Recorded on police body cam video appearing to plant drugs at a crime scene, a Baltimore police officer was indicted this week on charges of misconduct and fabricating evidence. Although the officer claims that the video depicted a re-enactment of him finding the drugs, the police body cam video appears to show the cop planting the drugs inside a can before “finding” the evidence a few seconds later.
On January 24, Baltimore Police Officer Richard Pinheiro’s body camera began recording a video of his hand gripping a baggie containing several white pills. After placing the small cellophane bag into an empty can, Pinheiro hid the can beneath a pile of debris in an alley before walking with officers Hovhannes Simonyan and Jamal Brunson to the sidewalk.
Thirty seconds after the video begins, Pinheiro’s hand can be seen activating his body camera as he tells Simonyan and Brunson, “I’m going to check here. Hold on.”
As his cohorts laugh in the background, Pinheiro enters the alley and pretends to search for the bag of pills for a moment before “discovering” the baggie inside the can that he just placed there.
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. The feature allows officers to record video evidence that may occur before the officer has a chance to activate their body cam.
Shortly after the video surfaced in July 2017, Pinheiro was suspended without pay. On Tuesday, he was charged with police misconduct and tampering with evidence.
“Officer Pinheiro simply tried to document the recovery of evidence with his body-worn camera that he had previously recovered,” Pinheiro’s attorney Michael Davey told The Baltimore Sun. “This is just another overreach by the Baltimore State’s Attorney’s Office, and an attempt to prosecute a police officer when there’s no evidence to do so.”
“It’s critical we remain transparent throughout the process to the extent the law allows as we continue to rebuild community trust,” State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby said in a statement on Wednesday. “Yesterday’s indictment is another example of our office applying justice fairly and equally.”
If convicted of tampering with evidence, Pinheiro could face a maximum sentence of 3 years imprisonment and a $5,000 fine. Because police misconduct is a common law offense, the court can impose any penalty that does not constitute cruel and unusual punishment.
“The officers did exactly what I and the community expect of them: to go out and make legal arrests based on sound probable cause,” former Baltimore Police Commissioner Kevin Davis told The Baltimore Sun. “I will not be a bystander when my police officers are doing what I and my commanders expect them to do in this crime fight.”
Mayor Catherine Pugh fired Davis last week, citing the city’s continuing violence.