BALTIMORE (AP) — Members of the Baltimore Police Department's Gun Trace Task Force were tipped off about investigations into the rogue unit's illegal activities, a former city detective testified Thursday.
Maurice Ward, an indicted former detective who has alleged rampant police corruption at this week's start of a high-profile racketeering trial, said unit supervisor Sgt. Wayne Jenkins was informed by a fellow police officer that two task force members were being investigated for robberies and drug dealing.
On the stand in U.S. District Court in Baltimore, Ward identified the officer as Sgt. Ryan Guinn, asserting he shared the information with Jenkins after talking to two federal agents.
Guinn, who works at the department's training academy, was part of an April 2010 arrest of a man who prosecutors revealed late last year had a cache of heroin planted in his car, allegedly by Jenkins.
That 2010 arrest also involved Detective Sean Suiter, who was shot in the head with his own gun a day before he was set to testify before a grand jury investigating the Gun Trace Task Force. His November murder is unsolved; there have been no arrests. Former Police Commissioner Kevin Davis, who was fired last week, has said Suiter was duped by Jenkins into discovering the planted narcotics.
On Thursday, Ward also testified that Detective Marcus Taylor, one of two officers on trial, was additionally tipped off by a source in Baltimore police's internal affairs division who told him that the Gun Trace Task Force was in investigators' crosshairs.
The indictments of the Gun Trace Task Force members announced in March by the U.S. attorney's office reads more like a Hollywood movie script than a routine charging document, as federal agents followed what they described as a squad of renegade officers committing brazen robberies and staging cover-ups to avoid detection.
One of the indicted detectives, Momodu Gondo, is accused of dealing drugs and protecting his operation by tipping off drug dealers about law-enforcement tactics.
Taylor and Detective Daniel Hersl are fighting federal racketeering and robbery charges.
Five other indicted detectives — all task force members — have pleaded guilty in recent months. Four, including Ward, will testify as witnesses for the government during the ongoing trial of two detectives who have pleaded not guilty. All of the indicted men have been in jail since their arrests last year.
On Tuesday, Ward testified that Jenkins — who allegedly kept duffel bags at the ready stuffed with tools to pry open cars and safes along with black ski masks, grappling hooks and other gear — randomly quizzed people he stopped for the names of top drug dealers in order to target them for future robberies.
Under cross-examination, Ward, a Baltimore police officer since 2003, acknowledged he has lied under oath previously.
Christopher Nieto, Taylor's defense attorney, got Ward to agree that he's lied to civilians, relatives, law enforcement colleagues and juries "for the better part of a decade."
Davis disbanded the Gun Trace Task Force in March, describing the indicted officers as "1930s-style gangers." Dozens of cases handled by unit members have been dropped by prosecutors since then.
The trial is expected to last up to four weeks, according to U.S. District Court Judge Catherine Blake.
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