City officials urged patience Wednesday as Baltimore police investigate an officer's conduct after the shooting death of a 13-year-old girl, and the new police commissioner said he hoped the probe would conclude soon.
Officer John A. Ward will not face criminal charges in the March death of Monae Turnage, prosecutors said this week, a decision rendered two months ago but not announced to the public. As that investigation began following the shooting, a law enforcement source said police had found the rifle used to kill Turnage in Ward's personal car.
State's Attorney Gregg L. Bernstein declined Wednesday to go beyond remarks that his office lacked information to move ahead with a criminal case against Ward, who was engaged to a half sister of one of the teenage suspects.
"I don't want to get into details of particular cases," Bernstein said.
One of Turnage's friends has admitted to accidentally shooting her and another admitted helping to move her body, which was found hidden under trash bags in a Northeast Baltimore alley about 20 hours after she was reported missing. Both juveniles admitted responsibility in May.
Officials pointed to the internal police probe of Ward, which could not begin until after the criminal investigation. Ward's police powers were suspended, and he has been assigned to administrative tasks.
Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake said she was affected as a mother by the incident.
"The thought of the allegations, it was hard to imagine the pain that would cause that family," Rawlings-Blake said. "She was a beautiful, beautiful girl who lost her life tragically and senselessly. While the state's attorney has declined to prosecute, the officer is still on administrative leave and that process is ongoing."
During his first appearance at the city's Criminal Justice Coordinating Council, Police Commissioner Anthony W. Batts said Wednesday that he hoped the findings of the internal investigation "will be coming to me soon."
Police have a year from the date of the Aug. 6 notification by Bernstein to complete an internal investigation. Departmental probes are confidential. An officer found to have violated the agency's policies may face disciplinary measures, said police spokesman Anthony Guglielmi.
Christie Needleman, an attorney who has represented Ward, did not return calls for comment Wednesday. Early in the case, she said that there were "two sides to every story."
Edith Turnage, Monae's mother, said Wednesday that she knew nothing about a departmental investigation into Ward, and was disappointed in the result of the criminal probe.
She has also expressed frustration with the handling of the juveniles accused in the case. The 13-year-old who admitted to involuntary manslaughter was given an indefinite commitment to a juvenile treatment facility. The 12-year-old who told authorities he helped move the body was being monitored by Department of Juvenile Services workers while residing with a relative in Harford County.
Turnage has expressed frustration that officials did not notify her that Ward would not be charged. Mark Cheshire, a spokesman for the city prosecutor, said Wednesday that the office did not fulfil its commitment to communicate with victims and their families in this case, and would reach out to her.
One adult has been charged in connection with the fatal shooting. Police alleged that the rifle belonged to Martinez Armstrong, 21, a relative of one of the boys.