Chapter 5:

Getting the Boot

According to the police report, late in the night of July 30, 2014, Jerome McDougald, Woodson’s cousin and the man police believed shot him, was standing on Baltimore Street buying a loose cigarette when a silver or gold four-door car pulled up. The driver said “Hey, yo” and shot McDougald in the upper right thigh and the left ring finger.

Pow wrote in the report that he had anonymous witnesses who ID’d Woodson as the shooter. It was enough to get a warrant. On Aug. 5, police put Woodson’s mother’s house under surveillance, waiting for Woodson, who was supposed to visit his probation officer that morning, to come out.

White was still in pain. She said she woke up before Woodson that morning and took a pain pill. She knew he didn’t have to be up for a while and so she did not wake him. She went back to bed beside him.

“All I remember when I was sleeping was that Tyree gave me a kiss on my cheek and told me that he would be back when he come back from his PO. So I said OK and dozed back off,” she said.

Woodson’s mother was making a cup of coffee in the kitchen when he came down the stairs. He told her he’d see her when he got back from his parole officer and she told him to be careful.

She said that after she heard the door close she realized he had forgotten his glasses–he was always forgetting them–and started to run outside to bring them to him. That was when she saw the plain-clothed police officers.

She said that one of them told her that Woodson was in their car. She asked if she could give him his glasses and they told her to go inside. She gave the officer his glasses, she said.

She ran upstairs and woke up White and told her police were outside arresting Woodson. McDougald had to help White put on her shirt because of her injuries. White said that when she downstairs, she looked out the window.

“There were all these officers out there that had on regular clothes. I don’t know if they had the little bulletproof vests on but I couldn’t even tell they was polices,” White recalled. “When I walked to the door, it was a screen door, right there they was patting Tyree down, his crutch things . . . was on the ground, they had Tyree up against the car and they was checking him and once they checked him they put him in the back of the car.”

Woodson’s mother doesn’t know if the officers ever searched her son, but she knows they should have.

According to the FIT report on Woodson’s death, Warrant Apprehension Task Force detectives Earl Thompson and Sterling Price both affirmed that Thompson searched Woodson.

In his statement, Thompson said he was behind Woodson and reached around him to check the waistband of his pants. “He jingled Mr. Woodson’s pants” and searched both legs, the FIT report reads. Thompson said he took a lighter but left money in Woodson’s pocket. “Detective Thompson noticed Mr. Woodson was wearing a medical boot, so he tapped the boot without go [sic] inside to prevent causing further injury to Mr. Woodson’s wound,” the report reads.

This is a key moment in the mystery of what happened to Tyree Woodson.

When I first started looking into this case, I had a friend who was wearing a tall, hard, plastic medical boot and I assumed that’s what Woodson was wearing. The word “boot” is used in all of the official documents.

At the time, Lisa Robinson, a reporter with local NBC affiliate WBAL, actually showed viewers a long, hard, plastic medical boot on air.

“Now Woodson, according to his mother, had been shot in the foot a couple days ago and was wearing a boot on his foot similar to this one,” Robinson said. Then she held up a boot. “Sort of a brace,” she described it.

Robinson could not comment on where she got the idea that Woodson was wearing “sort of a brace,” but McDougald insists he was wearing nothing of the sort.

“He didn’t have a medical boot. He had on a shoe. A blue shoe that has the two straps,” she said. “What they showed on the news was not what was on his leg.”

White and McDougald are no longer in contact–they had a falling out after Woodson’s death–but White described the shoe in the same way McDougald had.

“The shoe they had on the news wasn’t the same shoe. He had on a blue shoe, a little blue one that go over the top of the foot, a low top,” White told me.

“I watched y’all and y’all checked this man before you locked him up and the shoe, why would y’all put this high-top shoe on the news like that’s the shoe he had on when he honestly had on a blue shoe that strapped over with his toes hanging out?” she said again.

In the crime scene photos of Woodson’s death, you can see his sock where his toes stick out of the front of the shoe and the same sock where the shoe dips down for his ankle. This is not a boot for a break or a sprain but appears to be what is called a “mesh post-op shoe.”

It seemed impossible to me to conceal a Glock in a shoe like that. But I’m not a firearms expert and just to rule out the possibility, I had to try.

I did the best I could to replicate the situation. I called Shock Trauma trying to find the exact shoe Woodson would have been wearing. On the phone, Lisa Clough, the director of media relations, seemed interested in helping and asked me some questions. But when I wrote her a follow-up email, she responded that “we are unable to comment on any patient that has been in our care.”

I did have a picture of the shoe and I bought the closest thing I could find to it at St. Agnes Hospital. I also tried to find the exact make and model of firearm that killed Woodson. I was unable to find the Glock 23, but I was able to get a hold of a Glock 17, which is roughly the same size–the 17 is slightly taller and the 23 is slightly longer, but the guns seemed similar enough to at least test a theory.

I strapped on the shoe and, to my surprise, the gun did fit in the hospital shoe if I stuck the barrel toward the toe and had the grip come up the side of my ankle.

I had imagined it would be a “if it doesn’t fit, you must acquit”-type moment. But reality is more complicated.

I tried to walk around and the gun did not fall out, especially after I tightened the straps. And if I walked awkwardly, well, I was wearing a medical boot, so of course it would look awkward.

But when I ran my hands down my leg, in a sort of pat-down, the bulging handle of the pistol was obvious. The entire handle stuck up and outward at the ankle. If Thompson either shook the legs of Woodson’s pants or tapped the “boot” and the gun was there, it would have been hard to miss.

And, as I would discover, once he was in custody, Woodson interacted with numerous other officers, none of whom noticed a gun.