Baltimore City Police, Don’t Forget the Shooting You Ignored from 2009

In the past five years, state police abuse has run rampant. The viral footage of police officers committing senseless acts of beatings, killings, and brutalization has become a staple on media platforms from YouTube to internet-based memes. However, there is one thing that is, for a lack of a better term, under published; the statistical and realistic outcome of the Baltimore City Police Department (BCPD) not murdering an individual, but solving the murder of another individual’s own doing – homicide investigation. To put it bluntly, between 2011 and 2013 the Baltimore City Police Department solved a laughable 48 to 50 percent of committed murders.

April 28, 2015  Baltimore, Maryland
April 28, 2015 Baltimore, Maryland

If that’s not a screw-up in the allocation of resources per department, I’m not sure what is. Collected in 2013 by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), statistics show that the state of Maryland, as a whole, is still high on the murders list with 50 percent going unsolved.

In fact, to put things into perspective, by August of 2014 the murder toll in Baltimore had risen to 137 total. At the same time, the BCPD had “nearly” 100 unsolved murders ahead of them putting their homicide crime-solving rates under 50 percent. Justin Fenton wrote for the Baltimore Sun, “The homicide unit’s clearance rate has sagged to 43 percent,” in August of 2014. The rate murders are solved is the other epidemic that media pundits are not facing since the aftermath of riots.

Yes, you read that correctly. Over half the murderers in Baltimore city in the year 2014 were still on the streets in August of the same year.  By no means should you feel like you need to go metal bar your windows, but by golly, that isn’t a very reliant statistical number to have over your department’s head. Unfortunately, these statistics go unseen in today’s debate over policing. As more begin to uncover the depths at which the police murder, it should be noted that on the back-end police lack the ability to solve them too.

This is where police negligence takes us to a story about a hard-working family. One that the everyday American wouldn’t expect to see involved in a murder-related family investigation, or as the Baltimore City Police Department ruled it, suicide. [Honoring the family’s request, I’m not going to use their actual names, given the nature of what took place and the unresolved dispute they have with the BCPD. In the following story, I’ll use “Smith” to replace the family’s last name, and refer to the family member I interviewed as “Sister.”]

In the summer of 2008, an eager family, both of Iranian and Honduran descent, was headed from Nevada to Baltimore in an attempt to introduce their first and only son as a new man, his own individual, to the game we call life. For the Smith’s intentional plans and goals, what was to result later on in their short stay was completely unpredictable. The family would leave ten months later the following summer having gone through one of the most tempering and upsetting moments of their lives.

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Leaving the dad behind so the family business could stay afloat, the Smiths — consisting of “mom, Brother and Sister” began a relatively normal life in Maryland. With Sister, the youngest sibling, attending a public school in the northern Baltimore County neighborhoods, the oldest one, Brother,  going to the University of Baltimore, and mom-in-command employed at the family’s business and working from a mobile office, all worked together to maintain stability and happiness.

As the family’s first December winter came around in Baltimore, Brother decided it was time that he find an apartment and live on his own which also made sense because his Nevada-based girlfriend was looking to join him in the new adventure. Once moved, the apartment furnished and occupied consisted of Brother, his girlfriend and a private roommate who we will keep nameless as well. Aside from going to classes, Brother also worked at an Iranian restaurant as a server. His girlfriend was a hostess in the city of Baltimore.

On the night of June 19th, 2009, Brother, his girlfriend, and two unidentified people, one male and one female only known as “Sarah”, went to the upstairs of another apartment in the same building which was owned by Brother’s friend, whose name is Rustam. According to the account from Sister, based off the pictures from the night of Rustam’s party, her brother appeared reserved and what looked as being possibly be upset.

Displayed in the pictures is a photo of the brother’s girlfriend sitting on the lap of another unidentified man and, according to Sister, the girlfriend “was laughing” in the slew of the moment. While not considered evidence of any wrongdoing or murder, the pictures give the family a visual of June 19th’s long night, which they strongly, but healthily believe was something far more complicated than what allegedly took place.

During the party and throughout the night, the police reported he drank about eight ounces of Jack Daniels, which to many 20-year-old college types, isn’t a whole heck of a lot of alcohol for party time. Within an hour and twenty minutes of walking out of that party the 9-11 call was made. The police reported that at 2:00am Brother and his girlfriend were with the same pair from earlier in the night going back to the brother’s apartment.

[What readers need to understand is that to this day the girlfriend, who moved back to Nevada and now currently resides in California under a new full name (at least on the internet), has refused to write down her full story since the night of the shooting.]

line-bannerSister said, “There’s a lot of conflicting stories from my brother’s girlfriend because she told different ones to different people.” Going off the story Sister provided to us, apparently her brother and his girlfriend were in some sort of verbal confrontation before Brother walked into his bedroom, took the .12-gauge shotgun he recently bought, puts the barrel end between the top of his right eyebrow and the bridge of his nose, and takes one shot. Brother was still alive after the shot before being pronounced dead at the hospital, not in the apartment.

At 2:00AM, the group walked down to their apartment, at 3:20AM “9-11” was dialed and by 4:20AM Brother was pronounced dead in the hospital. These are the facts the family does know. However, there are many, many more things the family does not know.

To break down discrepancies, holes, and unscrupulous behavior, we start with the “9-11” call and the police report. The police report explains that only the girlfriend and the brother were in the apartment upon arrival and that no one else was in the apartment during the time of the shooting. However, in the “9-11” call the family obtained, it is recognizable that there is at least a second female in the background that’s heard screaming. Sister is not sure whether that female is “Sarah” or another individual.

Once the brother was officially announced dead at 4:20 in the morning, the girlfriend had only phone-dialed his family once for which they did not wake up.  This would be the only call made from the girlfriend to his family after the shooting took place. Four hours after Brother was announced dead, the family was greeted at the door by Baltimore City Police Detective Shawn Reichenberg who I reached out for contact. Reichenberg is actively working at the BCPD, but according to another detective, “is not under our command.

Any attempt to reach Detective Reichenberg failed based on simple negligence by the Baltimore City Police Department.

This again is where details are loopy. The BCPD detective, according to the mom, relayed everything the girlfriend explained to Reichenberg to the family. In fact, when the family was given the girlfriend’s account and final story stating, “They had an argument, the (brother) was distraught and had been drinking, and went into the bedroom and fired it at himself,” they didn’t cry. The family said that they were more shocked and in disbelief than anything.

Sister explained to us that when their family reacted to the officer’s news, they had a million unanswered questions, and not one answer. There was sadness over the family of course, but the family also wanted one thing: transparency. Amazingly, in this story there really isn’t any transparency in any sequence of the story because of the Baltimore City Police Dept.’s refusal to investigate. The detective even asked the mom why she was not crying, as he stood in the doorway at their home in Timonium.

Following Detective Reichenberg’s delivery to the family, the disingenuous homicide detective more than likely sped over to the hospital where the deceased brother was now held, and allegedly requested the hospital to sign a death certificate within an hour of talking to the family in Timonium, Maryland – a hefty 30 minutes from the city. To this day, the family is not sure why the detective did this, and the detective will provide no further details.
As Sister said, “We have a document that was requesting to transfer his body to the coroner’s office but after Shawn left our house he went back to the university hospital and forced the doctors to sign the death certificate so that there could be no autopsy and the body wouldn’t be able to go to the coroner’s.

When the family discovered the discrepancy in the case, they asked Detective Reichenberg why there were moves not made in the case, to which he replied, “The case is closed, and there is no more to discuss.

It should be noted that the father was actually already on a road-trip to Maryland because of planned family events, and arrived at 9:30AM that morning. Once at the condo in Timonium, the family gave him the news and soon after asked for Detective Reichenberg. When the detective and father were face-to-face, the father asked about the autopsy results and how the results could provide more detail into what happened. Unfortunately, the detective overruled the words of the family and said the investigation has been ruled a suicide-related shooting.

The father pressed the lead investigator, Detective Reichenberg, asking about gun residue tests, other people in the apartment, the girlfriend’s story, the party they went to, and more. The murder on Dolphin St. of 2009 hasn’t pressed the detective though, as there has never been any re-opening to the investigation, despite pleas from the family.

Baltimore police arrest man after march to City Hall
Baltimore police arrest man after march to City Hall

Speaking to the father, he told me personally that the family has never been able to receive closure for what happened. The shooting investigation scene was never preserved and investigated; it was simply stepped on and forgotten — at least by the Baltimore City Police Department. The father told me that when the family tried to investigate themselves, using a .12 gauge to point at the bridge between their nose and right eyebrow, no one was able to successfully fit the gun between their head, in extension with pulling the trigger in proper location of the barrel line. Their son was 5’6”, and to their description, a short-armed young man.

An important piece of evidence was also missing from the crime scene: their son’s old memories. That piece of evidence was the lock and key to his gun safe, which they have not found to this day. The father reminded me of this during a phone call about the investigation and oversight of what happened.

Oddities litter the BCPD’s “investigation”, and so do personal accounts from the family via a run-in while packing the brother’s belongings after the alleged “suicide”, specifically with one of the friends that the (brother) saw that night. Remember the neighbor who had the party? Rustam? Well, they would meet Rustam eventually, one day in the apartment area of where the (brother) lived, and when the family asked what had happened that night, the individual “squirmed a little and couldn’t really look us in the eyes” according to accounts by the (sister). The apartment neighbor offered no detail into what led to the shooting at 3:00am.

In the aftermath of the murder, run-ins with the girlfriend and others involved, and the eventual move back to Nevada, the family has never really healed from that morning. Although routines, life and events go on, there is something missing to their world that was unexpectedly taken in June of 2009.

As the days and months played mission creep with the family, the mother finally decided to give Detective Reichenberg another call just in case there were any new leads or possibilities. On the other end of the phone though was a Detective who again, was not concerned about really doing his job, at least in any sense of investigating her son’s death. The mother told me that Reichenberg was remembered word-for-word saying, “Ma’am I am a Christian, and when I die and go to Heaven I’ll ask [name redacted] then.

Since the day the mother talked to Detective Reichenberg, the family has been mostly defeated by a city police department unwilling to do their task of investigation and a group of individuals that refuse to offer any explanation into the night of June 20th, 2009.

Today in May 2015, the family is at least on the right track with life having had to bounce back from something never once thought possible in their lives. As sweet as it would be to feel revenge and mercy for their son’s death, the father told me that no amount of revenge would aid this situation, believing that only truth and justice were important at this time. One thing is for sure though, we could very well be looking at a case of murder that the Baltimore City Police Department has simply swept under the rug, for whatever reasons or motives, and has told the family to kick rocks.

If the state police can’t stop murdering at the rates they manage to do, can they at least begin to solve legitimate, criminal acts nearly as fast? That is something unknown; maybe if the state police had responded to the Dolphin St. shooting in June 2009 with intent to investigate, we would know an answer to that question today.

[Update: The family had tried to file a lawsuit against the BCPD, but were told by their lawyers it would be a non-starter]

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