Members of the Baltimore Police Department’s Gun Trace Task Force committed armed robberies, falsified records, and kept a collection of toy guns to plant on civilians, according to testimony from an ex-detective in the now dismantled unit. Maurice Ward, was called to the stand Tuesday (Jan. 23) as the first witness for prosecutors in the federal corruption case, reports CBS Baltimore.
Ward, one of four GTTT officers who pleaded guilty to federal racketeering and robbery charges, testified against his former GTTT partners, Detectives Daniel Hersl and Marcus Taylor. The testimony detailed a pattern of misconduct within the elite circle of officers acting as both “cops and robbers,” said Assistant U.S. Attorney Leo Wise according to The Baltimore Sun.
The egregious conduct included “door pops,” in which officers ambushed groups of people and chase whoever ran away. In another instance, GTTT detectives stole more than $200,000 from the safe of a man whose house they broke into without a warrant, after arresting him, and forcing him to turn over his keys.
Ward confessed that paranoia drove him to discard his $20,000 cut of $100,000 that officers pocketed.
The testimony also revealed that Ward’s supervisor, Sgt. Wayne Jenkins, approved fraudulent overtime hours, committed illegal searches, quizzed people that he pulled over to get the names of drug dealers to target for robberies, and kept a collection of BB guns on hand to plant them on people in the case of officer involved shootings.
At a point during the trial, prosecutors dumped out a bag filled with ropes and masked used in the robberies, of which drug dealers were often targeted.
The GTTT was littered with “rogue officers,” said Wise.
William Purpura, Hersl’s attorney, and Taylor’s lawyer, Jennifer Wicks, urged jurors to question the credibility of witnesses, particularly those who have cooperated with authorities.
Last July, Ward and detective Evodio Calles Hendrix pleaded guilty to racketing charges. Ward admitted to “participating in four robberies from February through August 2016,” while Hendrix confessed to participating in three robberies between March and August of that year. The two also falsified records to “conceal their criminal conduct and otherwise obstruct justice,” and were armed with gun from the Baltimore Police Department during the commission of their crimes.
In Hersl’s case, Purpura argues that his client was “over-charged,” and claims Hersl committed only committed “crimes of theft, not a crime of violence.”
“The government lumped Daniel Hersl’s wrong conduct — there’s no excuse for it — into a racketeering enterprise where other officers actually did commit robberies, drug trafficking and extortion,” he said.
“The evidence will show, and it will show, Detective Hersl did breach that oath. His actions embarrassed the city, the Baltimore Police Department, his family and himself,” Purpura said of Hersl collecting stolen money.
Hersl and Taylor have pleaded not guilty to racketeering and robbery charges. The pair are among nearly a dozen GTTT officers arrested and indicted on charges ranging from racketeering and armed robberies, to planting evidence, falsifying records and drug trafficking.