Rumors followed two officers

For 16 years, Waymon LeFall has watched his blighted West Baltimore neighborhood from a perch at the corner of Edmondson Avenue and Brice Street. And for years, he has heard about "King and Murray."

"They touched a lot of people around here," said LeFall, a barber whose shop sits on a street with more vacant houses than occupied ones, its residents all too familiar with the illegal drug trade. "Everybody's talking about it."

"King and Murray" are William A. King and Antonio L. Murray, two Baltimore City police officers arrested this week and charged with detaining criminal suspects, robbing them of their illegal drugs and money and then selling the drugs back on the street.

Police said their names were also mentioned on the infamous Stop Snitching video, which was produced last year. One of the officers' attorneys said this week that his client already knew his name had surfaced on the tape, which has exposed Baltimore's pervasive culture of drugs and crime.

However, it is the federal drug conspiracy charges announced this week against the two officers - partners in the Police Department and accused partners in crime - that have had the most surprising connection so far to an underground video in which participants threaten witnesses to crime.

The officers, who have not yet entered pleas, are scheduled to appear in federal court in Baltimore on Monday for a detention hearing. Defense lawyers familiar with the case said that prosecutors might have a difficult time proving their case if they rely on witnesses who have been charged with the same type of allegations facing King and Murray.

King "is a decorated veteran of Operation Desert Storm. He has put his life on the line for the Baltimore City Police Department for 10 years," his court-appointed attorney, Max Lauten, said yesterday. "At this stage, he is certainly deserving of the presumption of innocence."

A spokeswoman for the U.S. attorney's office declined to provide additional details on the case.

But Warren A. Brown, a criminal defense attorney who represented Murray in court this week, said that prosecutors told him that the scope of the investigation is much wider than what is alleged in the original indictment.

"They said, 'Tell your client to imagine that we were shadowing him like a student showing a visiting student around a new school. If he did something, assume we know about it,'" Brown said.

King and Murray could not be interviewed this week, and their family members declined to speak. However, interviews with their attorneys and others who know the men revealed a pair of police officers who remained close throughout their careers.

For more than a decade, King and Murray followed remarkably similar paths.

King graduated from Mergenthaler Vocational Technical High School in 1988 and Murray from Lake Clifton High School in 1989. King, who is divorced, served in the Army from 1988 until 1992 and now lives in Reservoir Hill.

Murray, who has two children, lives in suburban Abingdon and is married to a fellow police officer, now on paid administrative leave from the department.

The accused officers both joined the Police Department in 1992 - Murray in May and King in November.

They spent time in Central District, the Criminal Intelligence Section and a unit that swarmed over high-crime areas called the Firearm Apprehension Strike Team - Mobile Enforcement Team. In May 2003, King and Murray were detailed for 90 days to the Organized Crime Division, working on narcotics cases.

In December of last year, when the city Police Department assumed responsibility for patrolling Baltimore's public housing communities, King and Murray joined the new unit.

However parallel their careers, Murray was scarred by violence early.

On May 23, 1994, Murray, then 23, was dressed in plain clothes when he approached a man to question him about alleged drug dealing. Another man jumped Murray in the 800 block of Newington Ave., police said at the time.

During the struggle in the city's Reservoir Hill section, shots rang out. Murray was struck in the arm and lost his gun in a struggle.

The same 9 mm Glock pistol was used to kill a 26-year-old man eight days later.

In 1994, Blaine Robert Savage, then 34, was convicted by a jury of the assault, theft and murder. He received a sentence of 40 years in prison.

The violent ambush forced Murray off the job for about two years, Brown said. Murray still has damage to two fingers on his left hand from the shooting, the lawyer said.

In recent years, police officials said both men had been the subjects of confidential complaints to internal affairs. However, Police Commissioner Leonard D. Hamm said that those investigations were resolved without criminal action .

The latest internal investigation started by the police department against King and Murray started in the December. It joined up with a similar federal probe sometime later, officials said.

Prosecutors obtained a grand jury indictment against the officers on April 28. They immediately asked a magistrate judge to seal the document, fearful that the officers would find out, according to court documents.

Sources said that shortly before the indictment was unsealed on Wednesday, federal agents set a trap.

King, Murray and several other officers were asked to come to the FBI Baltimore area office in Woodlawn for a meeting about an unconnected case, according to two sources briefed on the investigation.

When the officers arrived, King and Murray, who were dressed in casual clothes, were separated from their colleagues and arrested.

That afternoon, a resident at a Reservoir Hill residential building on Eutaw Place said he saw six FBI agents in front of King's apartment.

"They told me to get back," he said. "They had their guns out."

Less information has been forthcoming about a third defendant in the case.

Federal prosecutors accused Antonio Mosby, 39, of serving as King and Murray's lookout and informant in the drug world. He has a string of past convictions for petty crimes, including drug possession. Brown said Murray called him his confidential informant.

Though indicted, Mosby has not yet been arrested, officials said. Interim Maryland U.S. Attorney Allen Loucks declined this week to say whether Mosby was in federal custody.

Rumors about the officers' activities in West Baltimore preceded their arrests by months, if not years. Even a local letter carrier said yesterday the pair were known "all over 21217," the neighborhood zip code.

Stop Snitching producer Rodney Bethea said he heard rumors of the allegations about King and Murray while making the DVD last year.

A review of the DVD shows a bearded man sitting on the front steps of a West Baltimore rowhouse last year talking about a rumor that allegedly linked neighborhood drug dealers to King and Murray.

Bethea said he quickly realized that many people around the area of Edmondson Avenue and Brice Street in West Baltimore believed the same thing.

"Everybody that's from that vicinity, they know," he said. "It's not a secret to the people in that area."

On the tape, the bearded man says of drug dealers: "The word is they work for King and Murray. ... Don't nobody go to trial. You dig what I'm saying?"

Bethea said his video "gave people a voice to let everybody know what was going on."

Brown said he understands why.

If the allegations are true, the defense lawyer said, illegal drug users and dealers would feel like King and Murray were disrespecting them. "They really get angry about it. They say, 'and there is nothing we can do about it,'" Brown said.

LeFall says he understands too. He lives above his shop. He too has been touched by the neighborhood's violence. His shop's glass windows have been shot out. A bullet hole is still in his television.

Inside his four-chair shop, police and drug dealers, he said, both get their hair cut.