Convicted Cop Attacks Character of Slain Officer

Former GTTF Momodu Gondo. (L) and Det. Sean Suiter

When Det. Sean Suiter was shot in the head with his own gun in a West Baltimore alley in November 2017, then Baltimore Police Commissioner Kevin Davis acted aggressively.

He locked down the Harlem Park neighborhood where the shooting occurred, forcing residents to show identification to pass through checkpoints. In a series of press conferences Davis described the alleged shooter, a lone black male wearing a jacket with a white stripe as, “a heartless, ruthless, soulless, killer.” Additionally, Mayor Catherine Pugh ordered the lighting of the top of city hall blue, to call attention to the killing and remind the city Suiter had been slain allegedly by someone in their midst.

But, the ongoing criminal trial inside the Federal District courthouse against two members of the now notorious Gun Trace Task Force (GTTF), accused of dealing drugs, robbing residents and stealing overtime, is providing a reckoning of sorts rarely seen in Baltimore, casting an unfavorable light on the actions of city leaders in the wake of Suiter’s death.

During cross examination of several of the officers who have pled guilty to various crimes new allegations have emerged casting doubt on the narrative that Suiter was the victim of a lone neighborhood gunman. Their testimony also called into question the behavior of Davis and other city leaders’ decision to cast an accusatory net across a city that had suffered for years under the Baltimore Police Department (BPD), which the Department of Justice in 2016 found engaged regularly in unconstitutional policing targeted primarily at African Americans.

In riveting testimony earlier this week according to WBAL TV, former GTTF Momodu Gondo told defense attorneys that he and Suiter together robbed residents long before he joined the elite unit. After Gondo admitted to stealing money starting in 2008, the attorney asked if the past thefts included Suiter.

“Yes,” Gondo replied.

Suiter, whose death was ruled a homicide, was set to testify in front of a federal grand jury regarding a 2010 car chase that led to an accident and the death of the father of a Baltimore police officer. The driver, Umar Burley, fled when Suiter and Sgt. Wayne Jenkins, a GTTF supervisor who has also pled guilty to a variety of crimes, tried to block his car after they spotted him with cash. Jenkins then ordered a yet to be named Sgt. to plant drugs in the car after the accident.

Charges of drug possession against Burley have since been dropped,

But Gondo’s accusation against Suiter is not the only testimony that has impugned the reputation of an already sullied department, and shed light on accusations lobbed at residents by the department that were either overblown or untrue.

Earlier this week former bail bondsman Donald C. Stepp, testified that in 2015 during the uprising after the death of Freddie Gray, Jenkins brought him garbage bags full of pharmaceutical drugs looted from businesses across the city. The Baltimore County resident told the jury he sold the drugs for Jenkins and shared the proceeds with him, according to The Real News Network.

But, in 2015 Commissioner Anthony Batts blamed the massive theft of prescription drugs and their subsequent distribution on the streets by city residents as the impetus behind a wave of violence after the death of Gray.

“That’s enough narcotics on the streets of Baltimore to keep it intoxicated for a year,” Batts told CNN during an interview in 2015. “That number of drugs has thrown off the balance on the streets of Baltimore.”

Former members of the GTTF have also cast doubts on current BPD commanders.

Among them, Deputy Commissioner Dean Palmere, who GTTF member Jemell Rayam claims coached him on how to document his controversial shooting in 2009 of Sean Cannady. The {Baltimore Sun} reported that Det. Rayam testified Palmere guided him on how to report the incident when he shot Cannady in the head as he was driving out of a Northwest Baltimore alley, to minimize suspicion. Palmere has denied the claims and said he plans to retire.

In an email, BPD spokesman T.J Smith revealed a new corruption unit that has been tasked with investigating the ongoing allegations which emerged from the trial.

“The Baltimore Police Department is monitoring the testimony.” Smith wrote. “We are working diligently to investigate and hold those who tarnished the badge and violated public trust accountable for their actions.”

“Commissioner-Designate Darryl De Sousa has formed a Corruption Investigation Unit that will be led by a Lieutenant Colonel. The unit will specifically focus on the actions of the Gun Trace Task Force.”