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Baltimore Police Gun Trace Task Force Leader Convicted For Corruption

Rogue Baltimore police unit ringleader Wayne Jenkins sentenced

By Jessica Lussenhop BBC News, Baltimore
7 June 2018

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Image caption Wayne Earl Jenkins tearfully told the court: "I've tarnished the badge"
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The leader of a rogue Baltimore police unit sobbed as he was sentenced to 25 years in prison in a corruption scandal prosecutors called "breathtaking".

Ex-police sergeant Wayne Earl Jenkins apologised in court for the crimes he committed while heading an elite squad called the Gun Trace Task Force (GTTF).

"I'm wrong, God knows I'm wrong," the 37-year-old said. "I'm so sorry to the citizens of Baltimore."

He was arrested along with almost every member of the unit in March 2017.

Jenkins must serve three years of supervised release after his custodial sentence.

He was convicted on multiple counts including racketeering, robbery and falsification of records.

Jenkins pleaded guilty in January and admitted taking part in at least 10 robberies of Baltimore citizens, planting drugs on innocent people and re-selling drugs he stole from suspects on an almost daily basis, including heroin, cocaine and prescription painkillers.
He walked into the court wearing a maroon prison uniform. It was his first public appearance since he was arrested along with six other officers last year.

Prosecutors urged the judge to sentence him to the maximum 30 years, adding that the unit's corruption resulted in 1,700 criminal cases being thrown out.

"The largest share of the blame, the largest share of those crimes belongs to him," US attorney Leo Wise told the court.

"He perverted the criminal justice system."

The GTTF was made up of eight officers, all but one of whom were indicted.

Detectives Maurice Ward, Evodio Hendrix, Momodu Gondo and Jemell Rayam all pleaded guilty.

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(L-R) Evodio Hendrix, Daniel Hersl, Jemell Rayam
Image caption (L-R) Maurice Ward, Marcus Taylor, Momodu Gondo
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Detectives Daniel Hersl and Marcus Taylor went forward to trial and a jury found them guilty of robbery, extortion and fraud in February. Both men have requested new trials.

A former member of the unit, Sergeant Thomas Allers, also pleaded guilty.

Although the indicted officers committed many robberies individually before joining the Gun Trace Task Force, prosecutors charge that they grew bolder and more prolific after Jenkins took over the unit in June 2016.

According to testimony from Ward and Hendrix, Jenkins played an outsized role in the schemes.

They said he prepared an arsenal of weapons and tools to begin carrying out burglaries.

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Prosecutors showed evidence of Jenkins' building up the tools needed to do full-fledged robberies
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The jury was shown axes, machetes and pry bars, as well as black masks that were found in Jenkins' van after his arrest.

Prosecutors pointed to the fact that Jenkins fabricated evidence, like producing a bogus iPhone video of his officers cracking a drug dealer's safe, when they had in fact already broken into it and stolen $200,000 in cash.

"It shows what a committed, sophisticated, devious person can do," Mr Wise said. "What chance do we have when you have people like Jenkins and his co-defendants fabricating evidence?"

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Media captionWatch the GTTF pretend to open a safe
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The daughters of 86-year-old Elbert Davis also told the court about the 2010 car crash Jenkins caused while he was pursuing a man named Umar Burley.

Burley's vehicle struck another, killing Mr Davis.

In his plea deal, Jenkins admitted he planted heroin on Burley to try to justify the fatal collision.

Burley was sentenced to 15 years in prison, which he was serving until federal prosecutors uncovered the task force's corruption and freed him.

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Image caption Elbert Davis' daughters speak after Jenkins' sentencing
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"He is no more than a common criminal," Davis' daughter, Shirley, said of Jenkins.

"My dad would be alive today would it not be for his actions that day. We'll never be the same again."

The courtroom was also packed with Jenkins' family and friends.

Although she did not address the court, in a letter to Judge Catherine Blake, Jenkins' wife Kristy asked for leniency.

"This is not the man I know," she wrote. "Wayne is truly sorry for his actions. He is very remorseful."

Jenkins' lawyer mentioned that he has been assaulted at least once by another inmate who was targeting him for being a former police officer.

When Jenkins was allowed to speak, he turned first to face the Davis family and apologised repeatedly.

"I'm so sorry for what you're going through. I wish I would never have stopped that vehicle," he said.

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Image caption Former GTTF member Momodu Gondo testified during the trial
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He also apologised to Burley, who was not in the court, to his wife and to his father, and begged the judge for the opportunity to get out in time to be a grandfather.

"I've tarnished the badge," he said through tears. "I deserve to be punished. I deserve to go to jail."

Judge Blake ultimately decided to sentence him to 25 years, saying she was taking into consideration the fact that he pleaded guilty and co-operated to some extent with the prosecutors.

"This was a great abuse of the public trust," said Judge Blake. "It strikes at the foundation of our entire criminal justice system."

Jenkins winced as the handcuffs were placed on his wrists, and US Marshals led him out of a back door of the courtroom.

Detective Marcus Taylor on Thursday was sentenced to 18 years in prison on racketeering charges, including robbery and overtime fraud.

"Nobody still knows the truth about what's going on in the city," Taylor told the judge. "I still maintain my innocence. I will continue to fight to prove my innocence."

On Friday, both detectives Evodio Hendrix and Maurice Ward were sentenced to seven years in prison. The prosecutors characterised both men as having less culpability in the GTTF's schemes and that Ward in particular had provided valuable information that lead to additional charges against other officers.

In court, Ward apologised to the victims, to his family and to the Baltimore Police Department, as well as to his co-defendants.

"I knew the things we were doing were wrong," he said. "I could have spoken up."

But the saga is far from over.

In January, Baltimore Mayor Catherine Pugh fired her police commissioner and replaced him with former Deputy Commissioner Darryl De Sousa, who promised sweeping reforms to the department.

Last month, Mr De Sousa was indicted for failure to pay his taxes by the same prosecutors who brought the GTTF case.

He resigned and the top spot at the Baltimore Police Department remains vacant.

The FBI investigation remains open.

The Full Story

Here's what the public was led to believe about the Gun Trace Task Force, before the FBI arrested almost every member of the squad:

That in a city still reeling from the civil unrest that followed the 2015 death of Freddie Gray in police custody, the GTTF was a bright spot in a department under a dark cloud.

That while the homicide rate was on a historic rise, this elite, eight-officer team was getting guns off the streets at an astonishing rate.

That the GTTF's leader, a former Marine and amateur MMA fighter named Sergeant Wayne Jenkins, was a hero who'd plunged into a violent crowd during the unrest to rescue injured officers.

But when the sun came up on 1 March 2017, the city awoke to a vastly different reality.

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When Cops Become Robbers: Inside One Of America's Most Corrupt Police Squads 09.Jun.2018 19:49

Jessica Lussenhop

When cops become robbers

Inside one of America's most corrupt police squads

By Jessica Lussenhop
3 April 2018

Parts of this story are reconstructed from trial testimony, evidence and publicly available records. It contains strong language throughout.

Four vehicles fly down a darkened, rain-soaked street. It's summertime, nearly midnight in downtown Baltimore.

The lead car, a white Chevrolet, is driven by a 34-year-old man, his foot pressed to the pedal. On his tail are three unmarked police cars driven by members of the Gun Trace Task Force, a plainclothes gun recovery unit.

The chase started after the Chevrolet ran a red light. Pursuing the vehicle would be a violation of Baltimore Police Department policy, but the detectives suspect the man in the Chevy has guns, drugs, cash or all three.

"Might be able to get somethin' dirty," detective Daniel Hersl says excitedly.

"Light him up," detective Jemell Rayam responds.

The pursuit proceeds to the sounds of revving engines and heavy rain pelting the windows - there are no sirens.

The Chevrolet blows through another red light. He almost makes it across the intersection when a Hyundai Sonata going through the green collides with the driver's side of the Chevy, launching both cars up on to the pavement. The Chevy crumples into a motionless wreck.

"Shit!" exclaims detective Momodu Gondo from behind the wheel. "Damn."

"Keep going," responds his partner, Rayam. "I don't know."

"Shit!"

"I don't know," repeats Rayam. "I don't know."

Without stopping, the detectives radio back and forth between their cars.

"We ain't look too crazy, did we?" asks Gondo. "They got cameras all up and down that shit."

"I can get on the air and say I just got a report of an accident," says Rayam.

"No, Wayne said - I wouldn't say nothin' yet," responds Hersl.

Several blocks away, two of the three police vehicles pull to the side of the road and the officers confer. Gondo thinks he only had his lights on at the very beginning of the chase - maybe no one noticed them.

"That's the thing with Wayne. He's a little too much with this shit," says Hersl. "These car chases. This is what happens."

Eventually it strikes the officers that they never called for aid.

"How about we just go on scene and just act like, 'Oh, is everything OK?'" asks Rayam.

"That dude unconscious, he ain't sayin' shit," responds detective Marcus Taylor.

Listen to the Gun Trace Task Force before and after the car crash (WARNING - contains strong language)

Over half an hour after the crash, they've still done nothing. Hersl suggests they change their time cards to make it appear they stopped work hours earlier. Wayne Jenkins, the unit's leader, stops to scope out the accident, but also does nothing to help.

"I wonder what was in that car," says Hersl.

"I don't care," Jenkins snaps. "Go back to HQ."

A year and a half later, in a federal courthouse in downtown Baltimore, a prosecutor switches off the audio recording from that night, captured on a FBI listening device hidden in Gondo's police vehicle. On the witness stand sits Rayam, a tall, broad-shouldered man with a smooth pate. Instead of his police uniform, he wears bright orange prison garb.

Facing him from the defendants' table are two of his former colleagues, Daniel Hersl and Marcus Taylor.

"None of us stopped to render aid or see if anyone was hurt," Rayam tells the courtroom in a faltering voice. "We were foolish, I don't know, we just didn't... we just didn't stop."

In the case of United States versus Daniel Hersl and Marcus Taylor, the car accident is the least of the men's legal worries. They are facing multiple counts of extortion, racketeering and fraud for their part in what prosecutors call a "perfect storm" of police officers gone rogue. Rayam, Gondo, Jenkins, as well as two other officers from the Gun Trace Task Force have already pleaded guilty.

When the prosecutor finishes his questions, Rayam seems to completely fall apart. He shields his eyes from the jury.

In an already exceptionally dramatic trial, it is a disorientating moment. As Rayam - a once-respected police detective, a college-educated father with a nice house in the suburbs - sobs silently on the witness stand, it is impossible not to wonder...

What happened to these police officers?
Trackers

On the day of Aaron Anderson's arrest, Detective David McDougall of the Harford County Sheriff's Department rose around dawn and crept out of his house in rural Maryland before his family awoke. He drove south to meet his team in the rear car park of a Red Roof motel perched on a busy intersection in the suburbs of Baltimore.

McDougall pulled on a tactical vest, preparing for just "another day at the office". But nothing about the arrest of Anderson went as expected.

As a part of his work on the county's narcotics task force, McDougall had been watching the 27-year-old suspected heroin dealer for weeks.
David McDougall

David McDougall

He'd sat outside Anderson's drab apartment complex in northwest Baltimore as he came and went. He'd also placed a GPS tracking device on the undercarriage of Anderson's Jeep Cherokee.

He'd observed surprisingly open drug sales at a strip mall, where Anderson was trailed by a small group of young men palming tiny plastic packets into the hands of drivers streaming in and out of the car park in full view of McDougall and his camera lens.

The very fact the arrest team was gathered at a motel that morning was the first surprise. Days earlier, they were ready to arrest Anderson at his apartment when he stopped going home. The GPS tracker on the Jeep was going to the Red Roof instead.

They snapped photos of Anderson and his girlfriend as they stood on the balcony talking on their phones. When it became clear the pair were not checking out anytime soon, McDougall rewrote his warrants for the motel.

On the morning of 19 October 2015, he and his team sat in the car park waiting for the door to room 207 to crack open.

Anderson was the first in a series of dominoes McDougall hoped to topple. A major narcotics investigation concluded there were two Baltimore-based drug dealers supplying the bulk of the far more rural Harford County's heroin: Anderson and a rival dealer named Antonio "Brill" Shropshire.

The two men had distinguished themselves in the eyes of law enforcement by peddling a particularly lethal product. In the last year, overdoses had skyrocketed in Harford County and McDougall believed as much as 80% were caused by heroin supplied by Anderson or Shropshire's organisations. The deaths went as far back as 2011.
19-year-old Alyssa died of a heroin overdose in Harford County in 2011

19-year-old Alyssa died of a heroin overdose in Harford County in 2011

And something had always bothered McDougall about the way the men operated, the openness of the drug dealing he had witnessed after weeks of surveillance. He likened it to a "fog" around the investigation.

"It's right out in front of us and nothing's being done," he recalls. "I'm like, 'There's something wrong here.'"

Anderson finally emerged from the room a little after 11am. As he and his girlfriend walked towards the Jeep, McDougall and his men surrounded them.

With the pair in handcuffs, McDougall radioed to a second team positioned outside Anderson's apartment, and confirmed that it was safe to go inside.

As the secondary team searched the apartment, McDougall sat Anderson in the back of a squad car and asked what he was doing at the Red Roof motel in the first place.

"He's like, 'Two guys kicked in my door while my girl was home, stole stuff from me, they had handguns, I didn't feel safe,'" recalls McDougall. "As he tells me that I get a phone call."

It was the team at Anderson's apartment - it was trashed. There was a boot print on the front door, the lock shattered. Drawers were pulled out of dressers. There were no drugs, just some digital scales and roughly 10 different mobile phones. Someone had beaten the officers there.

Anderson's girlfriend told McDougall that two weeks earlier, a man with a hoodie pulled tight around his face ran into her bedroom, pointed a gun at her and threatened to kill her. He took jewellery, $10,000 in cash, a Rolex watch and a gun from their dresser. The second masked man headed for the kitchen. Anderson eventually revealed that 800g of heroin was stolen that day. Rather than call the police, the pair fled to the motel.

The same strange fog crept over McDougall. Something about the description of the way the apartment was tossed seemed oddly familiar.

The arrest team was wrapping up loose ends when one of the officers called out to McDougall. He was underneath Anderson's Jeep, pulling off the magnetic GPS tracker McDougall had placed there weeks earlier.

"Hey Dave," the detective said. "Do you have two on here? There's another one."

About eight inches away from McDougall's GPS tracker was a second device. He was stunned.

McDougall knew for a fact no other law enforcement agency was investigating Anderson. In order to avoid stepping on one another's toes, agencies enter the names and personal information of their investigative targets into what's called a "deconfliction database".

It's a tool that allows local and federal agencies to see what investigations are already under way. McDougall had listed Anderson in deconfliction databases from "here to California" and nothing popped up.

"Right away it was kind of like, 'Whoa, what's going on here?'" says McDougall. "Whose tracker is this?"

As soon as he returned to headquarters, McDougall wrote a subpoena for the company that manufactured the mystery tracker, asking them to identify the owner.

Within days he had a name: John Clewell. A driver's licence photo showed a bald, moustached man in his 30s. When McDougall put the name into the Maryland court database to look for a criminal history, dozens of cases came up.

But it didn't list Clewell as the defendant. Rather, it showed Clewell as a witness for the government. He was a cop. A detective with the Baltimore Police Department's Gun Trace Task Force.

McDougall formed a rough theory about what had happened - a Baltimore police officer, using the tracker, waited until Anderson's vehicle was far away from his home, then used the opportunity to rob the apartment. The home invasion had some of the hallmarks of a police raid - the kicked-in door, the methodically tossed apartment. McDougall picked up the phone and called the FBI.

"I thought it was limited to maybe one or two guys," he says. "That was going to be the end of the story."

McDougall had no idea that what he had uncovered would lead to the arrest and indictment of eight police officers, nor that it would implicate at least a dozen more and point to a mole within the local prosecutor's office.

He had no inkling that it would unravel hundreds, and potentially thousands of criminal investigations, and free men from prison who'd sworn from the very beginning that they were framed, robbed, or both. It would one day explain the murder of a young father in front of his family, and raise endless questions about the death of a homicide detective, shot dead the day before he was supposed to testify against the rogue officers.

In the autumn of 2015, all of that was still to come.

Here's what the public was led to believe about the Gun Trace Task Force, before the FBI arrested almost every member of the squad:

That in a city still reeling from the civil unrest that followed the 2015 death of Freddie Gray in police custody, the GTTF was a bright spot in a department under a dark cloud. The 25-year-old African-American man's death after a ride in a police transport ignited a build up of decades of tension between Baltimore's black residents and the police, touching off days of demonstrations, including looting and violence.

That while the homicide rate was on a historic rise, this elite, eight-officer team was getting guns off the streets at an astonishing rate - their supervising lieutenant praised "a work ethic that is beyond reproach" that resulted in 110 arrests and 132 guns confiscated in a 10-month period.

That the GTTF's leader, a former Marine and amateur MMA fighter named Sergeant Wayne Jenkins, was a hero who'd plunged into a violent crowd during the unrest to rescue injured officers, an act of bravery that earned him a departmental Bronze Star.

But when the sun came up on 1 March 2017, the city awoke to a vastly different reality.

Seven officers were arrested and indicted for racketeering, extortion and fraud: Sergeant Jenkins; Detective Daniel Hersl, a 17-year veteran of the force; longtime partners Detectives Momodu Gondo and Jemell Rayam; and Detectives Maurice Ward, Evodio Hendrix and Marcus Taylor. Only one member - oddly enough, John Clewell, the man whose name triggered the entire investigation - escaped indictment. The FBI found he was never a part of the criminal enterprise.

"They were involved in a pernicious conspiracy scheme that included abuse of power," the US Attorney for Maryland told reporters that day. Police commissioner Kevin Davis, who'd once praised the men's work, now likened them to 1930s-style gangsters.

"It's disgusting," he said.

The public soon learned that the GTTF stole from drug dealers, but also from a homeless man, a car salesman, a construction worker and many others. The victims were overwhelmingly African-American.
Evodio Hendrix, Daniel Hersl, Jemell Rayam

Evodio Hendrix, Daniel Hersl, Jemell Rayam

That they received hundreds of hours of overtime, when they were actually at the bar or on the beach, from a city that struggles to keep the heat working in its schools.
Maurice Ward, Marcus Taylor, Momodu Gondo

Maurice Ward, Marcus Taylor, Momodu Gondo

That during the unrest, Jenkins was stealing garbage bags of opiates from pharmacies, and that he also stole and re-sold heroin, Ecstasy, crack and cocaine.

That he planted drugs on innocent people, and was slowly building up the courage and the arsenal to commit fully-fledged burglaries.
Wayne Jenkins

Wayne Jenkins

"They owned the city," shrugged one witness who admitted to acting as the fence for Jenkins' stolen goods. "It was a front for a criminal enterprise."

The revelations crescendoed in an explosive three-week trial in federal court which drew back the curtain on a phenomenon extensively explored by Hollywood but rarely witnessed in real life: the inner workings of a police unit gone rogue, and the path of human destruction left behind it.

In a city just coming off the highest murder rate in its recorded history, some residents wonder how much of that violence can be attributed to a citizenry that felt abandoned by its police force.

"Their behaviour had to have contributed to the uptick in violence, there's no way it didn't," says one retired BPD detective. "The police department thinks they can kind of push right past it."

Even after the arrests, victims of the GTTF say they don't believe that they are safe, and that there are members of the Baltimore Police Department who have yet to be exposed.

"I was a black man with a past history," one victim said. "That's why I'm so bitter and angry about this... Y'all put so many people away for things I know they didn't do."
Summer of madness

On a hot July afternoon in 2016, detective Momodu Gondo dialled his new boss's mobile from the front seat of an unmarked police sedan. Sitting silently behind him was a professorial man with a trim beard and glasses, his hands cuffed behind him.

"What's up, G?" Sergeant Wayne Jenkins answered.

"We got the package," Gondo said.

"Is he in the car with you?" Jenkins asked. "Did you tell him anything at all?"

"No."

"Alright," Jenkins said. "When I get there... introduce me as the US attorney."

"I got you."

Listen to Jenkins and Gondo planning during Ronald Hamilton's arrest

A short while earlier, Gondo, Rayam and Hersl had been following Ronald Hamilton and his wife up and down the aisles of a Home Depot as the couple shopped for window blinds. When the Hamiltons left the car park in their pick-up truck, the detectives followed in three separate, unmarked police vehicles. Rayam hit the lights and sirens, and Hamilton pulled to the side of the road.

The GTTF had had their eyes on the Hamiltons for some time. An informant told Rayam that Hamilton was a high-level drug dealer. After only two years out of federal prison on a previous drugs conviction, Hamilton moved his family into a resplendent, seven-bedroom house on a winding dead-end street in the Baltimore suburbs, complete with a manicured lawn and a swimming pool. If they raided the place, the informant said, they'd find it stuffed with guns, drugs and cash.

The officers drove the Hamiltons to a dilapidated building behind the Baltimore police academy, nicknamed "The Barn". Inside, they grilled the couple about Hamilton's supposed drug dealing, while he insisted that the only things he sold were used cars.

When Jenkins arrived, he told Hamilton he observed him on three separate occasions making drug deals. Hamilton said it was a lie. But he did tell them he had cash in his home.

Though they had no evidence the Hamiltons had done anything illegal, Rayam stuffed the couple back into a car and led Gondo, Jenkins and Hersl on a high-speed convoy towards the mansion in the suburbs. As Rayam sped through the streets, Hamilton whispered to his wife.

"Just don't say nothing," he said. "They trying to rob me."

It had only been a month since Jenkins became the new head of the Gun Trace Task Force. Detective Gondo had been on the GTTF since 2010 and knew plenty about Jenkins - that he was "protected", somebody who had "pull" from on high. He knew less about some of the other detectives Jenkins brought over from his former Special Enforcement Section unit - Ward, Hendrix and Taylor, and from the eastern district, Hersl.

But Gondo said Jenkins made it perfectly clear to him who his new team members were.

"If money is taken, they'll be with it," Gondo remembered Jenkins telling him. "They'll keep their mouth shut."

For Gondo, that meant business as usual.

Gondo grew up in a rough part of north-east Baltimore, and though he joined the police academy in 2005, he did not sever ties to Glen Kyle Wells, a lifelong friend and heroin dealer.

They spent lavishly on nights out, ordering bottle service at local clubs. Gondo also formed a friendship with Wells' heroin connection, Antonio Shropshire. Gondo didn't hide his relationship with Wells from other officers and regarded Wells as a brother.

"We through thick and thin, man," Gondo told Wells at one point. "It's always going to be like that."

When Wells came to Gondo and told him that some of his business associates wanted to rob and murder a rival dealer named Aaron Anderson, it was Gondo who proposed that he and Rayam assist, and use the GPS trackers to avoid a violent confrontation. They borrowed the tracker from Clewell, and it was Gondo who sat outside as the lookout, listening to a police scanner while Rayam and Wells pulled on masks and ransacked the apartment. They split the heroin and the $10,000, and Gondo gave the gun to Wells.

When Wells felt he was being tailed by police, Gondo gave him precise details about the location of other officers in the area. When Shropshire found a GPS tracker underneath his car, he called Gondo for help.

So naturally, Gondo was furious when Wells showed Gondo text messages he was receiving from a mysterious number, asking to buy drugs. Gondo looked at the awkward use of slang and was certain it was his new boss, Wayne Jenkins, trying to set Wells up.

"That's my friend," Gondo fumed privately. "There's plenty of other people out here you can target."

Before Jenkins crossed that line, Gondo enjoyed the copious overtime and short working hours. Instead of putting together complicated investigations and targeted raids, Jenkins preferred "door pops" - speeding towards large groups of young black men on street corners and throwing open the doors. Whoever ran got chased, arrested and, occasionally, robbed. They could do as many as 50 door pops in a single night and as soon as they found a gun, they went home.
Bodycam footage of a GTTF arrest

Bodycam footage of a GTTF arrest

Jenkins didn't care if his men built trust or big cases - as long as they were making gun arrests, they worked a few hours a day, sometimes less, and got paid for far more.

When the detectives arrived at the Hamiltons' home on that July evening, Gondo, Rayam, Jenkins and Hersl went inside for what the squad called a "sneak and peek" - an improper, warrantless search of a home to see what was inside.

In the bedroom, they found $50,000 cash in a heat-sealed plastic bag. Gondo went into a closet and found another bag containing $20,000.

Later, accounts varied on who actually decided to take it - Rayam said it was Jenkins, Gondo said it was Rayam.

Typically, Gondo didn't like to steal money if there was no other evidence discovered in the house. His logic went that a drug dealer is unlikely to complain about missing drugs and money if it only made his operation look bigger. But the Hamiltons' house was clean.

Ultimately he decided that didn't matter.

"Give it back to me so I can take one stack out of there," Gondo said.

The men went back outside and waited for the state police to give the veneer of a legitimate law enforcement operation. But after hours of combing the home and questioning the Hamiltons, the officers came up empty. The state police took possession of the $50,000 in the heat-sealed bag, but there was no reason to charge the Hamiltons with any crime. Rayam unhandcuffed them, handed them a business card and headed for the door.

As Gondo was getting back into his car, he saw Ronald Hamilton run back out of the house, a distraught expression on his face.

"You robbed me," Hamilton called after the officers as they drove away.

Over celebratory drinks afterwards, Gondo confronted Jenkins about the text messages on his friend Wells' behalf. Jenkins agreed to back off. They drank together, and Jenkins advised his men not to "get greedy".

It's hard to find another word to describe the summer that followed.

Next came the high-speed pursuit of Dennis Armstrong, who sent snowballs of cocaine sailing out of his van windows as he fled the GTTF. When they finally stopped him, the officers found $8,000 in a glove box. Only $2,800 made it back to the police station as evidence.

A month after that, the GTTF stopped a wiry homeless man named Sergio Summerville as he was leaving a storage locker where he kept all his belongings. The officers pilfered $2,000 from the sock where Summerville stashed his money from drug sales without bothering to arrest him.

In a seemingly unrelated incident in July, a 31-year-old man named Davon Robinson was shot multiple times in front of his horrified girlfriend and their young daughter. The shooter jumped into a waiting vehicle and disappeared. Robinson was declared dead at the scene.

At the time, the death generated scant media attention - just another murder at the height of a bloody summer in Baltimore.

As autumn drew closer, something started bothering Gondo. There was the night that he could have sworn a car near his home was watching him. Next came the rumours. Something about a federal investigation. Something about a wiretap.

Eventually he confided in Rayam as they sat together in Gondo's police car. By the end of the conversation, they'd both decided there was nothing to worry about.

"What case?" Gondo muttered loud enough that an FBI listening device planted in the car picked it up. "It's no Pablo Escobar. It's police."
Bad movies

As the video begins, the mobile phone camera shakes and shadowy figures hover around the frame. A gloomy basement with a concrete floor comes into focus, children's bicycles piled on top of one another, a washer and dryer pushed against a wall. In the middle of the floor lies a battered safe.

Two men's figures stand over it, one with a pry bar wedged under the lock, the second with a ram.

"Hey Sarge!" one of the men calls. "Come downstairs right quick. They about to get it open."

Within seconds, the lock on the safe cracks. It's dark inside and the camera loses focus. When a torch snaps on, it reveals that the safe is filled with bundle after rubber-banded bundle of cash.

"Oh shit," one of the men says.

"Stop right now," snaps a third voice, swearing. "Nobody touch it."

The video was intended to document the successful investigative handiwork of Jenkins, Ward, Hendrix and Taylor.

It was, in fact, an encore performance.

The video didn't show the first time they broke open the safe, or that when they did, it was twice as full. It didn't capture Jenkins strolling up the basement stairs and out of the home carrying two kilos of cocaine and a bag filled with cash. When he came back down, the officers re-closed the safe door, and re-enacted the moment of discovery with Taylor's phone recording.

"We're calling the feds," Jenkins proclaims for the camera. "No one's touching this money."

The basement belonged to Oreese Stevenson, a man with a long criminal history dating back to the mid-1990s. But ensnaring Stevenson was pure dumb luck, according to Ward. Jenkins had been using one of his favourite tactics - stopping any man over the age of 18 wearing a backpack.

When Jenkins, Ward, Hendrix and Taylor saw a man with a backpack climb inside Stevenson's van, Jenkins pulled up the one-way street where Stevenson was parked the wrong way, and the officers jumped out. The backpack was stuffed with cash, and an old oatmeal box in the backseat contained a half-kilo of cocaine.

According to Ward, Jenkins became "obsessed" with Stevenson after his arrest, and listened to Stevenson's jail calls to his wife. As they talked, the couple realised what had happened, that $100,000 had gone missing from the safe, that their watches had disappeared. Stevenson was livid. He told his wife to find him a good lawyer.

After hearing this, Ward said Jenkins decided to write a letter in neat handwriting from an imaginary, pregnant mistress to drive a wedge between the couple. The officers drove to Stevenson's house and dropped it inside the door.

It didn't work. The Stevensons hired Ivan Bates, a defence lawyer who knew the sergeant well.

"It had gotten to the point with Sergeant Jenkins and that crew, the constitution didn't even apply," says Bates. "They were just going to grab you."

Bates declared his intention to run for Baltimore City State's Attorney several months after the officers were indicted, and has placed the case at the centre of his campaign against the incumbent, Marilyn Mosby. But he says his history with Jenkins far predates a desire for the office.

In 2010, he took the case of a distraught young couple charged with slew of gun and narcotics possession offences. The officer who made the arrest, Jenkins, made an odd omission in his probable cause statement, which he submitted for a warrant at 4:30am.

According to the wife, Jenkins tried to barge into the house hours earlier, without a warrant, prompting her to press a silent alarm on her keychain.

When Bates showed the prosecutor the report from the alarm company, which torpedoed Jenkins' timeline of events, he says the state dropped the case (the case predates Mosby's administration and her office did not comment on the outcome). To Bates, the case was a huge red flag.

"It was such a brazen lie," he says. "If they lied about this, what else have they lied about?"