. The area in front of the aquarium, for example, is considered private property, as a Baltimore school teacher discovered last week while handing out leaflets supporting vegetarianism.

Security guards and police ordered him to leave. What he discovered is a patchwork of rules governing speech and an eight-year-old lawsuit filed by the ACLU over the issue, which is still being discussed in settlement talks.

Here's a picture taken by the teacher's wife of two friends getting citizen contact forms after being ordered off the harbor by an officer identified only by his his name -- Johnson. Police tell me they're reviewing his conduct -- which can be seen in a brief video here -- but the issue over speaking out at the city's waterfront is awaiting settlement of the lawsuit.

Read the full story here.

Posted by Peter Hermann at 9:16 PM | | Comments (4)
Categories: Downtown

May 26, 2011

City police ask for help identifying vehicle in murder

City police are asking for help identifying a vehicle involved in a downtown murder that occurred earlier this month. On May 11, at about 2:30 a.m., 31-year-old Willie Elliott was found shot to death inside his beige 1978 Buick. The shooting took place in the 100 block of N. Eutaw St. near Lexington Market, and was partially captured on surveillance cameras. Police said in an e-mail statement that it appeared Elliott was shot after being robbed, and his vehicle crashed into a gate near the light rail.

Homicide detectives are looking for a vehicle believed to have been driven by the suspects - a blue 2010 or 2011 four-door Chevrolet Aveo. Anyone with information is asked to call homicide detectives at 410-396-2100.

Posted by Justin Fenton at 1:47 PM | | Comments (3)
Categories: Downtown

May 16, 2011

Body found in Inner Harbor identified as county man

An autopsy has identified the man whose body was found floating in the Inner Harbor last week as Pikesville resident Wayne Guy Paige, 25, who was reported missing in Baltimore County on May 7. There was no word on a cause of death, or whether police believe foul play was involved.

Paige had last been seen at his girlfriend's residence, following an argument. According to a police report, Paige had a history of depression.

The picture seen at right is from Paige's Facebook profile, where he wrote that he was a graduate of Harbor City High School.

Posted by Justin Fenton at 10:30 AM | | Comments (4)
Categories: Baltimore County, Downtown

May 12, 2011

Ring stolen from Camden Yards museum

Over the past 30 years, two items had been stolen from the Babe Ruth and Sports Legends museums, and both were recovered.

Officials at the Camden Yards museum are hoping for similar luck after a ring was swiped last week from a display case, part of a collection of items honoring legendary amateur coach and Orioles scout Walter Youse.

"We've provided all the information the police have asked for, and we're hopeful that it will turn up something here. Ultimately, the most important thing is the recovery of the ring," said Michael Gibbons, executive director of the museum.

[Photo courtesy Sports Legends Museum]

The stolen item is a championship ring for the 1996 All-American Amateur Baseball Association, presented to Youse by the local team's sponsor, according to curator Shawn M. Henne. Gibbons said it was on loan from family of Youse, who died in 2002. Officials have not been able to contact family, and are concerned that a week has gone by with seemingly no breaks in the investigation.

It was last seen on May 4 during a tour, and was reported missing when a custodian noticed it was not in its case on the afternoon of May 5.

Gibbons noted that two prior thefts from the Babe Ruth Museum led to the recovery of the items. In 1995, a baseball signed by some of the game's all-time greats - called the "Matchless Ball" because of its uniqueness - was stolen from its secure perch at the Babe Ruth Museum and later recovered under equally baffling circumstances when an anonymous tipster directed officials to a brown paper bag containing the ball. The ball was valued at between 500,000 and $1.5 million at the time.

A decade earlier, a trophy commemorating the Orioles' 1894 National League championship season and the 1944 International League champion was swiped and later recovered, Gibbons said.

In the theft of the Youse ring, Gibbons said the item was contained in a heavy glass case that was not easily accessible. Museum officials have since conducted a security review and were satisfied that other items are "totally secure." But he said the notion that someone would take a priceless item from the museum was distressing.

"It just gets you so upset," Gibbons said.

Anyone with information can call the Southern District police station at 410-396-2499.

Posted by Justin Fenton at 11:33 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Downtown, South Baltimore

May 11, 2011

Body found in Inner Harbor

A male body was found Wednesday afternoon in the Inner Harbor, near the Spirit of Baltimore cruise ship, officials said.

Someone called 911 after the body was observed floating near the Light Street pavilion at about 5 p.m., fire department spokesman Kevin Cartwright said. It was unclear how long the body had been in the water, but Cartwrihgt said it appeared to be in a state of decomposition. The race and age were unclear.

He said the body was in possession of the Police Department will be sent to the state medical examiner's office for an autopsy to determine an identity.

Posted by Justin Fenton at 5:33 PM | | Comments (4)
Categories: Downtown

Fatal shooting downtown; three injured in Westport

[This post has been updated]

One man was killed in a downtown Baltimore shooting early Wednesday, and three others were injured in an earlier drive-by shooting in the Westport neighborhood, police said.

The killing broke a streak of nearly 12 days without a homicide in Baltimore, one of the longest such stretches in years, according to records.

The downtown shooting occurred about 2:30 a.m. in the 100 block of N. Eutaw St., near Lexington Market. Officers responding to the scene found a 1978 Buick on the sidewalk near a Metro stop in the 400 block of W. Lexington St., with a man in the driver's seat suffering from multiple gunshot wounds, said Detective Donny Moses, a police spokesman.

Investigators believe the man was shot on Eutaw Street — where shell casings were recovered — then traveled north until coming to a rest against a fence. The man's identity had not been confirmed as of Wednesday afternoon, Moses said.

In the earlier incident, reported about 10:40 p.m. Tuesday, police were called to the 2300 block of Sidney Ave., in Baltimore's Westport neighborhood, where they found a 21-year-old man, a 19-year-old man and a 20-year-old man suffering from gunshot wounds.

Continue reading "Fatal shooting downtown; three injured in Westport" »

Posted by Peter Hermann at 7:32 AM | | Comments (5)
Categories: Downtown, South Baltimore

May 2, 2011

Correctional officers indicted in assault

Five correctional officers at the city’s booking center, including a high ranking official with 16 years experience, have been indicted on charges of assault for allegedly beating a female inmate, the state prison system said on Monday.

“We cannot tolerate this type of behavior, here or in any of our correctional divisions,” said Gary Maynard, the secretary of the Maryland Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services. “Even in a very difficult environment, correctional staff must always act with the highest level of integrity and professionalism.”

The charges stem from an incident in January at the state-run Central Booking and Intake Center, which processes arrestees. Officials said a 26-year-old woman who faced minor disorderly conduct charges was beaten several times and in several different locations in the facility.

In a statement released Monday, prison officials said that “a number of correctional officers used unnecessary and inappropriate force against the woman multiple times.” The victim was taken to a hospital and treated and release with no serious injuries, officials said.

The statement from Maynard said staff members did not report the alleged assault. In January, eight corrections officers, including the acting warden, were suspended. The warden has since retired and was not among the officers indicted.

Those indicted on charges of first-degree assault were identified as Larry Morris, a 42-year-old acting major; Kimberly Livingston, 31; Shannon Rivies, 24; Aleesha Edmond, 22; and Torrence Taylor, 23.

Here is a statement from state prison officials:

Continue reading "Correctional officers indicted in assault " »

Posted by Peter Hermann at 12:21 PM | | Comments (8)
Categories: Downtown, Prisons

April 29, 2011

Man stabbed at Our Daily Bread; suspect runs straight to jail

A man at a computer station at the Our Daily Bread employment center was stabbed in the stomach this afternoon and police caught a suspect after he ran across the street and right to the Baltimore City Jail.

Catholic Charities, which runs the employment center on The Fallsway, described the stabbing as an "extremely unusual and sobering event." It occurred on the first floor; the victim's condition could not be ascertained, the name of the suspect has not been released.

Baltimore police spokesman Anthony Guglielmi could only confirm a stabbing shortly after 1 p.m. at the center's address. In a statement, Catholic Charities said the center was immediately closed and will open again on Saturday.

The statement called the attacked "unprovoked."

"We are widely appreciated as a place of welcome, compassion, and opportunity for our clients as well as our staff and volunteers," the statement said.

Posted by Peter Hermann at 6:00 PM | | Comments (8)
Categories: Downtown

April 26, 2011

Two stabbed, six arrested in Inner Harbor melee

A new update on the melee at the Inner Harbor and downtown Monday night, from Sun reporter Yeganeh June Torbati:

At least six people were arrested Monday night as police were called from across Baltimore to help disperse a crowd at the Inner Harbor, shortly after two teenage boys were stabbed several blocks away, according to the department.

Police spokesman Anthony Guglielmi described those arrested as facing minor charges for non-violent offenses and said they were connected to the stabbings. He said about 100 teens came to the harbor after Easter Sunday, on one of the last days of Spring Break for city students.

“At the end of the day the police department is going to do whatever it takes to keep downtown, or the East side or West side safe,” Guglielmi said. “On this occasion, we brought in additional resources from other districts and were able to shepherd individuals out of the downtown area and encourage them to go home.”

Guglielmi could not say exactly how many police were called to the downtown area. A police helicopter flew overhead, and cruisers blocked intersections with their lights flashing.

Continue reading "Two stabbed, six arrested in Inner Harbor melee" »

Posted by Peter Hermann at 5:18 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Downtown

Teen stabbed at Inner Harbor melee

A disturbance involving dozens of juveniles down by the Inner Harbor last night again highlighted the growing way that we're using social media to track crime. We used eyewitness accounts and listened to an online feed of the Baltimore Police scanner, as The Sun's Julie Scharper herself navigated the downtown area. Check out tweets from Julie and Justin Fenton here, and here's Julie's account of the incident that ended up in today's paper:

A teenager was stabbed as police struggled to disperse a large group of young people who converged downtown Monday evening, Baltimore police said.

The teenager, who was injured shortly before 10 p.m. near the intersection of Gay and Fayette Streets, was taken to a nearby hospital with non life-threatening injuries, said Nicole Monroe, a police spokeswoman. She did not know the victim's age or gender.

A least 100 teenagers roamed the streets near the Inner Harbor, City Hall, the Convention Center and the First Mariner Arena for more than two hours as police used megaphones to order them to leave.

About a dozen police cars and wagons, lights flashing, were parked along Calvert and Pratt streets. Police officers twirled espantoons and opened the wagon doors as they shooed the teens along. The young people walked in large, boisterous groups and did not appear to be heading toward a destination. Asked why they had gathered downtown, one young person said, "It's the day after Easter."

For a historical perspective, here's a Sun story from 1995:

Continue reading "Teen stabbed at Inner Harbor melee " »

Posted by Peter Hermann at 7:26 AM | | Comments (13)
Categories: Downtown

April 25, 2011

Downtown shootings linked, city police say

Baltimore police announced Monday that detectives have linked last week’s fatal downtown shootings of a man sitting on a bench and another in his apartment and said that a single suspect has been arrested and charged in both cases.

Authorities said they believe robbery was the motive in both cases.

Isaac Tyrell Truss, 23, who lives in the 200 block of Park Avenue, just blocks from the slaying scenes, was arrested on Friday afternoon and charged with murder and robbery for the shooting of Edward Alfred Jones, 50.

Jones was shot about 3:30 Friday morning as he waited on a bench for a bus in the 200 block of W. Fayette Street. CityWatch cameras captured that shooting, and witnesses identified Truss as the person who attacked Jones, according to court documents.

Police said they then charged Jones in Thursday’s shooting of Keith Cooper, 47, a resident of a high-rise housing complex on West Conway Street near the Inner Harbor, according to charging documents.

Cooper and Truss were seen on security cameras entering the building together just before 1:30 a.m. Thursday, and Truss left by himself shortly after, according to charging documents. A ballistics comparison showed that the casings found in Cooper’s apartment matched the .38-caliber handgun used to shoot Jones. Cooper’s body was discovered about 9:20 a.m.

Police are also investigating several other shootings and stabbings:

Continue reading "Downtown shootings linked, city police say" »

Posted by Peter Hermann at 12:29 PM | | Comments (2)
Categories: Breaking news, Downtown

April 22, 2011

Five shot in Baltimore

This post has been updated 

Six men were reported shot, one fatally, in separate attacks within a 24-hour period spanning Thursday night and Friday, according to a Baltimore police spokesman. There have been 58 people killed in Baltimore thus far this year, compared with 52 at this time last year.

The latest shooting was reported about 11:10 a.m. in Northeast Baltimore. Police said a man was found shot in an alley off the 1700 block of Homestead St. He was wounded several times, police said. There was no immediate update on his condition.

Another man was shot about 2 a.m. in the 200 block of West Fayette St., as clubs and bars let out in the downtown. Police had few details and could not say whether the gunfire was connected to nightlife activities.

Police did say they had a person of interest in custody.

Here are addition details from city police:

Continue reading "Five shot in Baltimore" »

Posted by Peter Hermann at 9:24 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Downtown, East Baltimore, Northeast Baltimore, Northwest Baltimore

April 21, 2011

Police investigating shooting near convention center

View Larger Map

UPDATE, 11 a.m. - Police say the shooting happened on the 14th floor of the Hanover Square building, a high-rise housing complex for seniors and the disabled, reports Liz F. Kay. The victim, a man in his 40s, was pronounced dead at the scene, according to spokesman Kevin Brown. Police said they are exploring a number of possible motives and can't say whether there was forced entry. They were reviewing video surveillance and urging anyone with information to call police.

Brown called the shooting an "extreme abnormality" for the area.

City police are on the scene of a serious shooting just a block from the Inner Harbor. Police said on Twitter that a man was shot at about 9:20 a.m. in unit block of West Conway Street, which runs from the Harbor to Camden Yards and behind the Baltimore Convention Center. Additional details were not immediately available, but we have a reporter headed to the scene.

That specific block is the Sheraton hotel and the Hanover Square high rise apartment, though police say the shooting happened in the Central District, indicating the shooting may have occurred on the north side of the street where the hotel is located. The border of the Southern and Central districts splits Conway in half.

Posted by Justin Fenton at 10:24 AM | | Comments (14)
Categories: Downtown

April 11, 2011

Police say pair committed 10 robberies Sunday a.m.

City police are asking for help identifying two men who they believe committed 10 armed robberies over a span of a few hours Sunday morning. The addresses are all over the map, sweeping through West Baltimore, Mount Vernon and East Baltimore, and Lt. Scott Serio said the suspects were making quick work. Some of the robberies occurred in the vestibules of businesses such as a liquor store and a carryout, while others were street robberies, including stickups of two Sun newspaper hawkers. Police believe the suspects were getting around in a green, four-door Buick LeSabre. If you recognize the men pictured below, police are asking you to call the citywide robbery unit at 410-366-6341.


Posted by Justin Fenton at 1:35 PM | | Comments (2)
Categories: Downtown, East Baltimore, West Baltimore

April 9, 2011

"It was on Facebook"

[UPDATE, 10 a.m. Sunday: Police confirmed the identity of the victim, and it was the man whose name was given by the frantic women. Dwight Taylor, 27, was pronounced dead at Maryland Shock Trauma Center at 6:10 p.m.] 

The two women came barreling down the street, wailing as they sprinted over the downtown light rail tracks and towards the crime scene in front of a barber shop.

“Please tell me he’s not shot,” one shouted, holding a cell phone. “Please tell me no.”

A gruff police commander walked over. “How do you know he’s been shot? We don’t even know who it is,” he said.

After catching her breath, the woman replied, “It was on Facebook.”

Just before 5 p.m., police found a man shot several times inside the Focal Point barber shop in the 200 block of W. Saratoga St. It was not clear whether the women in fact knew the victim, but, as another commander said after they transported the pair to police headquarters, “It doesn’t look good.”

The shooting was the second violent incident during the day in the downtown area since Friday, when a 46-year-old man was critically wounded in a stabbing across the street from Lexington Market, also just before 5 p.m. Police said they were looking for a male and female suspect in that case.

The barber shop shooting had bystanders rattled.

Mario Worrell, 65, was passing through the area and mused that if he had been there 15 minutes earlier, he might have found himself face to face with the gunman. “It’s just so bold – the place full of people, on a Saturday afternoon,” he said. “The Lord works in mysterious ways.”

Another man, who lives in an apartment in the block and said he was too fearful to give his name, said he doesn’t personally feel unsafe but said there’s been a rash of what seems to be drug-related violence.

“It’s kind of unnerving,” he said, “but, it’s Baltimore.”

Posted by Justin Fenton at 7:10 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Downtown

April 8, 2011

Detectives investigate stabbing near Lexington Market

View Larger Map

City homicide detectives were investigating a stabbing across from Lexington Market in downtown Baltimore.

Police were called to the scene, at the intersection of West Lexington and North Paca streets, at about 4:50 p.m. Friday.

At the scene, crime scene tape blocked off a stretch of sidewalk in front of the Lexaco appliance store, across from one of the main entrances to the market. Blood could be seen on the sidewalk just outside the front door, while detectives stood over items marked for evidence inside the store.

Additional details were not immediately available.

Posted by Justin Fenton at 6:35 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Downtown

April 6, 2011

City approves spending for officer funeral, shooting investigation

The Baltimore Board of Estimates on Wednesday morning approved $45,000 that the Police Department spent on the funeral of Officer William Torbit, as well as $75,000 requested for the commission appointed to investigate his death.

Torbit was fatally shot by fellow officers in January after responding in plainclothes to a disturbance outside the Select Lounge. Torbit was said to have been overcome by an unruly crowd, and fired his service weapon, killing civilian Sean Gamble. Other officers in the area instinctively returned fire, killing Torbit, according to reports.

[Sun photo by Karl Merton Ferron]

Police officials initially said the investigation into the shooting would take three weeks, but it dragged on for about two months. A police spokesman said a final report was handed to Commissioner Frederick H. Bealefeld III last week, and a task force of experts appointed by Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake has begun reviewing the findings and will make recommendations.

The Sun's City Hall reporter, Julie Scharper, asked Rawlings-Blake about the expenditures:

Continue reading "City approves spending for officer funeral, shooting investigation" »

Posted by Justin Fenton at 2:43 PM | | Comments (2)
Categories: City Hall, Downtown, Police shootings, Top brass

April 4, 2011

Mugging captured on camera

When three men attacked and punched and robbed a man of his cell phone near downtown this weekend, the muggers apparently forgot about the hundreds of surveillance cameras watching over many of Baltimore’s street corners. At left, The Sun's Lloyd Fox captures officers monitoring surveillance cameras

One of the cameras captured the mugging, and police quickly arrested two men and recovered the stolen cell phone from one of the suspect’s pants pocket. Commissioner Frederick H. Bealefeld III told this story at a budget presentation on Monday, in part to showcase the necessity of the program.

The attack occurred shortly before 3 a.m. Sunday on Park Avenue, near Liberty Street, about two blocks west of Charles Street and near a major city hotel. The victim and friends had just left an apartment on West Fayette Street when a man approached and said, “Give me everything in your pockets.”

For more details:

Continue reading "Mugging captured on camera" »

Posted by Peter Hermann at 2:50 PM | | Comments (2)
Categories: Confronting crime, Crime humor, Downtown, Top brass

Orioles home opener brings traffic warning

Baltimore police are reminding people headed to this afternoon's home opener at Camden Yards to expect heavy traffic and parking restrictions. Remember, it's still a work day, meaning garages will be full.

But let's hope this is the worst thing city cops and fans have to deal with on what's expected to be a warm spring day at the park. Here are some photos of opening day preparation (the one at left is by The Sun's Algerina Perna). A look at anticipation for today's game, and a report from the Maryland Weather blog -- yes, temperature in 70s! And if that isn't enough, here's a video of getting ready for the big game.

Here's some advice from the cops:

Continue reading "Orioles home opener brings traffic warning" »

Posted by Peter Hermann at 8:37 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Downtown

April 2, 2011

Four stabbed at downtown nightclub; one fatally

Four men were stabbed inside the Bourbon Street Night Club early this morning, one of them fatally, Baltimore police are reporting. The victim who died has been identified only as a 24-year-old male.

Details are sketchy at this point, but police said the altercation occurred about 1 a.m. inside the club in the 300 block of Guilford Ave. It's unclear what the fight was about. It's another example of the challenges police and security face at night spots around downtown, which have been under scrutiny over the past few years.

Posted by Peter Hermann at 9:47 AM | | Comments (2)
Categories: Downtown

March 27, 2011

Crowd-sourcing crime


[Photo credit Edouard Mutabazi]

UPDATE: Police retrieved the incident report for me this afternoon, which says that police proactively detailed an officer to the hotel due to the large number of attendees - some 900 people, the officer estimated. A fight broke out in the hotel lobby among a group of females. The fight was broken up, but one person, 19-year-old April Moore, refused to leave and was arrested.

On weekends, Baltimore Police no longer pay a spokesperson to be on call, and those manning the phones in the districts or specialized units are prohibited from giving us information. What we get are Twitter updates on major events such as shootings, serious stabbings and the like, and the public affairs office provides thrice-daily e-mails with the information available to them at that time.

So what to do when something happens over the weekend that isn't a major incident, but has residents asking around for information on what happened? Thanks to social media, we can crowdsource it. 

On Sunday morning, Stephen Brockelman, who on Twitter goes by @Baltimore21201, asked me about what seemed like a major police response at the downtown Sheraton. I put the question to my followers, and got a quick response: Another user said there had been a "Legends Ball" party at the Sheraton - party flier here - and apparently things got a bit out of hand.

Continue reading "Crowd-sourcing crime" »

Posted by Justin Fenton at 10:05 PM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Downtown

March 23, 2011

Man killed by off-duty cop "haunted by violence"

The shooting of Marine veteran Tyrone Brown (far left) by off-duty Baltimore Police Officer Gahiji A. Tshamba  quickly became a sensation -- an out-of-control cop with a questionable past linked to drinking had unloaded his gun into an unarmed man who had groped a woman outside a Mount Vernon night club.

The 15-year-veteran officer had led a turbulent career -- shot a man while drunk, crashed his car into a gas station, and was being pursued by creditors and ex-girlfriends. After the shooting, which he says is self-defense, he briefly disappeared, leading to an unprecedented police manhunt for one of their own [read all stories related to the shooting].

But now, as his murder trial nears, new information is emerging about the victim -- a man himself haunted by a violent past in combat, having shot a child, and struggling with vodka and marijuana. He was being treated for depression and suffered post traumatic stress disorder.

None of this may have anything to do with why he got shot that June night, but the officer's defense lawyer wants to  use these newly disclosed psychiatric records to try and convince a jury that the victim had aggressive tendencies. The lawyer hopes that will make the officer's self-defense story more credible.

Read a full account of Brown's past in this chilling story by The Sun's court reporter, Tricia Bishop. And read for the first time some of the witness statements:

Continue reading "Man killed by off-duty cop "haunted by violence"" »

Posted by Peter Hermann at 7:32 AM | | Comments (2)
Categories: Downtown, Police shootings

February 28, 2011

Judge upholds firing cop in Harbor skateboard incident

A Circut Court judge this morning upheld the firing of a Baltimore police officer who berated and pushed a 14-year-old skateboarder during a confrontation in the Inner Harbor in 2007. The ruling came after about an hour of arguments presented by an attorney for the police union and for the city.

The officer's lawyer argued that the police commissioner went beyond what was reasonable when he rejected an internal trial board recommendation that Rivieri be suspended for six days and lose leave time.

The trial board had found the officer not guilty of the most serious charges that included using excessive force and language. Rivieri was found guilty only of failing to write a police report, which his attorney described as a minor infraction. The attorney argued that the commissioner based his decision on parts issues that his client had been found not guilty of doing -- in essence conduct seen on the video.

But the city's lawyer argued that the failing to write a police report is not a minor infraction, and that Rivieri's failure to properly document his encounter with the youth was tantamount to covering up his use of force against a teenager.

There'll be more details later on the web and in The Sun's print edition.


February 26, 2011

Review panel in police shooting set

Ending weeks of speculation, the Baltimore mayor's office announced a review panel to examine last month's shooting of a plainclothes police officer by his colleagues, and the fatal shooting of another man in the same incident.

The Sun's Justin Fenton provides more details in today's story, which raises some questions. The panel is made up of two former police chiefs and a former U.S. Attorney, but contains no community members.

It's also unclear whether the group will hold public hearings, as has been done in other cities.

Officials say the independent review board will issue a comprehensive report on the circumstances that led to the agency's first fatal police-on-police shooting in more than 80 years, killing Officer William H. Torbit Jr. and civilian Sean Gamble, and make recommendations to improve policies.

"I am grateful for the individuals who have agreed to join this review board to conduct a thorough and independent study of this tragic incident," Rawlings-Blake said in a statement. "Their findings will help us better understand what happened that night and improve training for our officers."

The city homicide unit's investigation into the shooting is still pending, with detectives awaiting final autopsy results from the state medical examiner's office and transcripts of witness interviews, officials say. Part of their report might include a computer re-creation of the incident.

Read the mayor's statement:

Continue reading "Review panel in police shooting set" »

Posted by Peter Hermann at 10:15 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: City Hall, Downtown, Police shootings, Top brass

February 15, 2011

Body pulled from Inner Harbor

UPDATE 2/16, 6:15 P.M.: Police say they have tentatively identified the man as a 46-year-old who suffered from seizures and hypertension; there were no visible signs of trauma. An employee of the Museum of Industry spotted the body and called police. An autopsy will be performed to confirm the man's identity and cause of death. 

Firefighters and police were on the scene of a discovery of a man's corpse in the Inner Harbor, near the Museum of Industry. The city fire union sent a Twitter message around 8:30 a.m. that fire boats were responding to pull the body from the water. Police said the body was discovered at around 8 a.m., in the 1400 block of Key Highway. An autopsy will be performed to determined the man's identity and cause of death.

Posted by Justin Fenton at 10:20 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Breaking news, Downtown

February 13, 2011

Police made an arrest in downtown shooting

Baltimore police - out in force to watch over downtown night clubs - quickly arrested a man in a shooting on East Saratoga Street. We're awaiting more details of the arrest and to see what club to which it might be linked.

UPDATE: Police say the suspect and victim got into a "road-rage" dispute near a parking lot near I-83. The victim was hit in the elbow.

This morning's shooting is near where Officer Todd Strohman was shot back in November when he confronted a suspicious man on North Calvert Street. Just last week, the officer testified in front of an Annapolis Senate committee as part of the city's efforts to toughen gun laws (see article by Justin Fenton on why suspect was out on the street). A bullet remains lodged in the officer's chest, just above his heart. He returned to light duty last week.

Meanwhile, are are the latest details from Baltimore police spokesman, Detective Kevin Brown, on this morning's shooting:

200 Blk of E. Saratoga
2/13/11 - 02:15 Hrs

On the above date, time and location officers SWAT officers were monitoring area nightclubs for signs of disturbances.  While doing so they observed an individual begin shooting from his vehicle at another individual.  He was followed and his vehicle was stopped without incident. He was taken into custody and his firearm recovered. The shooting victim, a 26 year-old male, was located as he walked-in to an area hospital seeking treatment, suffering from a gunshot wound to the
arm. At last check he was in stable condition and expected to recover. No word yet on motive or suspect identity.

Posted by Peter Hermann at 12:24 PM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Breaking news, Confronting crime, Downtown

February 9, 2011

Bolton Hill cafe robbed

From the Mount Royal Improvement Association:

"On the Hill was robbed last night at gun point at 9:10, just after closing.  The staff did not resist the demand for cash and no one was hurt.  The robber was completely concealed with a hoodie and no identification was made.  A neighbor saw a suspicious black car driving very slowly in the alley behind the café just prior to the robbery.  A full report to the Police and MICA security was made."

Posted by Justin Fenton at 11:55 AM | | Comments (2)
Categories: Downtown

Supermax closes -- a frightening relic or necessary evil?

The closure of the downtown prison known as Supermax has been hinted at for years and it happened slowly, with a dribble of prisoners, including five on death row, quietly moved elsewhere over the past two years. Most went to a new high-tech prison in Western Maryland.

The official end came Tuesday when the facility was turned over to the feds to be used as badly-needed pre-trial detention center. Finally, those awaiting trial in U.S. District Court in Baltimore can be held in one place, instead of scattered about the Northeast.

At left, a photo the cells in Supermax, taken by The Sun's Doug Kapustin, during a rare tour in 2008.

But nostalgia aside, Supermax had a frightening 21-year history -- two made-for-TV escapes and complaints of confinement more suitable for a gulag than an American prison. Inmates were held in lock down 23 hours a day in cells with tiny windows. There as the infamous "pink room" that had a hole in the floor for a toilet, no windows, in prisoners were shackled at the ankles and wrists and left in their underwear.

The feds called conditions inhumane. So did prisoner advocacy groups and eventually even state officials. A former state prison official said facilities like Supermax are needed, but the one in Baltimore should have been built away from the city and officials should have done more to help the inmates.

Read more about the history of Supermax and a news story on it's transformation to a federal detention center

Posted by Peter Hermann at 11:43 AM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Confronting crime, Courts and the justice system, Downtown, Prisons

February 3, 2011

Club struggles to regain footing after shooting

A month after six people were shot - two fatally - in a melee outside Select Lounge, the club is struggling to win back customers, reports Sun nightlife reporter Erik Maza. Officials say the fledgling club, which had only been open for three months at the time of the shooting, was not been fauled in the incident and appears to have merely been caught in the middle of "bizarre and unique incident," the city's liquor board chairman said. That hasn't been enough to get the club back to the up-and-coming status it enjoyed before the shooting, Maza reports:

Two weeks after the chaos on January 9, the club was empty save for a handful of people casually dancing to the DJ's top 40 mix. Its runway-like dance floor was so empty the few patrons there could have swapped shoes for roller skates.

Though there were reservation placards on the lush booths that line the club's dancefloor, Wolde told me it was just to let people know bottle service was available. They weren't expecting anyone to fill them.

"It's never been like this in three months of being open," he said.

Posted by Justin Fenton at 4:20 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Downtown

January 31, 2011

No timetable on Select Lounge shooting investigation

Baltimore police are still working on their investigation into the Jan. 9 shooting at Select Lounge that left a city officer and 22-year-old civilian dead, officials say.

At a press conference three weeks ago, Police Commissioner Frederick H. Bealefeld III said the investigation would take about three weeks, but officials say they are still awaiting an autopsy report. Cindy Feldstein, of the state medical examiner's office, confirmed that a cause and manner of death was promptly identified but that the full report has not been turned over. "We don't provide preliminary reports," Feldstein said, noting that a complete report often takes about a month.

In the meantime, Bealefeld is pushing forward with assembling a panel that will review the department's findings. Aides say that instead of referring the investigation to another agency, city officials want to form a commission of representatives from various organizations to review the case. 

Officer William H. Torbit and Sean Gamble were fatally shot in a melee outside the downtown club. It is believed that Torbit shot Gamble after being overwhelmed in a large crowd, then Torbit was shot by fellow officers who did not realize who he was. The five officers fired a total of 41 rounds. 

Posted by Justin Fenton at 1:12 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: City Hall, Downtown, Police shootings, Top brass

January 26, 2011

Records: Slain Block dancer was providing info to police

A woman who was found fatally shot last month near Leakin Park was dealing drugs and providing information to police about three men who detectives believe took her from her home the morning of her death, according to court records.

Baltimore police confirmed Tuesday that they had made an arrest in the death of Cherrie Gammon, a 25-year-old mother and dancer on The Block who was shot multiple times on Dec. 12. Hassan Muhammed, 32, of the 1600 block of Guilford Ave., was arrested and charged with murder on Jan. 17.

Gammon struggled with drugs, and friends and family feared that it had played a role in her death. Court records show that not only was Gammon using drugs, she had begun selling and was providing information to police.

Anthony Guglielmi, the Baltimore Police Department's chief spokesman, said he could not confirm or deny whether Gammon was a police informant.

Witnesses told police that she was selling heroin and crack cocaine for Donte "Tay" Baker, Muhammed, who is known as "Rowland," and a man nicknamed "Miami," records show. The witnesses said the men took her from her home in the early morning hours of Dec. 12 and drove her to the area where she was shot and killed.

Posted by Justin Fenton at 3:12 PM | | Comments (3)
Categories: Downtown, West Baltimore, Witness intimidation

SNOW !!!!


That's stating the obvious, I know, but it comes via Twitter, courtesy of the Baltimore Fire Department firefighters union #734. It's my way of passing along the latest public safety news!

Not to be outdone, Baltimore police put this up on Twitter: "DRIVING ADVISORY: Winter weather conditions are making area roads very slick. Please drive with care and consider staying home."

Of course, the rank and file firefighters and paramedics would be remiss if they didn't also remind you, again via Twitter, that the city continues to close fire companies to save money. So along with storm news, you get this:

Units closed to save money today are Engine 5 & Engine 8. Engine 43 is closed for maintenance. Use caution walking & driving in winter weather.

Engine 8 operates from a firehouse in the 1500 block of West LaFayette Avenue. The house also has a truck and a medic which are operational Engine 5 is out of the Roman Kaminski station in the 2100 block of Eastern Ave.

But enough politics. The last Twitter from Baltimore police was last night, with a man shot in the back in the 800 block of Lennox St. No word yet on his condition. Meanwhile, Liz F. Kay is reporting that the snow you see this morning is "just a teaser" of what we'll see later today and tonight.

Check out the rest of The Baltimore Sun for more snow news, including accidents and road conditions, and closing information. Or better yet, head to Frank Roylance's Maryland Weather blog, Let's see if the adage prove true -- more snow equals less crime.

January 24, 2011

Critics protest Baltimore state's attorney

If the city's most outspoken activists gave Gregg Bernstein a honeymoon period after being sworn in earlier this month as Baltimore's new top prosecutor, it appears to be over.

Two groups of loosely-affiliated community organizations and special interests protested on opposite sides of the Mitchell Courthouse downtown on Monday, accusing Bernstein of being tight-lipped on a racially-charged assault case and criticizing his "unholy" alliance with the Police Department.

On the west side, protesters formed a picket line, invoking the shooting of Officer William H. Torbit Jr. and carrying signs with such incendiary slogans as "Arrogant Racist State's Attorney."

On the east side, people who said they represent black media and civil rights groups called on Bernstein to say more about his office's decision to drop felony assault charges against a member of a Jewish community patrol group.

"'No comment' will not suffice in the African American community," said Hassan Giordano, a blogger, talk show host and campaign consultant.

Bernstein, who defeated 15-year incumbent Patricia C. Jessamy in last year's Democratic primary election, had been supported by Police Commissioner Frederick H. Bealefeld III, who said a better relationship with prosecutors would help keep violent repeat offenders off the street.

Two high-profile and controversial cases are testing his public mettle early.  Read more here.

January 22, 2011

Doubts raised in shooting of detective

The shooting of Baltimore police Detective Anthony N. Fata came just nine days after another officer, William H. Torbit Jr., was killed by fellow officers in a case of mistaken identity, and the night before the funeral.

It occurred in a city owned downtown parking garage a block of police headquarters, another crime near the harbor and another reason to stay away from Baltimore. Even the police are getting shot while parking.

But homicide detectives are now questioning how Fata, a 13-year veteran, was grazed in the thigh a bullet. There is some concern that the bullet came from the officer's own gun, and he made up an elaborate ruse to avoid either discipline or embarrassment.

Read more details of the case here. 

Continue reading "Doubts raised in shooting of detective" »

Posted by Peter Hermann at 9:53 AM | | Comments (2)
Categories: Confronting crime, Downtown, Police shootings

January 20, 2011

No arrest yet in shooting of detective

Two days after a Baltimore homicide detective was shot during what is being described as a chance encounter with a gunman in a downtown parking garage, police officials have still not located the shooter.

The detective – who was heading to his car to retrieve a pair of running shoes -- suffered a graze wound to his leg and has been treated and released from Maryland Shock Trauma Center. The shooting occurred Tuesday night in a parking garage on South Frederick Street, a block from the Central District station.

Police have declined to name the officer, citing a policy of not publicizing names of shooting victims who survive their wounds. But department sources have identified him as Detective Anthony N. Fata, a 13-year veteran.

The police commissioner called the shooting a "random, chance encounter." A police spokesman said Fata had returned to his car to get the shoes so he could work out before the start of his overnight shift.

In the garage, police said the detective apparently noticed a man with a small-caliber revolver, identified himself as an officer and confronted him. Police said Fata discharged his weapon, but it was not clear whether the man was hit or who fired first.
Posted by Peter Hermann at 12:59 PM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Confronting crime, Downtown, Police shootings

January 18, 2011

Homicide detective shot near police headquarters

UPDATE: The police commissioner told reporters outside Maryland Shock Trauma Center that the officer was getting something out of his car when the man approached with a small caliber revolver. He said the incident did not appear to be a robbery and called it a "random, chance encounter," Jessica Anderson reports.

Police are reporting that a homicide detective was shot in the leg and hospitalized with non-life-threatening injuries after an encounter with a gunman in a downtown parking garage near police headquarters tonight.

The shooting occurred in a parking garage on Frederick Street, across the street from the Police Department's Central District and headquarters. A spokesman said that based on preliminary information, the officer was getting into work early and was struck in the leg by an unknown gunman. Police quickly blocked off the area in an attempt to find the suspect, who had not been located as of the last update.

It's also unclear whether the detective exchanged gunfire with the suspect.

The shooting hits home for police not only because of its proximity to headquarters but because police are preparing to bury one of their own tomorrow morning when Officer William H. Torbit Jr. is laid to rest. 

Torbit was killed by friendly fire in a shooting near downtown, and in November an officer was shot at East Baltimore and North Calvert streets, just a few blocks away from tonight's shooting. 

Posted by Justin Fenton at 10:25 PM | | Comments (4)
Categories: Downtown, Police shootings

Family of Marine shot by city officer sues for $270 million

An off-duty Baltimore police officer who is accused of fatally shooting a Marine outside a club last summer should not have been on the force after a series of questionable incidents, the victim’s family alleges in a $270 million lawsuit filed in Baltimore Circuit Court.
Officer Gahiji A. Tshamba has been charged with first-degree murder in the shooting of Tyrone Brown, a 32-year-old East Baltimore man who was shot 12 times after getting into an altercation with Tshamba as they left a Mount Vernon club.
Police and witnesses have said that Brown inappropriately touched a female companion of Tshamba. The officer drew his weapon and challenged Brown, who was unarmed, to “do it again,” The Sun reported in June.
In the lawsuit, Brown’s family acknowledges that he touched the woman and claims that he apologized. A few minutes later, the woman swung at Brown, who deflected the blow, they say.
Tshamba pointed to his weapon and shouted threats, then pulled the gun and pointed it at Brown.
Brown raised his hands in the air, his family claims, then was backed down an alley out of view of officers and other clubgoers.
The lawsuit, which names Police Commissioner Frederick H. Bealefeld III, the agency’s chain of command, the mayor and city council and state as defendants – says that Tshamba, 37, was in violation of department protocols by carrying his weapon while intoxicated, but argues that Tshamba shouldn’t have been on the force in the first place.
"We believe there is a serious problem in terms of practices and procedures" used by the agency to discipline its own, attorney A. Dwight Pettit said in an interview. "We saw these same issues come up with a [2002] shooting at Lexington Market, and now what we're seeing in terms of the shooting last week [at Select Lounge] ... We're seeing that these things are continually being repeated, this type of excessive conduct."

Continue reading "Family of Marine shot by city officer sues for $270 million" »

Posted by Justin Fenton at 12:11 PM | | Comments (18)
Categories: Downtown, Gahiji Tshamba, Police shootings

January 12, 2011

Police ban plainclothes; external agency to review shooting

Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake announced Wednesday morning that there will be an external review of Sunday’s shooting downtown that injured four people and killed an on-duty officer and unarmed civilian.

Police also ordered late Tuesday that they will require all plainclothes officers in district units to wear uniforms amid a slew of changes pending the completion of the inquiry into the shooting, according to the department’s chief spokesman.

At Wednesday’s Board of Estimates meeting, Rawlings-Blake said she was “very concerned by initial facts that indicate only police weapons were discharged” Sunday outside the Select Lounge in the 400 block of N. Paca St. at officers tried to quell an unruly crowd.

Officer William H. Torbit Jr. was killed by friendly fire when four officers shot at him after seeing him fire his weapon, according to police and sources. Civilian Sean Gamble, 22, was also killed and three women were shot and injured.

“The police investigation and the outside review will help us understand exactly what happened and help us learn from it and make sure that nothing like it happens again,” she said in a statement.

Ryan O’Doherty, a spokesman for the mayor, said officials were reaching out to gauge availability and interest from other agencies and a decision could be made next week.

Meanwhile, police moved to establish a more cohesive policy on how plainclothes officers operate and what they can wear, said the department’s chief spokesman, Anthony Guglielmi. Plainclothes officers will be required to wear uniforms, while detectives in the department’s elite Violent Crimes Impact Section will have to wear identifiable vests or jackets. Commanders are also reviewing how such officers respond to large crowds.

Here's the mayor's full statement:

Continue reading "Police ban plainclothes; external agency to review shooting" »

Posted by Justin Fenton at 11:17 AM | | Comments (2)
Categories: City Hall, Downtown, Police shootings

Praise for slain officer

Even the people William H. Torbit Jr. busted praised him.

At a vigil (picture at left by The Sun's Kenneth K. Lam) and in interviews with The Sun's Justin Fenton, those who knew the 33-year-old Central District officer who was mistakenly killed by his own colleagues this weekend called him a tough but fair member of law enforcement.

It was, as Justin wrote, "a moment of unity in a neighborhood where police and residents are often at odds."

Complete story is here.

"He would talk to you, find out what your situation was," a woman who would only give her first name, Annette.

"He was that guy who'd walk up and calm the neighborhood down," Detective Michael Miller said. "I still take it as, he's going to come out and say this is all a joke. But it's reality."

As a city native, he wasn't intimidated by the streets and didn't retreat to the suburbs after finishing up work. Instead, he often found himself right back on those same corners, eating at restaurants, driving around to make sure it was safe for kids to play, getting his car washed and talking to residents. Sometimes he'd help serve patrons.

"I said, 'What you doing coming around here after work, somebody's going to kill you, boy,'" recalled friend Sean Rideout, who said he looked up to Torbit and followed him into law enforcement. "He came back because he loved his neighborhood. He loved his people."

Gregory Lassiter, 61, said Torbit could be rough. But he had nothing but praise for the officer.

"He used to throw me down, rough me up a bit, just to try to get me straight," said Lassiter, who says Torbit called him "Merlin" because of his bushy beard. "He stayed on me for a long while, explaining how old I was and how I needed to stop [hustling], and it finally sunk in. He's going to be missed."

A moment of unity indeed. Too bad it was just a moment. And too bad it had to happen under such tragic circumstances.

Posted by Peter Hermann at 7:41 AM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Downtown, Police shootings

January 11, 2011

Slain officer Torbit was on-duty

Since early Sunday, the Sun has written two in-depth accounts of the fatal shooting outside a night club near downtown, but one point seems to be unclear, not only among readers but also some reporters and politicians: Officer William H. Torbit Jr. (seen at right) was on-duty when he responded to help quell the unruly crowd outside of Select Lounge. 

In the summer, the shooting of a Marine by an off-duty officer in Mount Vernon raised questions about whether officers should carry their weapons while consuming alcohol. That is not the case in this shooting - Torbit, a plainclothes officer assigned to the Central District, responded to a distress call from an officer already at the club trying to handle the crowd. His badge was either not visible or ripped off during the melee, according to the account pieced together by sources, police, and witnesses.

That point seems lost among many readers, who posted comments and e-mailed us wanting to know what Torbit's blood alcohol content was and wanting to revisit the off-duty weapon policy.

Sun reporter Jill Rosen sought comment on the shooting from councilmembers Monday, and City Council President Bernard "Jack" Young seemed to think Torbit was working security at the bar:

“With secondary employment, we need to make sure our officers know where officers are at all times — who they are and where they are,” Young said. “Somebody should have recognized him. We should at least be able to identify our own.”

Young said that the police department might consider having officers with second jobs wear something that would identify them as police.

“How can you identify another police officer unless they’re wearing something that says police?” he asked. “I feel this is something we probably could have avoided.”

Not only was Torbit not working secondary employment at Select Lounge, city police officers have been prohibited from moonlighting as bar security for more than two years, when Police Commissioner Frederick H. Bealefeld III issued a ban. Instead, in key areas such as Power Plant Live and Federal Hill, police have pooled money from businesses to pay uniformed officers to work overtime at the direction of police commanders - not bar owners.

Union president Robert F. Cherry says the union and police commanders have crafted a proposal that would allow officers to resume working second jobs at bars, but he says the proposal has been sitting on Bealefeld's desk for months without a response.

Posted by Justin Fenton at 10:29 AM | | Comments (5)
Categories: City Hall, Downtown, Police shootings, South Baltimore

Arrest made in July shooting of Marine

Baltimore police announced this morning that they arrested an 18-year-old man in the July slaying of a U.S. Marine who was shot during an altercation inside a downtown Hookah bar. The Marine, 26-year-old Sgt. Chase Love, was from New Orleans and was celebrating with friends before his redeployment to Afghanistan.

The suspect is identified as Ronald Johnson (left), of the 2100 block of West Lexington St.

Police said in charging documents that Chase and Johnson got into an argument inside Queen's Hookah in the 200 block of East Baltimore St. in the early morning hours of July 2. The court document filed by Detective Mark Veney of the homicide unit says that Chase shoved Johnson and that Johnson shot him several times with a small .25 caliber semi-automatic handgun.

Love stumbled out of the lounge and collapsed on the sidewalk in front of Manasa Hallmark store.

The Marine lived with his wife and two stepchildren in North Carolina. He had served in Iraq and Afghanistan. Several active and and former servicemen had been killed in the months prior to Love's death.

Johnson has been charged with first-degree murder, first and second degree assault and several handgun counts.

Posted by Peter Hermann at 8:54 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Courts and the justice system, Downtown

January 9, 2011

Brother says police overreacted in club shooting

Police are not confirming the identities of the officer or the civilian killed early this morning outside Select Lounge, so we won't have much more about the officer tonight. 

But relatives of Sean Gamble, the 22-year-old killed in the incident, are speaking out and say police recklessly fired into a crowd after a fellow officer pulled a gun. 

James Gamble, 24, was at the club with his brother and said the officer, who he believed was off-duty, had been aggressive toward a woman. His brother started arguing with the officer, and the argument escalated, Gamble said. He said a group of uniformed officers then began firing on the crowd when the plainclothes officer reached for his service weapon.

Police say the officer, William H. Torbit Jr., had lost his badge in the altercation. 

"It was a crazy scene," James Gamble said. "They let off a good 20 shots, maybe six of them. They were just shooting." 

[Photo courtesy Baltimore Saints via Facebook]

Continue reading "Brother says police overreacted in club shooting" »

Posted by Justin Fenton at 6:08 PM | | Comments (20)
Categories: Downtown, Police shootings

Two officers shot, one killed, outside downtown club

Click here for the most updated version of this story.

UPDATE 11:45 p.m. Police spokesman Anthony Guglielmi said police do not expect to provide more information today on the Sunday morning shooting. He said detectives will be gathering surveillance camera footage and reviewing physical evidence.

He said the three civilians who were shot and wounded were all women in the early 20s, who were shot in their lower extremities.

UPDATE: 10:10 a.m. Sources are identifying the officer killed this morning as William H. Torbit Jr., 33, who was assigned to the Central District operations unit. On Twitter and Facebook, friends are mourning the civilian victim, Sean "Loz" Gamble. Police are not confirming either victim's identity.

A friend, Corey Brown said Gamble had a young child and was engaged to be married. He worked for a waste management company and had no criminal record.

"He's not a violent kid - he's not in the streets," said Brown. "He's not even cut from that cloth. Apparently he got in a fight, and the cops start shooting. Not in the air - in the crowd, and they shot him."

Attempts to locate friends and family of Torbit were not immediately successful.

UPDATE: 6:45 a.m. Two Baltimore police officers were shot, one of them fatally, when gunfire erupted early Sunday outside of a club near downtown. Six people in all were shot and two killed.

Two sources said detectives are exploring whether the officer who was killed was shot by another officer amid a chaotic scene outside the Select Lounge in the 400 block of N. Paca St.

The incident occurred at about 1:15 a.m. when police were called to break up fights and control a crowd outside the club near Franklin Street in Seton Hill, said Police Commissioner Frederick H. Bealefeld III. 

"There was an altercation that took place very near the club and some officers worked to intercede in that fight, at which time some gunshots were discharged," Bealefeld said. "Several officers fired multiple shots."

The sources, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the investigation was in the early stages, said the officer who was fatally shot was in plainclothes and was being attacked by a group of people moments before the gunfire rang out.

An eight-year veteran of the force whose name was not disclosed was shot and killed, Bealefeld said. A second officer, an 11-year veteran, was shot in the foot. Both officers were assigned to the Central District and were on duty, police said. One was in uniform and the other was in plainclothes, police said.

Continue reading "Two officers shot, one killed, outside downtown club" »

Posted by Justin Fenton at 4:34 AM | | Comments (29)
Categories: Breaking news, Downtown, Police shootings

January 6, 2011

Suspicious packages at city court house, state office building, unfounded

UPDATE AS OF 6:30 P.M.: The suspicious package at the state office building on West Preston Street turned out to be computer accessories. Again, heightened caution after the explosive devices that were found earlier today in Annapolis.

UPDATE AS OF 5:45 P.M.: The suspicious package at the Mitchell Courthouse turned out to be a box of toner cartridges, according to police. In light of what happened in Annapolis today, people are being more cautious.

Baltimore police are at a state office building at 201 West Preston St. where a department spokesman says at least one suspicious package was found. Police have no other details of where the packages was or what it contained.

Fire Department spokesman Kevin Cartwright said "no detonation" occurred. There were conflicting reports about whether employees were told to leave; Preston Street is closed in the area; the state complex contains several state buildings, including the the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene.

Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard between Howard and Preston streets was closed as of 4:15 p.m.

At the moment, we don't know whether the package contained an explosive or if this is the result of heightened suspicions following the explosives found in two other state buildings in Anne Arundel County..

Also, Maryland State Police just sent out an update on the explosive devices found in two state buildings in Hanover and in Annapolis. No explosion, but a chemical reaction did cause an injury to one mail room employee.

Here's a statement from police:

Continue reading "Suspicious packages at city court house, state office building, unfounded" »

Posted by Peter Hermann at 5:45 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Breaking news, Downtown

January 1, 2011

Bealefeld, Bernstein hit the streets to fight crime

Baltimore's top cop and about to be top prosecutor hit the streets early Saturday to survey the crime scene. They found little, which in their world couldn't be better news.

This was the upcoming State's Attorney's Gregg Bernstein's second ride with cops and he got a slow night, though he did see a few traffic stop and ran into a house where a man had been hit over the head with a glass bottle. He missed double stabbings in Curtis Bay and downtown, but experienced a night of unusually slow crime and even lower crowds for the all night party.

"There are more cops than people," Police Commissioner Frederick H. Bealefeld III noted about 30 minutes after the fireworks had ended, as he walked the Inner Harbor's waterfront walkway. In police parlance, it's simply "the bricks."

The photo-op of the night?

Bealefeld and Bernstein pushing a broken-down car out of an intersection on East Madison Street.

It's certainly valuable for the incoming top prosecutor to get a feel for the streets and the cops, but Bernstein enjoys a close bond with Bealefeld, who took the unusual step of openly campaigning for him to unseat the sitting state's attorney.

Also in the car was Bernstein's wife, Sheryl Goldstein, who runs the mayor's crime office.

Bernstein didn't get too much crime to prosecute in the opening hours of 2011, But soon he'll be pouring over the files of these very same officers, deciding what and how and whether to prosecute the people they're locking up on nights like this.

As for Bealefeld, he's hoping for more nights this.

December 30, 2010

Cop who rescued dog has plucked from harbor before

The Baltimore police officer who dove into the harbor to rescue the dog Penny is no stranger to the water. Yes, he's a marine cop, but 12 years ago he helped rescue a man who jumped off a ship at the Inner Harbor.

Officer Americus J. Rambeau and a colleague pulled a 79-year-old man from the water near the Light Street pavilion in the summer of 1998. Two seaman aboard a Greek ship -- Christos Vlachos and Nick Anestis -- dove in to save the man. He had apparently jumped from the cruise ship the Bay Lady.

On Wednesday night, Rambeau found himself back in the water, this time in a wet suit swimming for a dog that had gotten free of its owner and went for a swim in the cold water. More details of that rescue can be found here.

At left, Rachel Naumann and Penny stand next to Rambeau to talk about the rescue at a news conference on the Canton waterfront. The photo was taken by The Sun's Kim Hairston.

Posted by Peter Hermann at 6:09 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Downtown

December 29, 2010

Cruise ship crew members charged with smuggling drugs

Turns out the Royal Caribbean cruise lines were bringing back more than vacationing passengers to Baltimore, according to federal authorities.

The Maryland U.S. Attorney's Office has charged crew members with trying to smuggle heroin and cocaine into Baltimore from the Dominican Republic. Court papers allege they were using a South Baltimore Wal-Mart to deliver the drugs that they had hidden in their waistbands and shoes.

The Baltimore Sun's Yeganeh June Torbati reports:

According to accounts by agents of the Department of Homeland Security filed in federal court, three employees of the cruise line — 35-year-old Gavin Excell and 27-year-olds John Swart Garth and Kishurn Neptune — obtained narcotics in the Dominican Republic during a stop of the Royal Caribbean's "Enchantment of the Seas" trip in mid-December.

When the ship arrived in Baltimore on Dec. 18, the documents state, the three men had planned to sell those drugs at the Port Covington Wal-Mart, near the cruise terminal, to Loxly Johnson and Shenika Nicole Graves, who appear to have driven to Baltimore from Virginia


Posted by Peter Hermann at 12:31 PM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Confronting crime, Courts and the justice system, Downtown

December 27, 2010

Man beaten after '09 hotel shooting shot, killed Sunday

[UPDATE: Police say they are trying to find out why they didn't charge Woodland after his hospital release. They arrested him in November on minor drug charges, but prosecutors say they were never contacted about pursuing gun charges.] 

A year ago this month, Raymond Woodland was partying in a downtown hotel when police say he pulled a TEC-9 semi-automatic firearm and shot a 19-year-old in the face. The victim’s friends responded by beating Woodland into critical condition.

Woodland, who in a few moments went from suspect to victim, was never charged for the shooting as he lay in a hospital bed with a grim prognosis.

But he apparently recovered: on Sunday, the 20-year-old was on the streets and walking through Southwest Baltimore when he was fatally shot.

Continue reading "Man beaten after '09 hotel shooting shot, killed Sunday" »

Posted by Justin Fenton at 1:48 PM | | Comments (17)
Categories: Courts and the justice system, Downtown

December 15, 2010

Block fire intentionally set, source says

The 5-alarm fire that ravaged Baltimore's red light district on Dec.6 was intentionally set, according to a source familiar with the investigation.

The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives has scheduled a news conference for later today with more details on the tip, which came from The Sun's City Hall reporter Julie Scharper. A spokesperson for that agency declined to confirm the reports and other officials would not comment.

The evening fire all but destroyed at least two buildings in the 400 block of East Baltimore St., including the Gayety World adult book store and a vacant corner building. Two strip clubs, Blue Mirrors and Club Lust, also were damaged.

Federal authorities have been working for days at the fire scene and East Baltimore Street has been shut down to traffic since the fire. The clubs were allowed to reopen on Friday.

At  left, in a photo provided by the Baltimore's ATF office, investigators survey the inside of one of the burned buildings.

Posted by Peter Hermann at 10:16 AM | | Comments (5)
Categories: Downtown

December 7, 2010

Video of roof collapse in Block fire

Hat tip to Alexander Koblansky, who was recording when the roof of the Gayety Show World building collapsed, sending fire shooting into the air:

From the audio in the background it sounds like he and his friends got busted for watching the fire instead of working.

Posted by Justin Fenton at 5:10 PM | | Comments (2)
Categories: Downtown

Fire chief hits back at union on fire response

Fire Chief James S. Clack fired back this afternoon on claims from the fire union that rotating budget closures of companies impacted fighting the two five-alarm fires in Mount Vernon and on The Block.

"We've got 54 suppression companies in the city and three are closed each day. It's certainly better than years ago when we had six, and even up until the start of this year when we had four. Would we like those up in service? Absolutely."

But Clack said he didn't think the closures made a difference. "Both of these were five alarm fires. Another truck in service probably wouldn't have made a difference in this case. Certainly as the fire chief I'd like to have every company in service.

"But these are very tough budget times and I think we're doing well with what we have. I would say that some of the stuff the union sent out is a little overblown. They're trying to use this opportunity to advocate for reducing the rotating closures. I certainly understand that. But I would say the rhetoric is over the top."

Posted by Peter Hermann at 1:22 PM | | Comments (3)
Categories: Downtown, North Baltimore, Top brass

Fire unions blasting closures after two city blazes

Firefighters are still putting out embers at this morning's fire in Mount Vernon (just hours after clubs on The Block burned) and already the city fire union (Firefighters Local 734) is blasting away at company closures. Two or three fire companies are shuttered each night throughout the city due to budget cuts.

Photo is of the Mount Vernon blaze and was taken by The Sun's Jerry Jackson.

Union officials routinely complain that the closures slow response time to fires and endanger lives of citizens and firefighters. Last year, a man was killed in a fire just a block from a firehouse that was closed, though a variety of factors, including a wrong address, contributed to a delayed response (read a tribute to the victim here).

The Baltimore Fire Department shoots back that closures have little to no impact on fighting fires (though Fire Chief James S. Clack warned during the last budget process that the department couldn't absorb anymore cuts).

This morning, the Firefighters Union 734 issued a blistering statement saying that once again the the Fire Department's shortcomings are endangering citizens, and noting that the city needed help from Baltimore, Anne Arundel and Howard counties (twin four-alarm fires in a strip of vacant houses in West Baltimore this summer required an assist from as far away as Washington).

Chief Kevin Cartwright, a spokesman for the Fire Department, shot back this morning, calling the union complaints overblown and old. "Response time had nothing to do with anything that happened last night," he said.

Both five-alarm fires brought nearly 150 firefighters to the scenes. Union officials are saying that a 5-alarm assignment today is roughly equivalent to a 3-alarm assignment in years past, due to cutbacks in personnel and apparatus. Fire officials counter that different chiefs have different protocols, and that better equipment and improved safety guidelines mean that fewer trucks and engines are required on each alarm).

Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake has reduced rotating closures from four to three in this year’s budget, which ran a $121 million deficit. For more from the union and Cartwright:

Continue reading "Fire unions blasting closures after two city blazes" »

Posted by Peter Hermann at 9:09 AM | | Comments (19)
Categories: Breaking news, Downtown, North Baltimore

Fires damage The Block, Mount Vernon

Fire, not crime, is the main news of the day.

Baltimore residents navigated their way home through gridlock caused by a 5-alarm fire on The Block and then awoke to discover Mount Vernon shuttered because of another 5-alarm fire on North Charles Street.

That latest fire, which broke out about 1:30 this morning, heavily damaged buildings that contain Donna's Coffee Bar and restaurants Indigma and My Thai.

Further south but a world away, Monday's fire on The Block (photo at left by The Sun's Jerry Jackson) forced several strip clubs to close, possibly through Wednesday, and others may never reopen. A full one-third of the storied adult entertainment district is in danger.

But The Block has survived other catastrophes, including small fires, the smoking ban and numerous attempts to close what many feel has gone from a Vaudeville attraction (clubs with pit orchestras and later Blaze Starr) to a seedy, drug and prostitution-infested strip.

The last major attempt to shut The Block (and last time a significant number of clubs had to close for more than a day) came in January 1994 when then Gov. William Donald Schaefer ordered 500 state troopers to raid two dozen clubs after a lengthy investigation into drugs, prostitution and alleged corruption.

"The Bock as I knew it years ago was an attraction," the governor told reporters after touring the closed clubs. "But tonight, it is not an attraction. It is a detriment. ... We saw drugs, we saw prostitution, we saw liquor. It's just not right."

The raid led to the arrests of 87 people and prompted an investigation into the city's liquor board on allegations inspectors took bribes from club owners and that one board member was a secret owner of a strip joint.

But what started out with fanfare ended in disgrace for state police when it was discovered that troopers had spent some of the $318,604 the investigation cost taxpayers to buy dancers furs and engage in other questionable activities. The undercover troopers had succumbed to the very corruption they had been told to fight. A top commander in the state police drug unit was removed from his position.

As a result, the investigation into the liquor board fizzled without getting out of a grand jury. and prosecutors were able to send just five of 87 defendants to jail. Prosecutors had to dismiss every one of the misdemeanor drug cases and a third of the felony cases.

The Block won.

Can it bounce back again?





Posted by Peter Hermann at 7:53 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Downtown, North Baltimore

December 2, 2010

Family of bicyclist killed on city street settles suit

The family of Baltimore cyclist John R. "Jack" Yates who was hit by a truck and killed last year has settled its lawsuit against the driver and his employer. The settlement with Potts & Callahan Inc. was reached days before trial.

The case prompted concern and outrage from Baltimore bicycling community (picture of memorial by The Sun's Amy Davis). The Yates family alleged negligence because it appeared the driver of the truck made a right turn onto Lafayette Avenue and Yates got caught in the rear wheels. Police didn't file charges, saying the driver, who did not stop, did not see the cyclist.

I wrote about Yates back in August for a different reason. He had worked as a counselor for the Baraka School in Kenya, an alternative school for at-risk city teens. He had known another young man, Charles G. "Boots" Pratt, who was shot and killed in a South Baltimore housing project.

Pratt had been involved with drugs and was a gang member, police said. The two died just five days apart in August 2009, under very different circumstances, but their bond demonstrated some of the uncommon links found in this city. 

Posted by Peter Hermann at 7:52 AM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Confronting crime, Courts and the justice system, Downtown

November 30, 2010

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

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

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:

Continue reading "Stabbing reported downtown" »

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 5, 2010

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

November 4, 2010

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:

Continue reading "New plan to combat city vacants" »

November 2, 2010

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.

Continue reading "Arrest made in Inner Harbor attack" »

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

October 28, 2010

Don't rob the bank where you bank

The week of Oct. 4, authorities say Randolph Wells Jr. cashed a work check at Harbor Bank at Fayette and Charles streets in downtown Baltimore.

On Oct. 13, the FBI says the same man returned to rob the branch at gunpoint.

He escaped with $3,549 but apparently left an indelible impression on a teller. She recognized him from the previous week and police and federal agents were able to track him down from the check he had cashed, which listed his employer's name and address.

Authorities arrested Wells Oct. 19 and a federal grand jury indicted him on Wednesday. In a criminal complaint filed in U.S. District Court in Baltimore, the FBI says Wells was on supervised release at the time of the holdup and has been convicted twice in the past of robbing banks, once using a gun, another time with a knife.

For more details:

Continue reading "Don't rob the bank where you bank" »

Posted by Peter Hermann at 8:38 AM | | Comments (5)
Categories: Breaking news, Confronting crime, Downtown

October 25, 2010

Three men attacked, robbed outside Inner Harbor hotel

Three men were hospitalized early Sunday morning after being robbed and assaulted outside an Inner Harbor hotel, police confirmed.

According to preliminary information, four men who had been drinking and were “very intoxicated” were standing outside the Intercontinental Hotel in the 500 block of Light St. before 2:40 a.m. when four males and two females walked past them.

One of the males asked, “Are you laughing at me?” and punched one of the men, a 28-year-old, in the nose, police said. The male produced a knife and chased the victim, while the other three males began assaulting the other men. One victim’s wallet was taken during the encounter, police said.

The suspects eventually fled north on Light Street, police said. The victims, ages 29, 25, and 27, were transported to a local hospital, where they were treated and released, police said. Police had not made any arrests, and additional details were not immediately available.

Posted by Justin Fenton at 6:37 PM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Downtown

October 18, 2010

FBI seeks suspected bank robber

The Baltimore office of the Federal Bureau of Investigation is looking for a man they say used a black, semi-automatic gun to rob the Harbor Bank of Maryland at 22 West Fayette St. in Baltimore at 11:45 a.m. on Wednesday, Oct. 13.

The suspect is Randolph Burke Wells Jr., a 45-year-old  man who goes by the nickname “Buddah,” according to the FBI. Wells stands 5 feet, 11 inches tall and weighs about 215 pounds.

Anyone with information should call the Baltimore FBI offices at 410-265-8080.

Posted by Peter Hermann at 3:49 PM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Confronting crime, Downtown

September 16, 2010

Escape suspects arrested on West Coast

An attempted murder suspect who escaped from police custody on Friday in downtown Baltimore was captured along with his pregnant girlfriend Wednesday evening in Washington state, city police said this morning.

The arrests end a five-day manhunt for 32-year-old Paul Bryan Palmer and 29-year-old Gina Christina Distefano. Police also said they recovered the couple's silver four-door Kia Spectra with a bent frame; it was not immediately clear if the couple used the car to drive across country.

Police did not say how they found the couple in Washington, but said members of the Warrant Apprehension Task Force and the U.S. Marshal's Service arrested Palmer and Distefano in Yelm, Washington about 5:40 p.m.

Police have said Palmer escaped Friday about 1 p.m. from the Central District police station on East Baltimore Street. He had been arrested and charged with attempted murder in connection with an attack on a man last month in a dispute over a girl. The victim had been stabbed seven times.

While in custody, he complained of a hand injury and was taken to the police station lobby, where he managed to wriggle free of his plastic handcuffs and ran away.

Here is a statement from police:

Continue reading "Escape suspects arrested on West Coast" »

Posted by Peter Hermann at 9:15 AM | | Comments (4)
Categories: Breaking news, Downtown

September 13, 2010

Police continue to search for escapee

Baltimore police have now charged an escapee's pregnant girlfriend with harboring a fugitive for allegedly helping a 32-year-old man elude authorities. The man, Paul Bryan Palmer, is charged with attempted murder in connection with a stabbing in August.

Palmer escaped from a downtown police building about 1 p.m. Friday on Gay Street, near City Hall. He was being driven to Central Booking when he complained of a hand injury. He was returned to the Central District station where police said he managed to get free of plastic handcuffs and run away.

He is described as a white male, bald, standing about 5 feet 10 inches tall and weighing 185 pounds. Palmer was last seen wearing a black ball cap, sleeveless white "muscle" t-shirt, blue jeans, and brown work boots. 

He is wanted in a Aug. 31 assault in the 200 block of Davis St. in which a man was stabbed seven times in an argument over a woman.

Over the weekend, police said Palmer could be driving a silver four-door Kia Spectra with a bent frame and "donut" spare tire, with Maryland license plate number 1EWB10. Now, police say they believe Palmer is with his girlfriend, identified as Gina Christina Distefano, 29, who is pregnant. She is described as white, standing 5 feet all and weighing 100 pounds. She has light brown hair and blue eyes.

Anyone with information is urged to call 911.

Posted by Peter Hermann at 11:27 AM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Breaking news, Confronting crime, Downtown

September 10, 2010

Attempted murder suspect escapes Central District

UPDATE: Police say Palmer may be driving a silver Kia with a "donut" spare tire, Maryland tag 1EWB10. If seen, call 911.

Baltimore authorities were searching for a man who was arrested for attempted murder but escaped from a downtown police building after wriggling free of his plastic handcuffs.

Police said Paul Bryan Palmer, 32, was taken into custody on a warrant charging him with attacking a man last month near City Hall. At about 1 p.m. Friday, Palmer was to be transported to Central Booking and Intake Center when he complained of a hand injury and was taken back into the lobby of the department’s Central District building on Baltimore Street, said Anthony Guglielmi, the department’s chief spokesman.

Palmer was able to get free of the plastic handcuffs and ran off, Guglielmi said. Police searched for him for about an hour and are now asking for the public’s help.

Palmer is described as white, bald, about 5 feet 10 inches tall and weighing 185 pounds.

Angela Johnese, juvenile justice director for Advocates for Children and Youth, said that at about 1:15 p.m. she saw police cars “coming and going in all directions around Gay, Lombard, Pratt and South.” Officers on foot were posted on numerous corners, and walking in and out of parking garages.

“Makes for an interesting Friday afternoon at the Inner Harbor,” Johnese said in an e-mail.
Guglielmi said Palmer has been charged in connection with an Aug. 31 incident in the 200 block of Davis St. in which a man was attacked and stabbed seven times.

Guglielmi said the victim had just gotten out of jail and went to his girlfriend’s house, where he discovered she was living with another man – Palmer. The men got into an argument and police were called to the home, defusing the situation.

Later, the victim was getting off a bus and walking toward a homeless shelter when he was jumped by Palmer and two men. He was knocked to the ground and punched, then stabbed seven times.
Anyone with information about Palmer’s whereabouts was asked to call 911.

Posted by Justin Fenton at 4:32 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Breaking news, Downtown

Stabbing at Power Plant after Ravens kickoff party

The Midnight Sun blog (now helmed by Sun newcomer Erik Maza) is reporting that a 22-year-old male was stabbed last night at Power Plant Live shortly after the Ravens Kickoff Party ended. Officials are calling the incident "isolated," the result of an apparent fight inside the venue. According to police, a good deal of time passed before the victim even realized he had been stabbed:

Victim was inside Power Plant Live! when he became engaged in an altercation with suspect. During the course of the altercation suspect stabbed victim multiple times in the torso. Suspect was escorted from the plaza through a side hallway leading to S. Frederick Street. Witnesses noticed they had blood on them and went to wash off the blood. Victim, still not knowing he had been stabbed walked out the same hallway onto S. Frederick Street. When witnesses went out to meet the victim he advised them that his abdomen hurt. Witnesses then noticed the victim's shirt covered in blood. Medic #10 responded to the scene and transported victim to Johns Hopkins Hospital where he was taken onto surgery.
Posted by Justin Fenton at 11:52 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Downtown

September 9, 2010

Employee charged with hacking computer with porn

It happened one day last year, as more than a dozen board members of a Baltimore substance abuse center had gathered around a conference room. The CEO was giving a PowerPoint presentation on his accomplishments.

Suddenly, his computer shut down, then restarted, replacing the latest slide with an image of a naked woman onto a 64-inch screen. The board members include city officials and foundation heads and is chaired by Baltimore's health commissioner.

Today, Baltimore's State's Attorney's Office announced a grand jury had indicted Walter Powell, 51, with hacking into the computer system. They described him as a disgruntled worker who allegedly used his home computer to access the system, distribute confidential emails from his boss and break into the presentation.

The CEO of the Baltimore Substance Abuse System Inc., which distributes public funds to more than 50 substance abuse programs helping thousands of people, told me the attack cost $80,000 -- mostly to rebuild the system, replace software and upgrade security measures.

The CEO, Greg Warren, said no confidential information leaked out.

Here is a statement from prosecutors with more information:

Continue reading "Employee charged with hacking computer with porn" »

Posted by Peter Hermann at 6:04 PM | | Comments (5)
Categories: Courts and the justice system, Downtown

September 6, 2010

Body found at Inner Harbor hotel

Baltimore police are investigating a body that was found this afternoon at the Baltimore Renaissance Harborplace Hotel on East Pratt Street. Few details are available but police say at this point they don't suspect foul play.

A hotel staff member foundt the body of the adult male in his room. No guests were told to leave the 622-room hotel, but the sight of police cars outfront were unnerving. A cause of death will be made by the Medical Examiner's Office, most likely on Tuesday.

Posted by Peter Hermann at 5:01 PM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Breaking news, Downtown

September 1, 2010

College Night returning to Power Plant Live?

Update from Midnight Sun blog: Power Plant Live spokesman Christ Furst: this night has nothing to do with Power Plant Live, and none of Power Plant Live's staff is promoting it as a college night. "We don't permit buses," he said. "If it's a matter of that event being canceled, absolutely. ... Mosaic does not hold a college night. Power Plant Live does not hold a college night."

After a fews years break, College Night could be returning to Power Plant Live. The Baltimore Sun's nightlife guru Sam Sessa talked to a promoter who is promoting bussing college students to the enterntainment district.

Only problem is that the owners of Power Plant Live imposed a no-bussing policy in 2006, after thousands of college students, many too young to drink, crowded the downtown and cause problems with drinking and crime. Market Place at times was out of control.

So we'll see what the promoter says after hearing from the Power Plant's spokesman who said they're trying to get away from the college atmosphere. If it does happen, both the center's owenrs and the police are in for some very long weekends.

Here's what GoodLife Boys co-owner Nino Sylvia told Sam Sessa about Thursday Night Banger: "We take a bunch of college kids and bring them out there. Towson, Loyola, Hopkins -- we've got all the students coming out there. ... The ratio of girls to guys is ridiculous."

Posted by Peter Hermann at 11:29 AM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Breaking news, Confronting crime, Downtown, Top brass

Skateboarder arrested in death at Inner Harbor

Just days after Baltimore's police commissioner Frederick H. Bealefeld III fired a cop for berating and pushing a teenaged skateboarder at the Inner Harbor, homicide detectives busted a Curtis Bay man and charged him with pushing a man into the water in the summer of 2008.

The police union president, Robert F. Cherry, who has been angry over the firing of Salvatore Rivieri, immediately pounced the irony. He told The Sun's crime beat reporter Justin Fenton:

"This is a perfect example of why we need officers down there who aren't afraid to enforce the laws. Good police work involves being proactive on the smaller level as well, and the business community has said it had an issue with skateboarders who trespass and deface property. … Lo and behold, three years later the homicide unit locks up a skateboarder."

Wayne Black, 20, (seen at right) was arrested Tuesday and charged in the death of Ankush Gupta, who lived in Germantown and was days away from starting his junior year at the University of Maryland, College Park. His friends told Justin he wanted to work for NASA.

Gupta and his friends had just returned from New York and stopped off in Baltimore. The victim took a walk and a short time later his friends heard a splash. They saw a young man running away right after that. Police said the suspect, carrying a skateboard, had asked Gupta for a cigarette and then pushed him in the harbor.

The Medical Examiner's Office ruled the death a drowning and suspicious. It's a good example of even when a death isn't classified outright as a homicide, detectives still work the cases. Here's a killing that didn't even show up on the murder count until police investigated.

Posted by Peter Hermann at 7:46 AM | | Comments (37)
Categories: Breaking news, Confronting crime, Downtown

August 30, 2010

Rivieri speaks out about skateboarding video

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

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

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

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

People supporting Rivieri

Officer fired (and video of the incident).

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

August 27, 2010

Fired officer in skateboard incident gets support

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Continue reading "Fired officer in skateboard incident gets support" »

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

August 17, 2010

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

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

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

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

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

Body found on Fayette Street downtown

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

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

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

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

August 12, 2010

Police investigating body in downtown trash chute

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

He ate, he drank and skipped on the bill

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

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

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

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

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

Here is the police charging document:

Continue reading "He ate, he drank and skipped on the bill" »

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

August 10, 2010

Hotel shooting victim picked up by feds

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

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

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

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

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

August 5, 2010

Police charge woman in hotel shooting

A woman who was taken into custody after Tuesday's shooting inside a room at the city-owned Hilton Convention Center hotel has now been charged. Police identified the suspect as Sharolyn L. Yarbrough, 34, who works at Sly's Bail Bonds on Woodlea Avenue in Baltimore, according to court records.

According to court records, the altercation was the latest in a series of fights between the couple and sparked over a cell phone. In charging documents, it appears the shooting happened as they struggled over a handgun, but after conferring with prosecutors Yarbrough was charged with attempted first-degree murder and assault.

Yarbrough and the victim, Harold O'Neal, had been dating for the past 17 months, and Yarbrough told detectives that they had been fighting often. She left him and checked into the Hilton, according to court records.

O'Neal called her and said he wanted to visit, and Yarbrough gave him the room number. He told her that he loved her, and they had sex, detectives wrote in charging documents. Afterward, they were sitting on the bed talking when he grabbed her cell phone.

She told him he "could not look through it any more and to give him back her cell phone," wrote Det. Donald Slimmer. "When he refused to give it back, she took his cell phone and both of them got into a verbal dispute. Then it turned into a physical altercation and both of them went to reach for the handgun that was sitting on the dresser located at the end of the bed."

"With the handgun in both of their hands they began to fight over handgun. She advised that while they were fighting over the gun he bit her on the right upper back and then the police arrived."

The detective pressed her on when the shooting took place in her timeline of the incident, and he wrote that she put her head down and started to cry. She said she was afraid and "can't do this" and stopped talking. Police were unable to get an account from O'Neal, who was heavily medicated.

Continue reading "Police charge woman in hotel shooting" »

Posted by Peter Hermann at 10:26 AM | | Comments (12)
Categories: Breaking news, Downtown

August 3, 2010

UPDATE: Hotel shooting appears domestic; woman in custody

Baltimore Police had a woman in custody after a man was shot in a fourth-floor room of the Hilton Baltimore Convention Center Hotel, an incident police said appeared to be a domestic dispute.

Police were called to the city-owned hotel near Oriole Park at Camden Yards about 7 p.m. Tuesday and found a man in his 30s who had been shot in the abdomen. A .40 caliber gun was recovered and a woman, who was in her 20s and was the registered owner of the handgun, was taken into custody pending charges.

The man’s injuries were considered non-life-threatening and he was taken to an area hospital, while the woman appeared to have suffered “superficial” injuries. Neither was identified, but Police Commissioner Frederick H. Bealefeld III said that both were from Baltimore.

“It keeps coming back to one common thing … this insipid fascination with handguns in Baltimore and the willingness to use them to sort out conflict,” Bealefeld said.

Posted by Justin Fenton at 9:50 PM | | Comments (3)
Categories: Downtown

July 22, 2010

Lexington Market drug investigation leads to 85 pounds of pot

A drug investigation that started at Lexington Market led to a raid last night in Northeast Baltimore that netted 85 pounds of suspected marijuana and the seizure of more than $2,100 in cash, police said.

The raid occurred at about 5 p.m. in the 1600 block of Waverly Way, located within the Renaissance Club apartments.  Det. Kevin Brown, a city police spokesman, said David Andrews, 48, and Dwayne Jackson, 51, are believed to have been supplying dealers at the downtown market.

Jackson was being held on $2 million bond, while Andrews was held on $500,000 bond, according to court records. Those are high bails - I couldn't find any prior arrest history for either man in the city.

Lexington Market was recently the focus of a CNN report about prescription drugs. The footage of the bust isn't great, but the DEA apparently allowed the reporter to do an on-camera interview with a man who had been taken into custody. The report concludes that prescription drug sales at the market are "booming."

And who could forget the Utz potato chip stall owner accused of selling guns to gang members

I've got a hankering for a Faidley's crab cake just writing about the market...

Speaking of marijuana: prosecutors filed documents in federal court seeking to seize a Woodstock, Md. home after police discovered 10 pounds of marijuana and 660 marijuana plants in a kennel on the property of Roger Alan Smith at 10820 Furman Lane, near Marriottsville Road. The Carroll County drug task force had received a tip in June that Smith was growing large amounts of marijuana, and police used a thermal scan to detect an unusually large amount of heat coming from an area of the kennel, court records show. It does not appear Smith has yet been charged in connection with the raid.

Posted by Justin Fenton at 11:42 AM | | Comments (14)
Categories: Downtown, Northeast Baltimore

July 20, 2010

Driver in fatal crash indicted on manslaughter charge

An illegal immigrant who had been charged with negligent driving after police said he crashed his car while driving impaired on I-83 in June has been indicted on a charge of auto manslaughter, prosecutors announced this morning.

Freddy Alberto Cortez Flores, 22, of Hyattsville, was speeding 65 mph, 25 mph over the posted limit, in the far left lane of the highway near Guilford Avenue when prosecutors said he lost control of his car and struck a Jersey wall about 1 a.m. on June 21.

His passenger, Carlos O. Cardoza Portillo, was partially ejected from the car and his right arm and head was dragged 567 feet against the concrete wall and a chain link fence, the Baltimore State's Attorney's Office said. He was pronounced dead on the scene.

Police said Flores' speech was slurred and that officers detected a strong odor of alcohol on his breath. Cortez told police he had swerved to avoid a vehicle that had cut him off. His blood alcohol level was determined to be .09 percent, according to police charging documents.

Cortez, who has a valid Maryland driver's license, is being held without bail at the Baltimore City Detention Center. The U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency as put a detainer on him to prevent his release from custoy and could begin deportation proceedings after his trial in Baltimore.

Posted by Peter Hermann at 9:18 AM | | Comments (21)
Categories: Breaking news, Courts and the justice system, Downtown

July 19, 2010

Female suspected in 7 bank robberies arrested

A woman who used heavy makeup as a disguise and is suspected of robbing seven Baltimore area banks was arrested on Saturday when a teller hit a panic button, trapping her inside a vestibule until police arrived.

Special Agent Richard J. Wolf, a spokeswoman for the Baltimore FBI office, said the 27-year-old suspect became "extremely agitated" while stuck Saturday between the entrance way doors of the Madison Bank in the 6800 block of Harford Road.

Wolf identified the suspect as Darion Randle of Lansdowne. She had been sought since early July after the FBI says six banks were robbed by a woman wearing a long black wig and used notes to threaten tellers that bank employees and customers would be injured if she didn't get money. Authorities say that female bank robbers are "rare."

Police say that they've linked four bank robberies in Baltimore County and three in the city to the woman.

The latest occurred Saturday about 11 a.m. at the Madison Bank on Harford Road. Wolf said the woman -- who sometimes wore an Arab head covering, but not this time -- handed a teller a note and got money. The teller pushed the alarm button as the suspect left, trapping her in the vestibule.

A city police officer said cops rushed to get a picture of her before her makeup came off. Wolf said her makeup was melting in the heat. "She was extremely agitated," he said. ""She tried to bang the glass off. She pulled some weather stripping. Her make-up was running because of the heat. There was a lot of make-up." 

Posted by Peter Hermann at 10:33 AM | | Comments (21)
Categories: Breaking news, Downtown, Northeast Baltimore

July 2, 2010

Marine shot in bar on Baltimore Street

An active duty Marine was shot at a downtown hookah bar early Friday morning and later died of his injuries, according to Baltimore City police.

The story, by reporter Childs Walker, says the 26-year-old from New Orleans was shot once in the chest after an altercation in the lounge on East Baltimore Street between 3:15 and 3:30 a.m. He was out celebrating prior to his deployment to Afghanistan.

The unidentified marine is the third to be killed in the Baltimore area in recent months. 

Posted by Anica Butler at 11:52 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Breaking news, Downtown

July 1, 2010

Sad tale of Block murder ends with death, guilty finding

Takira Leray Johnson-Bey had talked her mother, Angela Jackson, off the street and into treatment. Then, the daughter surrendered her future for a few quick bucks dancing naked on a stage on Custom House Avenue.

Then, in Nov. 2008, Johnson-Bey was fatally stabbed after a fight between two strippers on The Block. On Wednesday, a woman was found guilty of involuntary manslaughter in connection with the stabbing, and sentencing is set for September.

I visited Angela Jackson shortly after her daughter was stabbed. By then, she was off drugs and counseling other addicts. It was a sad irony that her daughter, the one she credited with setting her straight, the one who had once danced at the Baltimore School for the Arts, fell into trouble herself.

Here is part of that story published last year:

Continue reading "Sad tale of Block murder ends with death, guilty finding" »

Posted by Peter Hermann at 8:05 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Confronting crime, Courts and the justice system, Downtown

June 30, 2010

Man shot escaping jail had no reason to escape

It's no secret that most people in jail want to get out. But what if you can get out and you escape anyway?

Just try to figure Davon Newton's saga today that led to him being shot. Yep, authorities say he tried to escape the Baltimore City Detention Center even though he had no reason to even try. And prson officals are just as perplexed as you will be:

Continue reading "Man shot escaping jail had no reason to escape" »

Posted by Peter Hermann at 5:59 PM | | Comments (3)

June 28, 2010

Inner Harbor shooting started with a bump

Baltimore police charging documents filed in connection with Sunday's Inner Harbor shooting detail a chilling series of events that begins with a petty stare down that leads to five shots fired on the crowded waterfront prominade, and ending with cops shooting at one of the gunmen:

Here are the documents, with the name of the victim blacked out. Police asked us to withhold his name due to concerns of gang retaliation:


Continue reading "Inner Harbor shooting started with a bump" »

Posted by Peter Hermann at 4:46 PM | | Comments (2)
Categories: Breaking news, Confronting crime, Downtown, Gangs

New details on weekend shootings

The shooting at the Inner Harbor overshadowed yet another weekend filled with shootings. The Baltimore Sun's Julie Bykowicz gives readers a good summary of some of the shooting since early Saturday:

-- A 23-year-old woman who was four months pregnant and whom police described as a gang member was shot early Saturday morning on Arsan Avenue in Curtis Bay. She lost the baby but is expected to recover from her injuries, police said.

-- About 10 p.m. Saturday, in apparent retaliation for that shooting, an 18-year-old man was shot in the 300 block of nearby Annabel Avenue, police said.

-- A 23-year-old man was shot and killed at 3:30 a.m. Saturday in the 3300 block Noble Avenue in East Baltimore, police said.

-- A triple shooting at 9:40 a.m. Saturday in the 2200 block of Guilford Ave. near city school headquarters left one woman and two men injured, police said. One victim is related to a gang member who was killed earlier this year, leading police to believe the triple shooting was retaliatory.

-- Police discovered the body of a 47-year-old woman in the 5200 block of Charles St. about noon Saturday. Police said it is a possible asphyxiation and appears to be a domestic-violence homicide. Her husband was being sought by police.

-- An argument over an MP3 player, police said, led to a shooting at 10:30 p.m. Saturday in the 2100 block of Patapsco Ave. in South Baltimore. A 30-year-old man was shot twice in the stomach and is expected to survive, police said, adding that they have suspects and were preparing arrest warrants in the case.

-- About midnight Saturday, a 19-year-old was shot in the hand at the Inner Harbor.

-- Early Sunday morning, one man was shot to death in what police said appeared to be a home-invasion robbery of a drug house in the 2600 block of W. Fayette St.

-- Police also were investigating a suspicious the death of a 43-year-old man in the 2800 block of Rockrose Ave. north of Druid Hill Park. His body was found Sunday with an injury to the back of his head.

June 27, 2010

Inner Harbor shooting update

This just in from Baltimore police on the Inner Harbor shooting:

3 Arrests made in Inner Harbor Shooting (The Baltimore Sun's Julie Bykowicz provides even more details):

On June 27th, 2010, at approx. 0004 hrs, Inner Harbor Unit received a call for a shooting at 401 E. Pratt Street. Upon arrival, Medic #23 was treating the victim for a gunshot to his left hand. Officers secured the crime scene and spoke with the 19 y/o victim advised that he was walking down a path on the 400 blk of E. Pratt Street with his brother when they passed a group of black males. A black male wearing an orange shirt and blue jeans stated, "What are you looking at, I want to kill someone tonight".  The victim and his brother started to run away from the group
when they heard at least 5 gunshots. 

Victim was then subsequently struck in the left hand. Medic #23 transported the victim to Shock Trauma for further medical treatment. Witnesses were located and transported to the Central District Detective Unit.

Further investigation revealed that after the shooting, the suspects entered the Charm City Circulator Bus which was traveling eastbound on Pratt Street. Descriptions of the suspects and the bus were broadcast Citywide and Southeast DDU Detectives observed three black males fitting
the description of suspects walking northbound on Central Avenue at Pratt Street.  Upon attempting to stop the possible suspects, a foot pursuit ensued and Mr. Domonick Holly m/b/04/14/92 (above left) brandished a silver Rossi revolver in the 100 blk of N. Central Avenue. All suspects were apprehended and Mr. Keiron Holly m/b/11/16/90, and Mr. Kesmond Lewis m/b/09/22/90 (above right) along with Mr. Dominick Holly, were all transported separately for further investigation.

Victim was treated and released from the Shock Trauma for a through and through GSW to his left hand. 


Keiron Holly – DOB: 11/16/90 – Will be charged w/ Attempted First Degree Murder
Criminal History:
CDS - 6/17/10
CDS - 6/4/10

Dominick Holly – DOB 4/14/92 (Co-Defendant) – Will be charged w/Conspiracy / handgun violations [NO PHOTO AVAILABLE]
No criminal history

Kesmond Lewis – 9/22/90 (Co-Defendant) – Will be charged w/Conspiracy / handgun violations
Criminal History:
CDS – 6/16/2010
CDS – 10/23/08

Posted by Peter Hermann at 2:30 PM | | Comments (4)
Categories: Breaking news, Downtown

Several shot in city -- including one at Inner Harbor

Baltimore police have scheduled a news conference to discuss another spate of shootings this weekend, including one early today at the Inner Harbor that involved a shootout with police near the World Trade Center.

The violence began Saturday with three shootings -- a 23-year-old pregnant woman shot twice in the abdomen on Arsan Avenue in Brooklyn, a man shot on West Patapsco Avenue and a man shot several times and killed in an alley off Noble Avenue in Southeast Baltimore's Linwood neighborhood.

Then, starting 12:01 a.m. today, a man was shot in the arm and thigh on East 22nd Street, an 18-year-old was shot in the arm on Horton Street, another man was shot on West Fayette Street and, about 12:15 a.m., a man was shot in the hand in the 400 block of East Pratt St.

Coming just a week before the harbor will be jammed with people celebrating the July 4 holiday, police are no doubt concerned about a repeat of last summer when residents and tourists complained of attacks at the city's premier waterfront attraction.

Police said this morning that they arrested three people and seized a gun in connection with the harbor shooting. We're expecting more details after the news conference.

It was just week that Baltimore Police Commissioner Frederick H. Bealefeld III had to discuss another bad weekend -- one that left three dead and eight injured. He said then:

Nearly halfway through the year, Bealefeld said, police have taken 1,000 illegal guns off the streets and gun crime is down by double digits. That comes amid budget-tightening and deep concern over officers' pensions.

"Based on all the curveballs thrown at this police department in the last year, I think these men and women are doing a damn good job to be down in homicides and nonfatal shootings," Bealefeld said at a news conference Monday. "People have to balance facts against perception."

In recent weeks, shootings have come in spurts. Eight people were shot, one fatally, during the May 22 weekend. Over Memorial Day weekend, 10 were killed in one of the deadliest stretches since Bealefeld took over the department as crime soared in 2007.

Posted by Peter Hermann at 9:24 AM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Breaking news, Confronting crime, Downtown

June 21, 2010

Prolific bank robber sentenced

He hit 10 banks in 25 days, and two banks in six minutes.

And now he's going to prison for 12 1/2 years.

The Maryland U.S. Attorney's office announced today that 39-year-old Frederick McMillan stole $23,956 from banks he robbed starting July 2, 2009, and ending July 27, 2009. It's a prolific spree, to be sure.

But he really went all out on his last day. He tried to rob a Citibank at 6 St. Paul Street at 11:30 a.m. but ran out when a teller pulled the alarm. Six minutes later, he walked into First Mariner Bank at 300 N. Charles St., about three blocks away, and stole money.

Here is the statement by the federal prosecutor's office:

Continue reading "Prolific bank robber sentenced " »

Posted by Peter Hermann at 3:43 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Breaking news, Downtown

June 17, 2010

Out of death comes reward

James E. Ball Sr. tried to protect a friend and got shot while standing guard at a downtown Bank of America in February. I remember talking with his friends and family who told of how the man struggled to escape Baltimore's troubled streets and make a better life.

It was a touching story of a man who had done all the right things to beat the odds. So it's refreshing to see that the Wellwood International School created an award in Ball's memory. In this picture by The Sun's Barbara Haddock, Sahrata Camara, left, a fifth-grader, shows off after winning the James Ball Citizenship Award at the school's 5th-grade farewell ceremony. Here, she holds her award plaque and flowers while sitting with Ball's son, James Jr., who is a kindergartner at the school.

Here is a little bit about Ball from an earlier post (police have made an arrest in the case):

Ball had grown up on Fulton Avenue where from an early age he shunned the streets, collected a group of like-minded friends and together they made a deal -- they would grow up successful, look out for each other, and, if necessary, raise each other's children. Two, including Ball, grew up without a father and none wanted that to happen again.

So after Ball was shot on Light Street, his friends came to his surviving family and helped his girlfriend break the tragic news to his two children. One of his best friend's works at the downtown Tremont Hotel; another has a federal job in Washington. Ball had worked as a postal carrier, a security guard and an engineer.

(The picture by The Sun's Kenneth K. Lam shows Ball's brother Austin sits with his mother, Sarah, with pictures of James Ball's two children, 6-year-old James Ball Jr. and 10-month-old Justin.)

Police say that the night he was killed, he was talking to a friend outside the bank on Light Street when a group of men confronted his friend's girlfriend who was sitting in a car. Ball and his friend walked over to confront the men, one of whom pulled a gun. Police said the gunman intended to shoot Ball's friend, but missed and hit the security guard.

Posted by Peter Hermann at 7:59 AM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Confronting crime, Downtown

June 14, 2010

Citiwatch cameras help nab gunman

Baltimore police issued this statement on a gun arrest Saturday:

On 12 Jun 10 at 0126 hrs., Ofc. King responded to Water and Gay Streets after being notified by Citiwatch camera operators of a fight in progress at the location. Upon his arrival, Ofc. King observed several males fleeing the area on foot. He pursued one of the subjects when he observed the male throw a handgun to the ground. After a brief foot chase the male was apprehended and the firearm recovered.

Suspect: Clifford Carroll Butler Jr.
                m/b 6-3-91
                7103 Manilla Ave.

Weapon: Colt .25 cal handgun loaded with 5 rounds
                no visible serial number

Posted by Peter Hermann at 10:50 AM | | Comments (0)

June 3, 2010

Anger over dirt bikes

Wednesday's crash involving a dirt bike -- in which a passenger then assaulted the driver of a car the dirt bike hit after going through a red light -- has sparked complaints from across the city. It was the second dirt bike crash in a week. Earlier, a motorcyclist was killed when he hit a pole after swerving to a avoid a dirt bike whose driver was carrying a child.

In the picture from The Sun's Jed Kirschbaum, Dale Truelock of Cherry Hill Towing rolls the dirtbike damaged in the accident from place where police found it had been hidden after the accident.

There's a video documentary on Baltimore dirt bike riders on YouTube called Wildout Wheelie Boyz.

The out-of-control antics of the dirt bike packs have police stymied once againt. They're forbidden from chasing them because it's too dangerous, and thus the riders have turned some city streets into zones of anarchy.

At a town hall forum sponsored by the City Council President Bernard C. "Jack" Young, a group of dirt bike riders actually said it's better for them to be out running the streets -- even though the dirt bikes aren't registered and are illegal -- than to have them standing on street corners getting into trouble.

Here is another perspective from resident Bryan Canary, who sent this e-mail to me:

I live right next to Camden Yards in Ridgely's Delight...and every Sunday night at 7pm (plus or minus 10 minutes) the roar of motor bikes/dirt bikes can be heard coming into town on Russell Street...
Years ago when I lived in Federal Hill I was always amazed at all the junkies that would come out around 7pm....and I was finally enlightened by one of them......7pm is the time for a major shift change for folks on patrol.....

For more of his email:

Continue reading "Anger over dirt bikes" »

Posted by Peter Hermann at 7:39 AM | | Comments (16)
Categories: Confronting crime, Downtown, Neighborhoods

May 28, 2010

Car break-ins up in city's downtown

The Baltimore Sun's Justin Fenton is reporting that car break-ins are surging in downtown Baltimore. It's an old problem that seems to surge in the warm summer months, especially during tourist season with unsuspecting motorists.

Baltimore Police have a plan:

Responding to a surge in car break-ins in the downtown area, Baltimore police will be mailing photos of items left in plain view to the vehicle owners in an effort to warn them of the risks. Car break-ins are up more than 100 percent in the past four weeks in the central district, an area that includes downtown, Mount Vernon and the Pennsylvania Avenue corridor. Police said they plan to increase patrols and dedicate a monitor at the downtown closed-circuit television control center to watch for break-ins.

Both Baltimore police and the Downtown Partnership offer crime tips to prevent break-ins. Summed up, don't leave anything in your vehicle. No loose change. Certainly no iPods on the front seat. Plug your cigarette lighter in so thieves don't think you have a portable electronic device that needs charging. City police say: "Next time you leave your car, leave it empty."

Also, the Downtown Partnership sends a letter to judges whenever a person is arrested and charged with breaking into a car in the downtown area. It is to ensure the judge understands that it's not a minor crime.

Posted by Peter Hermann at 2:42 PM | | Comments (2)
Categories: Confronting crime, Downtown

May 26, 2010

Suspected gang member escapes harsh penalties

The 2007 gang law passed by the General Assembly was supposed to give cops and prosecutors a new tool to end the growing gang problem in Baltimore and beyond. But prosecutors complained that it was so watered down and convoluted it was next to impossible to use.

The numbers over the past three years show this to be true. Only a handful of prosecutors in Maryland have charged anyone and convictions are few -- a guilty plea in Montgomery County, used a leverage to get a plea deal on a lesser charge in Prince Georges County, and only twice used in the city.

One case is pending and the other ended on Tuesday with a familiar tale: a key witness recanted, bringing a jury trial to abrupt halt and prosecutors were forced to offer the 19-year-old associate of Mara Salvatruch, or MS-13, a deal to plead guilty to assault in exchange for a suspended setence and probation.

Had Jose Miguel Hernandez been convicted under the gang statute and of attempted murder in the stabbing of a rival gang member on Pratt Street near the Inner Harbor last year, he could've been put away for life plus 10 years in prison. Instead, he goes home to Rockville to home detention.

Circuit Judge M. Brooke Murdock gave him the familiar warning: "Take advantage of this." Hernandez assured her that he would.

Here's the kicker to this story: Hernandez's lawyer was none other than Luiz R.S. Simmons, a member of the House of Delegates and a member of the House Judiciary Committee, which crafted the very gang law he was defending against in Baltimore Circuit Court. This is the very committee routinely criticized for being over-staffed with defense attorneys accused of molding crime bills to benefit defendants.

Simmons voted for the bill but complained language was overly broad. He feared, as many have, that the law makes mere association in a gang a crime and that anyone can be linked to a gang simply by the way they dress or talk.

It's always humbling for anyone who sits on a lofty perch to get real life expierence. For Simmons, it came before testimony even began, with the polling of potential jurors. The judge asked each if they thought being in a gang was a crime. More than half said yes.

Simmons said that underscored the fear people feel. He said he wants tough gang legislation, just not what is on the books. Even an enhancement passed this year -- one that he supported -- doesn't make the law much better, Simmons told me.

In court, Simmons argued that Hernandez was part of a "political trial" of gangs that went beyond whether he stabbed somone or not. In an interview, he told me he supported revising the gant statute to make it harsher and fairer.

What's on the books now has prosecutors frustrated and impotent.

Posted by Peter Hermann at 7:56 AM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Confronting crime, Courts and the justice system, Downtown, Gangs

May 20, 2010

Cops help ducks

I'll just let this picture by Daveed Korup speak for itself. Larissa Peters and city police officers help a mother duck and her ducklings cross Pratt Street to the relative safety of the Inner Harbor on Wednesday.

Who says there are no good news stories!


Posted by Peter Hermann at 7:41 AM | | Comments (2)
Categories: Crime humor, Downtown

Fictional hit-woman avoids testifying in real murder trial

So, the fictional hit-woman on HBO's drama "The Wire" vows to take the 5th and thus helps a companion escape a tough sentence on a real murder charge.

City prosecutors had wanted Steven James Lashly to go to prison for 25 years for stabbing three people outside a chicken restaurant on Baltimore's Block five years ago. But without the key testimony from Felicia "Snoop" Pearson, they had to accept a 30 year sentence with half of it suspended.

Pearson, who already been convicted of second-degree murder as a teen-ager, played a ruthless drug-enforcer on former Baltimore Sun reporter David Simon's television drama. In real-life, she played a reluctant witness to a to an all-too real crime.  

Prosecutors had her arrested in August 2008 on a bench warrant for refusing to cooperate, and officers found marijuana in her home and charged her with that as well (she later was not found guilty). She was released after she told prosecutors she would "honor her obligations as a witness." Reporter Justin Fenton covered the hearing in which she was released; as she left the courtroom, she told him: "Don't slander me. I'm from here." 

Court records show Pearson has fallen on tough times since "The Wire" ended, with her $300,000 Northeast Baltimore home taken through foreclosure proceedings that concluded earlier this year. But Internet Movie Database shows that she's currently filming a movie with Oscar nominees Harvey Keitel and Michael Clarke Duncan, written and directed by a former writer for the show "Entourage."

Posted by Peter Hermann at 7:21 AM | | Comments (2)
Categories: Confronting crime, Courts and the justice system, Downtown

May 19, 2010

MS-13 members to stand trial in alleged gang attack outside downtown club

In a city as violent as Baltimore, there are an untold number of crimes that elude the press as we try to get basic information about shootings and homicides while trying to report on broader topics or delve deeper into individual cases. Here's an example of one that appears to have slipped through the cracks.

Prosecutors say four men from the DC suburbs are due to stand trial Thursday in the stabbing of a woman after a fight inside the Iguana Cantina on April 13, 2009. The Sun has written about violence at the downtown club, which was located in the Power Plant area and has since reopened under a different format. The club was a particular thorn in Police Commissioner Frederick H. Bealefeld's side and one of the main reasons he ordered officers to stop moonlighting at city bars.

But this stabbing, which prosecutors say is linked to the MS-13 gang that has terrorized the Washington suburbs, appears to have completely flown under the radar. One of the four men is also being prosecuted under rarely-used gang legislation enacted in 2007. His defense attorney is a state delegate from Montgomery County who sits on the House of Delegates judiciary committee.

According to charging documents, Leonel Herrera, Claudia Ortiz and Vanessa Santos were inside the club when a fight broke out. None of them were involved in the fight, police said, but a large group was ejected from the club by security in trying to deal with the chaos. 

Continue reading "MS-13 members to stand trial in alleged gang attack outside downtown club" »

Posted by Justin Fenton at 6:58 PM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Downtown, Gangs

May 18, 2010

Fire truck accident

The old adage defines news as what your editor sees on the way to work. How about what the police reporter sees (and hears) out of his window?

I heard a bang and looked up and saw that a fire truck had hit a car at Guildford and Centre Streets. Word of warning: don't get involved with stuff like this right out a newspaper office if you want to stay out of the newspaper.

Photographer Jeffrey F. Bill was out the door and on the scene before the cops arrived. Not sure who'se at fault or whether anyone was injured yet.

Firefighters in Truck 1 were on their way to a fire call at Ensor and East North avenues. Other trucks were dispatched while the crew from Truck 1 dealt with this crash.

Posted by Peter Hermann at 2:58 PM | | Comments (2)

May 17, 2010

Stripper Mobile is back!

When my colleague Laura Vozzella last left this, the strip club on wheels was rolling out of town. But I guess the Hustler Club couldn't pass up the Preakness (who can blame them given the "Get Your Preak On" promotion).

But the strip club on wheels still has plenty of detractors, namely parents with children who saw things on a public street that they shouldn't see until much later in life. I mean, what parents want to explain the term "pole dancing" to a 5-year-old?

Last month, Vozzella noted that cops gave the driver two tickets -- for having unsecured passengers and for blocking traffic.

But other than that, apprently no laws were broken. Baltimore police spokesman Anthony Guglielmi told Vozzella that the stripper-mobile might be perfectly legal, but it's certainly not an ideal addition to the family-friendly town. "Things like this are expected in Las Vegas," he said. "In Baltimore, this is a family town. We have the Inner Harbor. We have the Orioles. Businesses need to use a little more common sense."

Anne Manning de Dios of Alexendria, Va., couldn't agree more. She wrote us an e-mail this morning and sent us pictures -- one is published here -- of the stripper-mobile on Lombard Street. She had been returing from a play on Preakness Saturday:

"Perhaps I wouldn't have been so furious had my children not been in the car. I was shaking with anger. There was no way to ignore what was being thrown in our faces. There was no way to ignore the girls' moves or the men's reactions. There is no doubt this event will be forever-ingrained in my daughters' and son's heads. I didn't ask for it."

Her complete e-mail is here: 

Continue reading "Stripper Mobile is back!" »

Posted by Peter Hermann at 10:55 AM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Confronting crime, Crime humor, Downtown

May 10, 2010

More twists and turns in the killing of Gerrod Finch

The stabbing death of 21-year-old Gerrod Finch last year in West Baltimore may be a perfect example of how a case is far from closed after police make an arrest.

When police got to the scene June 30, 2009, they found a blood trail leading from a vehicle and Finch lying in a supine position. Girlfriend Tanaya Salter, 21, said the pair got into an argument in the 600 block of Wheeler Ave. that caught the attention of some nearby men, who surrounded Finch and stabbed him.

But detectives noticed inconsistencies between Salter's account and that of other witnesses. Salter waived her rights and signed a taped statement, confessing that she stabbed Finch as he struck her during an alcohol-fueled argument inside the vehicle.

Authorities weren't sure at first if the new account — involving allegations of domestic violence and self-defense — merited criminal charges at all. But they would charge Salter with manslaughter, saying she had an opportunity to leave the argument but instead escalated it, "which inevitably caused the death of Mr. Finch," Detective Michael Moran wrote in charging documents.

Now, there's been another twist in the case. Salter has been cleared. And three men, at least one who police say has ties to the Bloods gang, have been indicted in the killing.

The current account is more similar to the original: Police say Derrean "Dizzy" Mills, 17, Montell "Cannibal" Mills, 17, and Mishael Belcher, 20, approached Finch's vehicle while he and Salter were arguing and assaulted him. Belcher is accused of stabbing Finch after he climbed out of the vehicle.

Follow the link for an account of witness intimidation related to the case that police say occurred at a downtown bus stop. 

[This entry has been updated since it was originally posted]

Posted by Justin Fenton at 11:35 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Downtown, Gangs, West Baltimore, Witness intimidation

April 28, 2010

Terror in the Tower -- suspect returns in rape case

Today's story on the trial of a man charged with raping and strangling a woman brought back a familiar name: Kevin Gerald Robinson.

I wrote about him back in 1995 when he held four people hostage in a law office on the 12th floor of One Calvert Plaza near the Inner Harbor. He had claimed the law firm owed him money, and he tied up a security guard, a receptionist and two lawyers.

One of the lawyers managed to grab his gun and shoot him four times before escaping. He was serving time in prison in Hagerstown for that attack when police matched his DNA to a 20-year-old attack on Lisa Barselou, a 26-year-old whose body was found beaten and submerged in the bathtub of her home in November 1989.

Nicholas Panteleakis, Robinson's lawyer, told the jury that Robinson and Barselou had consensual sex, and that his client's DNA, found on her body, could have been there up to five days before she was killed.

Here is an account of he harrowing hostage ordeal from 1995, as told to me by Barry Norwitz, one of the lawyers:

Continue reading "Terror in the Tower -- suspect returns in rape case" »

Posted by Peter Hermann at 7:27 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Confronting crime, Downtown

April 23, 2010

Liquor board shuts down Pigtown bar, gives downtown club a reprieve

Bars and clubs continue to be a major focal point for neighborhood concerns, and this week the liquor board gave a reprieve to a downtown club targeted by police and nearby hotels and shut down a Pigtown bar.

Sun reporter Brent Jones said three surrounding hotels led a petition to revoke the license of the Velvet Rope, a club in the 200 block of E. Redwood St. that had been linked to an unruly mob and a shooting. But commissioner Stephan Fogleman said the board wanted to give the club a chance to operate after the licensee negotiated the new security plan with police.

"We're going to give them the requisite time under that contract to perform," Fogleman said. "There'll be penalties, consequences if they breach."

The liquor board was not as patient with Sid's Bar, located in the 1100 block of Washington Blvd. A video shown during a six hour hearing appeared to show the bar owner running through traffic, punching a dog, and mooning people. The bar was also the scene of a shooting in October.  But Fogleman made it clear that the liquor board believed the bar owner specifically - not the establishment or its patrons - were the problem.

Posted by Justin Fenton at 12:55 PM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Downtown, South Baltimore

April 19, 2010