Witness: Baltimore Gun Trace Task Force officer brought him trash bags full of looted drugs amid 2015 riot

A Baltimore County bail bondsman testified Thursday that he partnered for years with the supervisor of the Baltimore Police Gun Trace Task Force to resell drugs the officer had taken off the street.

Donald C. Stepp, 51, said Sgt. Wayne Jenkins made near-nightly trips to his waterfront home in Baltimore County to drop off drugs — including once in the middle of the night during the rioting that followed the death of Freddie Gray.

Stepp said Jenkins pulled into his garage and removed two large trash bags full of prescription drugs that Jenkins said came from looted pharmacies.

Stepp was one of the latest in a string of more than two dozen witnesses testifying in the federal racketeering trial of two gun task force officers, Detectives Daniel Hersl and Marcus Taylor. Six officers, including Jenkins, have pleaded guilty in the case, and four of them are testifying for the government.

Stepp said Jenkins brought him into police headquarters, placed orders with him for equipment not authorized by the department, and brought him along on raids where the officers robbed people of thousands of dollars and drugs. Stepp had hundreds of images on his cell phone to back many of his accounts.

There was immediate fallout from his testimony: Sgt. Thomas E. Wilson III, an officer who is not charged in the case, was placed on administrative duties after Stepp testified that Wilson and Jenkins ran a side security business that provided protection for Stepp when he met with a New York drug supplier at a strip club. Wilson and Taylor were among the officers at the club, Stepp said.

Wilson, who was charged with perjury and acquitted by a city jury in 2014, has been reassigned pending an internal investigation, said Capt. Jarron Jackson, a department spokesman.

Wilson could not be reached for comment.

Stepp also testified that he committed several break-ins at Jenkins’ direction, including one in which an unidentified Baltimore County police officer was a participant.

“We are aware of the article but do not know any particulars of the incident alleged by Donald Stepp,” Baltimore County Police spokesman Cpl. Shawn Vinson said. “We will attempt to gain additional information that will assist us in conducting a complete investigation into this allegation.”

Lt. Gene Ryan, president of the city police department’s Fraternal Order of Police lodge, said he didn’t think Wilson should be suspended based on an allegation made at the trial. He said “allegations are made all the time.”

“I think they should let the investigation run its course and see where it goes,” Ryan said.

Stepp, who owns Double-D Bail Bonds, a company formerly located in downtown Towson, testified that he has been dealing drugs for years. Baltimore County authorities arrested Stepp in mid-December, after following a drug buyer leaving his property.

It is not clear whether Stepp was on federal authorities’ radar already, but he was indicted in U.S. District Court just days later. He pleaded guilty earlier this month and faces a minimum of 10 years in prison and a maximum of life, though the government could ask that his sentence be reduced as a result of his cooperation.

Stepp said he has known Jenkins’ brother for 40 years, and regularly played cards with city police officers. In late 2012 on a trip to a Delaware casino, Stepp said, Jenkins bluntly asked if he would be willing to help him sell drugs. Stepp said he felt protected dealing drugs because the officers he knew “owned the city.”

“I evaluate risk every day,” said Stepp, referring to his bail bonds work. “I thought it was a winner.”

Soon after, Jenkins began arriving at his home with all kinds of drugs, including types Stepp didn’t recognize.

“It was over the top, anything and everything,” he said.

Stepp kept a shed unlocked on his property, where Jenkins would drop off the drugs. When he had a particularly large haul, he would call Stepp and ask him to open the garage, as he did in April 2015 with the looted pharmaceutical drugs.

Federal authorities have said 27 pharmacies — about a third of the city’s pharmacies — and two methadone clinics were looted on the day rioting broke out. Nearly 315,000 doses of drugs were stolen, including powerful opioids, and police said in 2015 that they believed the influx of such drugs was helping fuel the city’s spike in violence.

In pleading guilty in the case, Jenkins admitted to a range of crimes, including reselling the looted drugs.

Stepp said he made more than $1 million selling drugs, and gave Jenkins between $250,000 to $500,000 over the years.

Stepp said Jenkins told him the Gun Trace Task Force was a group he had hand-picked to be a “front for a criminal enterprise.” He also said there were other officers from other units working with Jenkins, but he did not name any on the witness stand. Federal prosecutors have said their investigation with the FBI is continuing.

In addition to stealing items, Stepp said Jenkins identified big targets for them to rob or burglarize. Stepp said they tracked Kenneth “Kenny Bird” Jackson, well-known for his former alleged ties to the drug world, and broke into his silver Acura in a Sam’s Club parking lot and stole between $12,000 and $19,000.

Hersl’s defense attorney, William Purpura, seemed incredulous.

“You — you! — broke into Kenny Bird Jackson’s car?” Purpura said.

“No offense to Kenny Bird Jackson or any of the other people, but I didn’t know who they were,” Stepp said.

Jackson told The Sun on Thursday night that no such break-in occurred involving him. He said he planned to call federal prosecutors Friday.

“If he lied about me, he lied about everything. It’s probably all lies,” he said. “I never had a silver Acura, never had $19,000 [stolen].”

While Stepp offered captivating testimony about his crimes with Jenkins, his testimony had little to do with Hersl and Taylor. Stepp testified that Jenkins told him Hersl was “one of the most corrupt cops in Baltimore City,” and invoked Taylor’s name in one robbery at a storage unit.

But defense attorneys elicited admissions from Stepp that he never saw the officers on trial take money or drugs, and that Jenkins was prone to exaggerate what he told him.

Earlier in the trial, federal prosecutors displayed two large bags that were recovered from Jenkins’ vehicle. One was full of black clothing and masks, the other of tools such as crowbars, lock cutters, a machete, and a grappling hook attached to rope.

Stepp said Jenkins had him buy the items and other supplies, such as GPS tracking devices the officers used illegally. Prosecutors displayed Stepp’s Amazon order history showing those items.

Stepp testified that he held onto the photos documenting some of his interactions with Jenkins “as insurance.”

“I didn’t trust [Jenkins] toward the end. I was starting to worry about my life,” he said.

Stepp said he became nervous when he saw Jenkins and his unit had been arrested, but gradually got back into drug dealing using connections he had before linking up with Jenkins. At one point he took an expensive watch taken during one of Jenkins’ robberies, and threw it into the water behind his home. An FBI dive team recovered it, where it was displayed to its owner earlier this week in court for the first time since it was taken.

Baltimore Sun reporters Kevin Rector, Jean Marbella and Alison Knezevich contributed to this article.

jfenton@baltsun.com

twitter.com/justin_fenton

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