All But One Member of Baltimore Gun Task Force Indicted on Federal Racketeering Charges

Baltimore Police Det. John Clewell worked nearly two years on the department’s gun trace task force — an elite unit that raided homes throughout the city searching for firearms in an effort to quell historic rates of violence.

We’re “the ‘make stuff happen’ police,” Clewell told a Northeast Baltimore couple whose apartment he raided in April 2015, according to his own account of the incident in charging documents.

Now Clewell is the only member of the task force who has not been indicted on federal racketeering charges.

The rest of the unit has been accused of robbing suspects, filing false paperwork and committing overtime fraud. Seven members were indicted by a federal grand jury in March; an eighth was indicted in August.

Clewell, a 32-year-old former Marine who joined the Baltimore Police Department in 2009, has been suspended, with pay, while the unit remains under investigation.

Clewell’s attorney says his client did not participate in the unit’s alleged schemes. Attorney Chaz Ball says Clewell is a witness, not a suspect, in the federal investigation.

“He’s sort of a Boy Scout among them, frankly,” Ball said. “He was in that unit for a good amount of time, and he’s somebody who just wasn’t involved in any of the negative things that happened there.”

Police commanders created the gun trace task force a decade ago to zero in on gun offenders. Current police Commissioner Kevin Davis has called that approach a key element of his plan to reduce the years-long surge in homicides in the city.

Now eight members are accused of stealing hundreds of thousands of dollars from suspects from 2014 through late 2016. Some are also accused of conspiring to defraud the department of thousands of dollars in unearned overtime.

Sgts. Thomas Allers and Wayne Jenkins and Dets. Momodu Gondo, Daniel Hersl, Evodio Hendrix, Jemell Rayam, Marcus Taylor and Maurice Ward have been charged. Hendrix and Ward have pleaded guilty. The rest have pleaded not guilty. Gondo and Rayam are scheduled to be re-arraigned later this year. Trials could begin in January.

Davis dissolved the task force in March. City prosecutors have dropped more than 75 cases handled by its officers, and are reviewing scores more.

Prosecutors declined to answer questions about the investigation or Clewell’s role in the case.

Clewell worked frequently with Allers, the eighth officer charged. Allers was indicted by a grand jury late last month on charges of stealing more than $90,000 from suspects from 2014 to 2016.

Before Clewell and Allers joined the gun trace task force in late 2014, they worked together pursuing illegal guns and drugs on the Southern District operations squad. Both left the gun trace task force in the summer of 2016 to work with the federal Drug Enforcement Administration as city police task force officers. They were working in that role when the first indictments were filed.

For the full story visit: