(BALTIMORE) — A former Baltimore Police officer has been indicted for allegedly planting evidence in a suspect’s car during a 2010 arrest, federal prosecutors announced Thursday.
Former Sgt. Wayne Earl Jenkins, 37, allegedly planted heroin in a car after a driver who police were pursuing crashed into another car, prosecutors with the U.S. Attorney’s Office in the District of Maryland said in a press release.
A fatal crash
On April 28, 2010, Jenkins was driving an unmarked Baltimore Police Department vehicle with another officer in the passenger seat when he — along with a second officer in an unmarked car — began to pursue the car, the press release states.
The suspect, Umar Burley, who was driving at a high speed with passenger Brent Matthews in the passenger seat, struck a car at an intersection, and the impact sent the car into the front porch of a nearby row house, federal prosecutors said. The elderly driver of the other car became trapped and later died that day.
There were no drugs inside the car prior to the crash, the indictment alleges. After the crash, and after the pair had been arrested, Jenkins told the fellow officer who was riding in the passenger seat of his car to call a sergeant who was not at the scene because he had the “stuff” in his car, according to the court documents.
After medical personnel arrived, Jenkins then told the officer that the “stuff” was in the crashed car and that he was going to tell the third officer — who had been driving a separate unmarked vehicle — to find it because that officer was “clueless,” according to the indictment.
Allegations of planting evidence
The officer then found about 28 grams of heroin that “Jenkins had planted in the vehicle,” the court document says. Later that day, Jenkins allegedly wrote a false statement of probable cause, where he claimed that “32 individually wrapped pieces of plastic containing a tan powder substance” were recovered.
Jenkins “knew the heroin … had been planted,” the indictment alleges.
Later, Jenkins listened to recorded jail calls between Burley and Matthews, which indicated that they were aware that the heroin in the car had been planted, the court document states. Jenkins then told the officer who had been his passenger that he could not testify in the case if it went to trial because “something had been put in the car,” referring to the heroin that had been planted, the indictment alleges.
Burley and Matthews were later charged and imprisoned on federal drug charges based on the false report, the indictments states. In 2011, Burley had been sentenced to 15 years in prison for the federal drug charge to be served concurrent to a 10-year sentence for a vehicular manslaughter conviction, according to the press release. Matthews had been sentenced to 46 months in prison on federal drug charges.
The Justice Department has filed a petition for the federal drug convictions against the pair to be vacated, “because they are innocent,” according to the press release.
On Thursday, Jenkins was charged with destruction and alteration or falsification of records in federal investigations and deprivation of rights under color of law, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office. He is currently awaiting a Jan. 16 trial on criminal racketeering and fraud charges from a previous indictment and could face an additional sentence of 20 years in prison if convicted of the new charges against him, the court document states.
Jenkins was fired on July 26, Baltimore Police Chief of Media Relations T.J. Smith told ABC News. Jenkins’ attorney, Steven Levin, declined to provide a comment to ABC News. He remains in jail as he awaits trial, prosecutors said.
An officer’s mysterious death
The officer who found the drugs was Det. Sean Suiter, said Baltimore Police Chief Kevin Davis in a press conference Thursday. Suiter was shot and killed on Nov. 15 with his own gun and set to testify in a police corruption case the next day.
The indictment did not identify Suiter and simply referred to the officer who found the drugs as “Officer #1.” After Suiter’s death, Davis said that despite the timing of the shooting, the evidence did not indicate any conspiracy, and that it appears that Suiter was shot after he and his partner approached a suspicious individual.
“What this indictment outlines in great detail is that Sean Suiter was not involved in any way, shape or form in any criminal misconduct whatsoever,” Davis said.
Suiter, who had not been promoted to detective yet, was “used” and “put into a position where he unwittingly recovered drugs that had been planted by another police officer,” Davis said.
“And that’s a damn shame,” Davis continued.
Calls for a federal investigation
On Thursday, two Baltimore city councilmen called for the police department to turn over the investigation into Suiter’s unsolved killing to federal authorities, The Baltimore Sun reported.
The charges filed against Jenkins is not the first time this year that members of the Baltimore Police Department were accused of planting drug evidence.
In July, police body camera allegedly show an officer tampering with evidence by planting what appeared to be drugs in a yard filled with debris on Jan. 24. The footage purports to show one of the officers hiding a bag of drugs and then later “finding” the drugs while two other officers “look on and take no action,” the Maryland Office of the Public Defender said in a press release at the time.
In an emailed statement to ABC News, Smith said, “That alleged planting was a claim made by a defense attorney and there was nothing that corroborated the claim.”
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