Baltimore prosecutor blocks release of Mondawmin unrest footage

Baltimore prosecutor blocks release of Mondawmin unrest footage

Nearly eight months after students and others clashed with Baltimore police near the Mondawmin metro station — a tense encounter that escalated to rioting, looting and arson — city prosecutors say they are still conducting investigations into individuals captured on surveillance footage from the scene.

Because of those investigations, the footage — which could shed light on one of the most crucial moments of the unrest — cannot be released, the office of Baltimore State's Attorney Marilyn J. Mosby says.

The Maryland Transit Administration recently denied The Baltimore Sun's request for footage from its network of cameras at the metro station on April 27, the day of the most serious rioting. The agency said that it had been in touch with Mosby's office about the Maryland Public Information Act request, and that her office asked the agency to withhold the footage because "inspection at this time would interfere with a valid and proper law enforcement proceeding."

Asked about the MTA's response, Tammy Brown, a spokeswoman for Mosby's office, said there are open investigations into individuals captured in the footage. She said she believes federal agencies also have open investigations based on the footage.

The MTA also denied two other requests. One sought footage from the metro station at the corner of Pennsylvania and North avenues on April 12, the day Freddie Gray was arrested and suffered a fatal spinal cord injury in a police van that stopped near the station. The other sought footage from the station on April 27, when rioting and looting broke out there not long after the clashes at Mondawmin.

The MTA cited a request by the state's attorney's office not to release the Penn North footage as well, citing ongoing investigations. Six Baltimore police officers have been charged in Gray's arrest and death, and the MTA footage could be used as evidence.

The MTA said releasing the Penn North footage could "reveal surveillance techniques, security systems, and technologies."

The denial of the MTA video stands in contrast to the city's release months ago of closed-circuit television footage from the Penn North intersection. Federal investigators used that footage and other images to bring charges against a Baltimore man in the arson of the CVS pharmacy there. That footage provided details of how the unrest escalated at the intersection — insight many have long sought about the Mondawmin situation as well.

Some, including the American Civil Liberties Union of Maryland and teachers from nearby Frederick Douglass High School, have criticized a decision to stop bus service to the Mondawmin station, which serves as a daily connecting point for students across the city. They said that decision left students stranded in an area that was swarming with police in protective gear, setting the stage for a confrontation.

Video from the MTA surveillance system might also show what happened inside the Penn North and Mondawmin stations, where some residents took refuge when the unrest erupted. According to police radio recordings released by the city, police had to rescue officers and civilians from the Penn North station.

krector@baltsun.com

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