After flagging a police body cam video last month appearing to reveal officers planting drugs at a crime scene, the Baltimore Public Defender’s office recently placed a second body cam video under review that “appears to depict multiple officers working together to manufacture evidence.” Due to the dubious actions of the officers shown in the first video, at least 34 felony drug and gun cases have been dismissed while an additional 77 cases remain under review.
On January 24, Baltimore police officers had been conducting surveillance in an area known for drug dealing when they reportedly witnessed a drug deal but failed to record the transaction on their body cameras. After arresting the suspects, Officer Richard Pinheiro’s body camera began recording a video of him placing a baggie of pills into a metal can and hiding the narcotics beneath a pile of debris in an alley.
According to the video, Pinheiro waited on the sidewalk for nearly 30 seconds with officers Hovhannes Simonyan and Jamal Brunson before activating his body camera and returning to the alley in order to “find” the drugs. According to Axon, the manufacturer of the police body camera that recorded the video, their cameras automatically record 30 seconds of video without audio before the officers actively turn on their body cams.
After reviewing Pinheiro’s body cam footage, the prosecution dropped the charges against the defendants in the case. Pinheiro remains suspended from the department pending an internal investigation, while Brunson and Simonyan have been placed on administrative duty.
On Friday, Baltimore State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby announced that 34 felony drug and gun cases linked to the three officers have been dropped with further dismissals expected. During the press conference, Mosby also stated that a second police body cam video has been flagged and sent to the police department’s Internal Affairs division for review.
“The credibility of those officers has now been directly called into question,” Mosby said. “As I have stated before, it is incumbent upon us as prosecutors to be the ministers of justice, and to do what’s right in the pursuit of justice, over convictions, while simultaneously prioritizing public safety.”
On Tuesday, the Baltimore Public Defender’s office issued a description of the second video while refusing to release the footage to the public. The office declined to release the second video because the footage depicts a co-defendant of their client, who they do not legally represent.
“When the cameras come back on, one officer is seen squatting by the driver’s seat area. The group of officers then wait approximately 30 seconds,” the public defender’s office said in a recent statement. “Shortly thereafter, another officer asks if the area by that compartment has been searched. Nobody responds, and the officer reaches in and locates a bag that appears to contain drugs right by where the prior officer was, and where the car had been thoroughly searched about a half an hour prior with absolutely no results.”
Mosby’s office and police officials have refused to disclose the identities of the officers allegedly depicted planting drugs in the second video. According to police spokesman T.J. Smith, no officers have yet been reprimanded pending that investigation.
Last week, President Donald Trump openly encouraged members of the Suffolk County Police Department to deploy unconstitutional violent abuse against suspects during a speech at Long Island community college in New York. Last year, former Suffolk County Police Chief James Burke pleaded guilty to a civil rights violation and conspiracy to obstruct justice after beating a suspect in possession of a bag full of sex toys and other items stolen from Burke’s department-issued vehicle. On Thursday, Suffolk County Police Officer Christopher McCoy was arrested for violating the civil rights of a female arrestee by allegedly forcing her to engage in a sexual act at the precinct.