MON­STERS

Sgt. Wayne Jenk­ins was on a mis­sion to find big deal­ers and steal their drugs and cash. Then the feds found him.

Baltimore Sun Sunday - - FRONT PAGE - By Justin Fen­ton

Ivan Bates stood in a Bal­ti­more court­room, con­flicted. For years, the de­fense at­tor­ney had heard sto­ries from clients who said they were robbed by the vaunted Bal­ti­more po­lice Sgt. Wayne Jenk­ins. The de­fen­dant Bates was rep­re­sent­ing on this day in Oc­to­ber 2016 was just the lat­est.

But af­firm­ing that the man had drugs and the at­ten­dant cash when Jenk­ins ar­rested him — and ac­tu­ally far more of both than the sergeant had writ­ten in his re­port — was not go­ing to help Bates’ client.

Nor was a judge likely to be­lieve that the leader of the elite Bal­ti­more Gun Trace

Task Force had robbed ac­cused drug dealer O’Reese Steven­son.

The details of Jenk­ins’ ar­rest of Steven­son — and what hap­pened next — would have stretched credulity even more.

Af­ter pulling Steven­son over in North­west Bal­ti­more and siz­ing him up as a

This se­ries was pro­duced in part­ner­ship with the Pulitzer Cen­ter.

big-time dealer, Jenk­ins had phoned his drug-deal­ing part­ner, a bail bonds­man.

“I need you to come here as quick as you can,” Jenk­ins told him. “I’ve got a ‘mon­ster.’ ”

He was not mak­ing a moral judg­ment.

“Mon­ster” was Jenk­ins’ term for those higher-level play­ers in Bal­ti­more’s black-mar­ket econ­omy who stacked bricks of pack­aged drugs and cash. Find­ing such deal­ers had be­come a prin­ci­pal fo­cus of Jenk­ins’ work — so he could rob them. Ar­rest­ing them was op­tional.

He toted around a duf­fel bag in the back of his van that con­tained a bur­glar’s tool­kit, ready for such op­por­tu­ni­ties: black masks, gloves, crow­bars, sledge­ham­mers, a ma­chete, a grap­pling hook. The im­ple­ments were to al­low Jenk­ins to break into a mon­ster’s home or stash house, one of his of­fi­cers would later tes­tify.

The well-re­garded po­lice sergeant wasn’t just steal­ing cash. He was raid­ing the deal­ers’ sup­ply, giv­ing the prod­uct to the bonds­man to sell on the street. They shared the profit, thou­sands of dol­lars per heist.

Suc­cess­ful plain­clothes polic­ing is de­pen­dent on an of­fi­cer be­ing taken at his word. Af­ter the death of Fred­die Gray in 2015 and the U.S. Jus­tice Depart­ment re­port that found widespread civil rights abuses by Bal­ti­more po­lice, trust in the po­lice depart­ment seemed at an all-time low.

But an in­ves­ti­ga­tion by The Bal­ti­more Sun found that the of­fi­cers of the Gun Trace Task Force still had trust where it mat­tered most: within the po­lice depart­ment, among the pros­e­cu­tors who took their cases and with the judges who presided over the out­comes.

Jenk­ins had ar­rested Steven­son just be­fore he was made head of the Gun Trace Task Force in the sum­mer of 2016. Under Jenk­ins’ lead­er­ship, he and six mem­bers of his squad of Bal­ti­more po­lice of­fi­cers op­er­ated as a crim­i­nal en­ter­prise rak­ing in tens of thou­sands of dol­lars from the mon­ster deal­ers they tar­geted.

It was the per­fect crime. No one would be­lieve a sus­pect who said he’d been robbed by the cops. And there was no gain in ad­mit­ting that you had pos­sessed drugs and cash — a lot more, in fact, be­fore the of­fi­cers took some.

This was the dilemma Bates faced as he con­sid­ered what to do in Judge Barry Williams’ court­room.

“You’ve got to re­mem­ber: The thought process of the pros­e­cu­tors is they are criminals,” Bates said of his clients. “So is any­body re­ally go­ing to be­lieve a ‘crim­i­nal’?”

Bates had to fig­ure out an­other way to beat Jenk­ins. He de­cided to challenge the tac­tics the sergeant and his squad said they used in ar­rest­ing Steven­son.

When they came upon him near Pim­lico Race Course, four of­fi­cers hopped out of their car and sur­rounded Steven­son in his. Courts have held that the act of sur­round­ing a ve­hi­cle con­sti­tutes a de­ten­tion — and Jenk­ins and his unit had no evidence to jus­tify that.

Williams agreed with Bates’ ar­gu­ment and threw out the case. Steven­son was off the hook.

And so was Jenk­ins. There’d be no court tes­ti­mony this day al­leg­ing that he was a crim­i­nal, too.

Far from it. Williams asked the pros­e­cu­tor to tell Jenk­ins not to be dis­cour­aged by his loss in court. He should just be more care­ful.

“Just so you know, I did find your of­fi­cer rel­a­tively cred­i­ble,” Williams told the as­sis­tant state’s at­tor­ney. “Let him know what the law is,” the judge ad­vised.

— Wayne Jenk­ins said, ac­cord­ing to Ronald Hamilton’s court tes­ti­mony. Jenk­ins tried to get Hamilton to co­op­er­ate with other in­ves­ti­ga­tions, sug­gest­ing he might even pro­vide Hamilton with drugs to keep the in­for­ma­tion flow­ing.

named Ronald Hamilton, who they be­lieved was deal­ing drugs.

“As much as I hate do­ing this, sir,” a South­west­ern Dis­trict sergeant wrote to a su­per­vi­sor in an email ob­tained by The Sun, “Mr. Hamilton’s in­ves­ti­ga­tion has grown a lot big­ger than just our dis­trict.”

It was time to call in the GTTF, the depart­ment’s heavy hit­ters.

The unit’s de­tec­tives bought cheap, com­mer­cial GPS track­ers over the in­ter­net and used them as a sub­sti­tute for per­sonal ob­ser­va­tion. With­out a judge’s ap­proval, De­tec­tive Jemell Rayam put one of these de­vices on Hamilton’s ve­hi­cle. Then, by watch­ing an app on his phone while sit­ting at home in Owings Mills, Rayam could track where Hamilton was go­ing.

“He at this big-ass man­sion with a pool in the back,” Rayam told his part­ner over the phone in a recorded con­ver­sa­tion.

De­tec­tive Mo­modu Gondo en­cour­aged pa­tience. “I’m down for it but I would wait, es­pe­cially to see where he takes his profit at. Feel me?”

While the city was trans­fixed that sum­mer by every turn in the tri­als of the of­fi­cers charged in the death of Fred­die Gray, the plain­clothes units con­tin­ued to op­er­ate under the radar. When Jenk­ins took over the task force, he joined the plan to stalk Hamilton, who seemed to fit Jenk­ins’ def­i­ni­tion of a mon­ster. Years be­fore, the Mary­land State Po­lice had called Hamilton the per­son “who con­trolled most of the drug traf­fick­ing in west and southwest Bal­ti­more City and County.”

He served eight years in fed­eral prison af­ter a 1998 case in which po­lice found a pound and a half of co­caine in his house, a loaded hand­gun on the kitchen ta­ble — and a stag­ger­ing half-mil­lion dol­lars in a gym bag.

Hamilton later served six years in an­other drug case.

Af­ter his re­lease in May 2014, Hamilton pur­chased a 4,100-square­foot home with a pool in the ex­urb of Car­roll County. When ques­tioned later about his income, Hamilton would say he was buy­ing and sell­ing used cars, and gam­bling. He ve­he­mently de­nied be­ing in­volved in drug deal­ing.

One night, Rayam would say later, Jenk­ins and the crew were fol­low­ing Hamilton around the city and be­yond. Po­lice of­fi­cers gen­er­ally can’t go out­side their ju­ris­dic­tion, but the gun task force had ob­tained statewide au­thor­ity.

Jenk­ins, in an­other car, re­layed to his of­fi­cers that he saw Hamilton get out of his ve­hi­cle car­ry­ing a large shop­ping bag.

“And he was like, ‘Man, I know it was money in there or some­thing big in there … I felt like just hit­ting him and tak­ing the bag,’ ” Rayam said.

In that mo­ment, Rayam — who’d been rob­bing peo­ple for years — re­al­ized that his new sergeant had sim­i­lar goals.

The long-range work they were sup­posed to do for their jobs, track­ing deal­ers, was the same thing that en­abled Jenk­ins and the squad to pull off their crimes.

In early July, the of­fi­cers de­cided to swoop in as Hamilton and his wife were shop­ping for blinds at a Home De­pot in North­west Bal­ti­more. Jenk­ins was nearby await­ing word that the Hamil­tons had been grabbed, and told the of­fi­cers to pre­tend he was a fed­eral pros­e­cu­tor when he ar­rived.

The of­fi­cers first took the cou­ple to the “The Barn,” the Bal­ti­more Po­lice Depart­ment’s satel­lite of­fice for plain­clothes units, a moniker ap­par­ently taken from a tele­vi­sion show about crooked cops. The squad had got­ten a search war­rant, and now of­fi­cers took the cou­ple to their home in Car­roll to see what they could find.

They searched for hours and found a heat-sealed bag con­tain­ing $50,000. In a closet, they found $20,000 more. No drugs or guns were lo­cated.

Jenk­ins tried to get Hamilton to co­op­er­ate with other in­ves­ti­ga­tions, sug­gest­ing he might even pro­vide Hamilton with drugs to keep the in­for­ma­tion flow­ing.

“You take care of us, we’ll take care of you,” Jenk­ins said, Hamilton would later tes­tify. “You might even wake up one day with 10 ki­los in your back­yard.” Hamilton de­clined.

The gun task force of­fi­cers pock­eted the $20,000. To cover their tracks, they called Mary­land State Po­lice to the home to doc­u­ment seiz­ing the other $50,000. Al­though noth­ing il­le­gal had been found and Hamilton was not charged with any crime, under civil as­set for­fei­ture laws his money could be seized if he couldn’t account for how it was earned.

Hamilton fought back, hop­ing to re­trieve at least the $50,000 the cops had ad­mit­ted seiz­ing. Dur­ing for­fei­ture pro­ceed­ings, he won the return of the por­tion he could doc­u­ment earn­ing — $30,000. But he had to for­feit the re­main­der to the gov­ern­ment.

Of course, the $20,000 Jenk­ins’ squad had taken for them­selves was gone, too.

It’s not clear when Jenk­ins, who joined the po­lice depart­ment in 2003, be­gan steal­ing. In his plea agree­ment, the ear­li­est ad­mit­ted rob­bery was in 2011, af­ter a high-speed chase and a crash. The vic­tim in that case, like many con­tacted by The Sun for this re­port, de­clined to speak about the cir­cum­stances. Some cited a de­sire to move on with their lives, while oth­ers said they feared ret­ri­bu­tion.

Videos, in­ter­views and tes­ti­mony sug­gest a pat­tern that be­gan ear­lier for Jenk­ins, in­clud­ing en­ter­ing homes with­out a war­rant. He and other of­fi­cers would say they were merely seeing whether the keys worked, which is al­lowed to con­firm some­one’s link to a property.

But ac­cord­ing to some de­fense at­tor­neys, of­fi­cers would go on to en­ter the house and se­cretly search. If they found some­thing worth­while, they might return with a war­rant.

Bates had flagged the is­sue at a client’s trial in 2014.

“What po­lice are telling you, which is mind bog­gling, is we’re go­ing to take a per­son’s keys, and we’re just go­ing to go to their house, and we’re go­ing to go ahead and put them in the door, and if it opens, it opens,” Bates told the judge. “That’s mind bog­gling be­cause as cit­i­zens we have rights, and it’s ob­vi­ous the po­lice don’t be­lieve these rights ap­ply to these cit­i­zens.”

One of the clear­est ex­am­ples Bates came across was back in 2010. Jenk­ins was an of­fi­cer in a dif­fer­ent plain­clothes unit then, and he and a sergeant spot­ted a man named Ja­mal Walker sit­ting in his car in East Bal­ti­more.

They asked Walker to get out of the ve­hi­cle. They said they smelled mar­i­juana. Walker said he didn’t smoke and didn’t have any mar­i­juana.

Jenk­ins “asked if I had guns, drugs or large amounts of money,” Walker re­called in an interview. He said he replied he had $40,000 in cash des­tined for the bank.

The sergeant, Keith Glad­stone — whom Jenk­ins has de­scribed as a men­tor — dan­gled a bag of mar­i­juana that Walker says did not be­long to him. “Now we get to keep your money,” Glad­stone told him, ac­cord­ing to Walker. He al­leges that the cops pock­eted $20,000 of his money.

Walker told all that to his lawyer Bates, who de­fended Walker against the drug and gun charges that re­sulted from his ar­rest. It was what re­port­edly hap­pened next that re­ally alarmed Bates.

Walker’s wife, Jovonne, said the of­fi­cers came to their home that night and en­tered with­out a war­rant. Ter­ri­fied to dis­cover strange men en­ter­ing her home, she trig­gered the alarm sys­tem, which sum­moned uni­formed patrol of­fi­cers to the scene.

Nei­ther Jenk­ins nor Glad­stone were charged in Walker’s case.

But Glad­stone, now retired from the po­lice depart­ment, pleaded guilty May 31 to a fed­eral con­spir­acy charge for plant­ing a BB gun on a man af­ter Jenk­ins ran him down with his car in 2014. Glad­stone faces up to 10 years at sen­tenc­ing in Septem­ber.

Glad­stone, like Jenk­ins, de­clined to com­ment for this ar­ti­cle.

Staci Pip­kin, now a Bal­ti­more de­fense lawyer, was the pros­e­cu­tor on the charges against Walker and on other cases in­volv­ing Jenk­ins’ ar­rests around that time.

Other de­fen­dants made claims against of­fi­cers when she worked in the state’s at­tor­ney’s of­fice, Pip­kin said. “We’d start in­ves­ti­ga­tions,” she said. She knew of no such al­le­ga­tions about Jenk­ins.

Pip­kin re­mem­bers Jenk­ins as a cop who seemed like he wanted to do every­thing right. He wasn’t afraid to call in the mid­dle of the night to ask a ques­tion about the law.

“If you would’ve asked me, be­fore the in­dict­ments came down, who the best nar­cotics cop was in Bal­ti­more, he would’ve been top three,” Pip­kin said.

In Septem­ber 2015, a woman re­mem­bers be­ing home when she heard some­one qui­etly come in the front door of her Southwest Bal­ti­more

IL­LUS­TRA­TION BY MATHIEU LALU­MIERE/FOR THE BAL­TI­MORE SUN

KEVIN RICHARD­SON/BAL­TI­MORE SUN

Many of the Bal­ti­more Po­lice Depart­ment’s plain­clothes units worked out of a satel­lite build­ing of­fi­cers called “The Barn,” an ap­par­ent ref­er­ence to a TV show about crooked cops.

LLOYD FOX/BAL­TI­MORE SUN

De­fense at­tor­ney Ivan Bates said he rep­re­sented more than 30 peo­ple ar­rested by Jenk­ins, many of whom com­plained about the of­fi­cer’s il­le­gal tac­tics.

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