November 30, 2017
New federal charges were filed Thursday against Wayne Jenkins, a sergeant in the Baltimore Police Department’s corrupt Gun Trace Task Force. The charges are related to a 2010 case about which slain detective Sean Suiter was scheduled to testify a day after his death in Baltimore’s Harlem Park neighborhood on Nov. 15.
In the 2010 statement of charges, Jenkins wrote that he saw a man named Brent Matthews approaching a car with “an unknown amount of currency.” Jenkins and Suiter blocked the car in. Jenkins and Det. Ryan Guinn approached the car. According to Jenkins, the man in the car, Umar Burley, drove away and the officers followed him.
Burley struck another car, killing one of its occupants. “Detective Suiter…recovered a total of 32 grams of suspected heroin laying on the passenger side of the floorboard.”
“There were no drugs in the car driven by U.B. prior to the crash,” the federal indictment reads. After the crash, Jenkins told Officer #2, whom we have identified as Det. Guinn, to “call a Sergeant who was not at the scene because he had the ‘stuff’ or ‘shit’ in his car.”
The sergeant arrived on the scene and Guinn spoke to him before turning “his attention to the elderly driver who remained trapped inside his car on the front porch of the row house.”
The sergeant—who allegedly had an ounce of heroin in his car—has not been identified.
After medics arrived on the scene, Jenkins told Guinn that “the ‘stuff’ or ‘shit’ was in the car,” and said he was going to send Officer #1, Suiter, to the car to find it because he was “clueless.”
“[Suiter] found approximately 28 grams of heroin that Jenkins had planted in the vehicle.”
“What Jenkins did was set-up officer number one to find the drugs and recover the drugs that Jenkins himself had planted,” Commissioner Kevin Davis said at a press conference, in which he identified Officer # 1 as Suiter. “And I know there has been a lot of speculation about that and I think that indictment spells out Det. Suiter’s role seven years ago in this particular case. Det. Suiter was used, he was Officer Suiter at the time. He was used and put in a position where he unwittingly recovered drugs that had been planted by another police officer. And that’s a damn shame. It really, really is.”
“The extent of criminal activity conducted by BPD officers on duty over many years is shocking,” said Debbie Katz Levi, head of the Baltimore City Public Defender Special Litigation Section in a statement. “We need massive culture change in the Department and urgent attention must be given to the citizens who have been charged and convicted based on the alleged observations of these officers.”
The Office of the Public Defender has identified more than 2,000 people with either pending cases or convictions related to indicted members of the Gun Trace Task Force. Levi says that Jenkins is personally involved in hundreds of cases.
“The new indictment shows how every case touched by Jenkins and the other indicted officers is irreparably tainted,” Levi said. “Engaging an unsuspecting officer to identify planted drugs still leads to an illegal arrest and wrongful conviction. The continued incarceration of people subject to this aggressive and unethical police abuse is unconscionable.”
Both Burley and Matthews pleaded guilty to possession with intent to distribute heroin “despite the fact that they knew they were innocent,” according to federal documents. “They did so because heroin had been planted in the vehicle in which Burley was the driver and Matthews was a passenger by a Baltimore Police Officer. Both men concluded that in a trial involving the Officer’s word against theirs they would lose.”
“Could you imagine how hard it is to be here for a crime I didn’t commit and struggling to find clarity and justice on my own,” he wrote in a letter included in his file. He was released after his file was reopened in the wake of the federal investigation. Matthews had already been released.
Jenkins is one of eight members of the Gun Trace Task Force to be indicted on federal racketeering charges. Shortly before Suiter’s death, a Philadelphia officer, Eric Troy Snell, was also charged with helping to sell drugs stolen by the Baltimore officers. Prosecutors alleged that he threatened to harm the children of a member of the Task Force if they implicated him.
The Harlem Park neighborhood where Suiter was killed was locked down by police for days. City officials and members of the public have called for the FBI to take over the investigation into his murder.
The clerk at a corner store with cameras that captured part of the crime scene told the Real News that he gave his footage to the BPD but that when he called to ask what had happened to it, they told him that the ATF now had it.
“We have the footage,” BPD spokesperson T.J. Smith said.
Photo: JIM WATSON/AFP/Getty Images