Week In Review: Gun Trace Task Force trial gets bigger, new police commissioner off to a weak start, homicides, more

Gun Trace Task Force members Marcus Taylor, Daniel Hersl, and Maurice Ward

• The Gun Trace Task Force trial for Detective Daniel Hersl and Marcus Taylor, which is just getting started, seemingly promises to implicate even more officers. When former BPD detective Maurice Ward took the stand, he said BPD Lt. Christopher O’Ree gave the OK to officers showing up late for work so they could receive overtime pay. Also implicated in this is current head of Internal Affairs Maj. Ian Dombrowski, who Ward claims he heard offered overtime for guns taken off the street. Dombrowski was involved in an overtime scandal himself back in 2011 and Councilperson Brandon Scott has called for Dombrowski, who denied Ward’s allegation, to be removed from IA. That hasn’t happened. For now, well, IA is looking into it. And former GTTF member Sgt. Ryan Guinn, who was part of a 2010 arrest in which drugs were planted (Det. Sean Suiter was supposed to testify about this case but was killed the day before he got the chance), is, according to Ward, the cop that tipped off the GTTF about the investigation. Guinn, mind you, remains on the force to this day.

• Along with the shocking Gun Trace Task Force trials, a number of updates on other stories of police misconduct: Officer Richard A. Pinheiro Jr., who turned off his body camera and who the public defender’s office said had been planting drugs, was found guilty of fabricating evidence and misconduct (if you recall, former police commish Kevin Davis dismissed this body camera scandal as Pinheiro “recreating discovery”); and Larry Lomax, who was infamously pulled to the ground by his dreadlocks during the Baltimore Uprising, was awarded $75,000 after the aforementioned O’Ree and Sgt. Keith Gladstone were found guilty of excessive force.

• New Baltimore Police Department Commissioner Darryl DeSousa has already began deflecting criticism and playing the P.R. game Baltimoreans know all too well. A series of Baltimore Sun articles revealed that DeSousa was involved in two fatal shootings back in 1995 and on WBAL radio DeSousa was asked about the scandalous Gun Trace Task Force corruption trials to which he provided the unsatisfactory “bad apples” defense, avoiding the growing sense that the BPD’s corruption is top-down corrupt. Though he also admitted to the Sun that there is an internal investigation of the police department that reaches the top of the organization. Since DeSousa became the commissioner there have been 10 homicides, one police shooting, and one person killed by police.

• Oh yeah, about that internal investigation was mentioned after DeSousa was pressed to explain why on the day that DeSousa’s commish position was announced, a number of people inside the BPD were shut out of their phones, computers, and more. The original story was it was a technical malfunction but that was clearly bullshit because DeSousa has since clarified it was done to prevent leaks, which also doesn’t quite align with some of the rumors the Beat has heard from those close to the department. We will wait and see.

• Noted and sometimes controversial street photographer Noah Scialom killed himself on Jan. 23, shocking the arts community. Scialom, whose gritty, quirky work appeared in Baltimore City Paper, the Baltimore Sun, the New York Times, among other publications, also ran a popular Instagram (@knowaphotographer). There will be a celebration of his life at the Chapel Mausoleum of Resthaven Memorial Gardens in Frederick at 2 p.m. on Feb. 2.

• Ericka Alston-Buck announced late last week that she was no longer head of the  Sandtown-Winchester-based Kids Safe Zone or the Penn North Recovery Center next door. The center, meant to be a haven for kids who had nowhere else to go outside of school, was closed this past Monday, but was expected to be up and running the following day. The exact details of the change are unclear. Alston-Buck’s former assistant, Essence Smith, who is now the director of the Kids Safe Zone, wouldn’t go into details in a Baltimore Sun interview. However, both women say they are anxious to get back to the work of helping the city’s children.

• Two children, whose names have not yet been released, died in a house fire in West Baltimore around 7:30 p.m. on Jan. 26. The 1-year-old and 2-year-old were found inside a residence at 1100 Mount St. along with a woman identified as their aunt, who suffered non-life-threatening injuries.

• On Sunday, Jan. 28, the Baltimore Police shot and killed a man in West Baltimore. According to the police, he was a 33-year-old male “armed with a real gun and a replica gun” and pointed his gun after he was chased by police.

• Between Jan. 22 (when the previous issue of the Beat went to press) and Jan. 29 (when this issue of the Beat went to press) there were nine homicides in Baltimore including Marco Byrd, killed on Jan. 19 and not yet classified as a homicide when the Beat that week went to press; Travis Wallace on Jan. 21; and Philip Williams Jr. on Jan. 27. Two as-yet-unidentified victims were killed on Jan. 23, then one on Jan. 24, one on Jan. 25, one on Jan. 27, and one on Jan. 28. There have been 23 homicides in Baltimore this year. The third Baltimore Ceasefire takes place this weekend from Feb. 2 to Feb. 4.

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