UnFIT for Duty
According to police records, a homicide detective called the Force Investigation Team at 2:45 that afternoon. Det. Sergeant Tashawna Gaines inspected the weapons of Pow, Converse, Price Thompson, Carvell, and Dzambo. These detectives were also photographed at homicide.
Det. Michael Boyd obtained a warrant to collect DNA from Pow. There was no match. The only DNA match on the gun came from Woodson.
In the photographs taken by crime scene technicians, Woodson is lying on the floor rather than sitting in the stall. His tattoos were photographed. One says “Kill or Be Killed” and another “Hellbound.”
In addition to a knife, a watch, cigarettes, and a lighter, Mattingly wrote in his report that Woodson had counterfeit money. Someone photographed gloved hands fanning it out.
Det. Hollingsworth was eventually asked about the gloves he used when he moved the gun on the major’s orders. “The gloves were thrown in the trash container once I moved the suspect [sic] gun,” he wrote in a statement. “I was never directed not to throw the gloves away.”
FIT’s follow-up question about the gloves came a full week after the incident. It’s a small detail but it made me wonder how serious this investigation could have really been. No one, it seemed, checked the trash can in the bathroom for gloves or any other evidence that may have been discarded in the crime scene.
Investigators failed to question McDougald and White about whether or not Woodson had been searched and about the phone call Woodson made only minutes before his death. No one from the police department even notified them of Woodson’s death. According to White, they heard about it on the news.
“When I turned on the news they were saying it was a 38-year-old guy who was supposed to have shot himself in the police station,” White told me on the phone. “We found about it on the news, [then] his mother went to the police station and I just bust out crying and I told his mother there’s something not right about this story.”
“Based on police investigation, the manner of death is classified as SUICIDE,” the chief medical examiner’s post-mortem report read the day after the incident. Since the FIT investigation was incomplete, the circumstances surrounding the death were likely drawn from Mattingly’s report.
Over the next few days, there was a weird series of emails between FIT detective Tashawna Gaines and Bethany Durand, the assistant state’s attorney looking into the case. Gaines requested a meeting with Durand but, despite repeated requests, wouldn’t tell her what they would discuss, writing only that “there are a few issues to discuss that will be discussed during the meeting not via email. Thanks.”
Durand expressed annoyance at this secrecy and asked for a phone call–which never came. But after the meeting Gaines wrote that “the issues and misunderstandings” were “appropriately addressed.”
The State’s Attorney’s Office did not bring any charges against any of the officers. There is no publicly available evidence of further investigation.
The Baltimore Police Department had repeatedly declined to comment on the case. Spokespersons have confirmed that Pow, Converse, Price, and Thompson are still on the force. Late last year, a spokesperson wrote: “Detective Mattingly is still employed with the Baltimore Police Department but is in a non-active status. He has expressed, and is in the process of resigning.”
Finally, on March 2, 2015, someone from the police department visited the home of Verdessa McDougald. But Det. Charles Anderson, with whom she had previously spoken on the phone about retrieving her son’s property, did not come to ask her questions; he came to tell her that her son’s death had been ruled a suicide–seven months after the fact.
“Ms. McDougald stated she had a copy of the ME’s report”–which had been completed since September of the previous year–”and she believed they were working with the police department.”
Anderson wrote: “I advised Ms. McDougald that the Medical Examiner’s office is independent of the police department and their conclusions are established by evidence collected from the autopsy.”
Anderson said McDougald’s “primary concern” was that then-Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake “never came to speak to her about her son’s death,” adding that “she also stated she believed that Police Officers from the Southwest District killed her son because GOD told her that they were responsible.”
McDougald was concerned that no one from the mayor’s office ever visited her, but denies that was somehow more important than her claim that the police had killed her son.
“I told him that I didn’t believe that my son had killed himself, and to this day, I still don’t,” she said of the visit.
No one ever visited White. She lived with McDougald for a while after Woodson’s death, but without him to join them together, they had a falling out.
“My life is gone without Tyree. That was a big part of my life and my kids’ life and his mother. And everyone else is going on with their life like it never happened because the police,” she said. “He was in their care.”
Though they no longer speak, this is the main point stressed by both McDougald and White: We may never know exactly what happened with Tyree Woodson, but we do know he was in police custody and his life was their responsibility.