Hoping to tamp down crime in a particularly troubled section of West Baltimore, city police and prosecutors have announced the indictment on drug conspiracy charges of nine people who they say have been terrorizing the neighborhood.
Though the charges do not connect the defendants to any specific acts of violence, State's Attorney Gregg Bernstein said investigators had "dismantled a major drug organization linked to historic and recent violence" in the Coppin Heights area.
"These kinds of narcotics operations invariably bring violence along with them," Bernstein said. "They are perpetuators of violence, they are targets of the violence, and sometimes both. As we have seen, innocent people are too often caught up in the crossfire."
The investigation took five weeks, which officials said was a quick turnaround time, and was focused on the 1600 to 1800 blocks of Ruxton Ave.
In the midst of the investigation, police reported at the time, two people were shot, one fatally, in those blocks over the course of two days in late August. Police Commissioner Anthony W. Batts said more than 60 violent crimes had occurred in those blocks since 2010.
Bernstein said the organization was led by Karon Shaw, 20. Shaw is known to prosecutors in Bernstein's administration. According to court records, Shaw was charged in November 2011 with shooting four people outside an after-hours club in the area, according to court records, but prosecutors dropped the case less than a year later.
Mark Cheshire, a spokesman for the state's attorney's office, said the only witness in the case fled the state and refused to cooperate.
In September 2012, Shaw was indicted on charges of drug distribution and illegal possession of a firearm. He posted $150,000 bond, and took a plea deal in May that resulted in a suspended prison term.
"We are relentless in pursuing individuals linked to violence," Cheshire said.
No lawyer was listed in court records for Shaw.
Also charged in the case are Montrel Smith, Mingo Watson, Franklin Henson, and Monica Rimmer. Authorities did not identify four other people charged, saying they had not yet been taken into custody. Court records remained under seal Friday, and named defendants had no lawyers listed in this case.
Bernstein said the defendants face drug conspiracy charges, "something seen more often on the federal side that allows us to introduce at trial additional criminal activity, which makes for stronger cases." He said the case grew out of a prosecution of two other men — Danny Fisher, 35, and Keith Thomas, 42 — in 2011 that resulted in convictions and 15-year prison terms earlier this year.
"Thereafter, the territory was taken over by associates who continued to distribute narcotics in the area," Bernstein said.
Maj. Sean Miller said officers with the Zone Enforcement Section and officers assigned to the Coppin Heights and Mondawmin neighborhoods had conducted covert drug purchases and surveillance. Miller said police have been meeting and have a plan for "stabilizing this area after the infestation has been removed."Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun