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Suspected weapon in child shooting found in city officer's vehicle

A Baltimore police officer has been suspended for his "conduct" in the aftermath of the shooting of a 13-year-old girl, and after the weapon police suspect was used in the crime was found in his personal vehicle, according to law enforcement sources.

Police investigators believe the off-duty officer, whose name was not released, was in a relationship with a relative of one of the juvenile suspects charged Monday with involuntary manslaughter, sources said. Investigators are trying to determine whether he advised the juveniles after the shooting occurred.

Police spokesman Anthony Guglielmi confirmed the officer's suspension but declined to provide more details. The officer continues to be paid pending the filing of administrative or criminal charges.

The victim's mother and aunt said they are outraged by the new allegations, calling for the officer to be fired and suggesting that police could have found the teenaged Monae Turnage more quickly. She was found under trash bags in Northeast Baltimore nearly 20 hours after she was reported missing; it's unclear when she died.

The revelations cast a pall on a police department working to burnish its image after several scandals. In the past year, one officer has been charged with dealing drugs from a station house parking lot and more than a dozen officers have been convicted in a kickback scheme involving a car-repair and towing company.

Grayling Williams, a former Homeland Security official brought in this year to revamp the Police Department's internal disciplinary investigations, appeared Tuesday night at a community meeting inBelair-Edison— not far from where Monae was killed — and referred to recent police scandals but not the officer's suspension.

"I want to stress to you my commitment to looking at police misconduct and police corruption," he told the crowd of about 25 people.

Authorities said they are researching who owns the gun believed to have been used in the shooting — a .22-caliber rifle designed as a replica of an AK-47 assault rifle — and whether any adults could be criminally charged in the case.

Police on Monday charged two boys, ages 12 and 13, with shooting Monae once in the chest while playing with the rifle on Saturday night. Police said the youths dragged the girl's body outside, across an alley and hid it under trash bags in a backyard.

A woman who answered the door at the house in which the shooting occurred — in the 1600 block of Darley Avenue — declined to comment and referred questions to an attorney.

Relatives of the girl said one of the young suspects called the victim's mother twice, once telling her Monae was on her way home, and then again to ask if she had arrived. When the girl did not get home by 1 a.m. Sunday, the mother called police.

Family members searched all day Sunday until Monae's 16-year-old brother found the body about 6 p.m. Police then questioned the youths and charged them as juveniles on Monday. Investigators do not release the names of suspects charged with juvenile offenses.

Monae's relatives said they knew that one of the suspect's relatives was involved with a city police officer, and they said that if the officer knew anything, he should have notified authorities immediately. Upon hearing that the officer had been suspended, the mother, Edith Turnage, said, "They need to fire him, not suspend him."

Monae's relatives have complained that police were not aggressive enough after she called 911 to report Monae missing, prompting the family to conduct their own search that led to the body.

"I honestly believe in my heart that had police gone to that address when we reported her missing, and they had searched for her, she might have been found still alive," said Monae's aunt, Patricia Marshall.

Guglielmi described the young girl's death to the media as an "unspeakable tragedy," one so horrific that seasoned homicide detectives had trouble coping. Several rank-and-file police officers said Tuesday they also were angered that the officer's suspension could further tarnish the agency's reputation.

Robert F. Cherry, president of Baltimore's Fraternal Order of Police, said he had not been advised of the allegations by the Police Department brass and could not comment. A lawyer for the union, Michael Davey, declined to comment Tuesday night before he had had a chance to talk with the accused officer.

Police on Tuesday provided more details on the initial search for Monae. Guglielmi said the officer arrived at the Turnage house about 1:30 a.m. Sunday and took a report, noting that Monae had left to go roller skating with two friends but never made it because one didn't have enough money to get into the rink near White Marsh. Monae was wearing purple jeans and a blue-jean jacket.

The officer contacted one of the youths Monae was with — the report does not say whether by phone or in person — and was told that Monae had left the Darley Avenue rowhouse hours earlier in an unknown direction.

Guglielmi, reading from the report, said the officer went to the Darley Avenue address and knocked on the front door, but got no response. The officer notified the missing persons unit and put out a citywide dispatch to all officers with Monae's description.

It is unclear what time Monae was shot, and at what time her body was dragged to the alley. It's also unclear if anyone was home when the officer first went to the Darley Avenue home.

justin.fenton@baltsun.com

peter.hermann@baltsun.com

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