On Monday, May 4, it looked like Penn North—and the city as a whole—might erupt into flames again when there were reports that police had shot a fleeing man in the back. It turns out that no one was shot and that a gun went off as the man tried to dispose of it. But the fact that the man in question was Robert “Meech” Tucker would surely have made things much worse had something serious gone down that day.
City Paper first became aware of Tucker—whose nickname is presumably a reference to Demetrius "Big Meech" Flenory, of the Black Mafia Family—on April 22, when he took a prominent role at the barricades around the Baltimore Police Department's Western District Precinct. Tucker, who claimed to be a cousin of Freddie Gray, stood on the barricade and led chants. He was up there with Rev. Westley West, Abdul Salaam, and other activists and community leaders. But Tucker's position was a bit different.
At one point he said, "Black Power, Black Power! Listen yo, listen. All that gang shit, all that reds and that blue shit, that shit out the window right now. Feel me. We going at them," he gestured at the police officers amassed behind him. "They our target, yo, we not each other's target no more. And this comin' from a real nigga to how many ever other real niggas. Stop killin each other. We gone kill these bitches." Then he says "Black Power. 276, I'm a bomb. I'm a guerrilla."
The numbers 2-7-6 refer to the Black Guerrilla Family gang (2=B, 7=G, 6=F). This is the first mention we can find to any kind of truce between the gangs—nearly a week before the Baltimore Police Department released a statement reading "The Baltimore Police Department/ Criminal Intelligence Unit has received credible information that members of various gangs, including Black Guerrilla Family, Bloods, and Crips have entered into a partnership to 'take out' law enforcement."
Tucker has a long history of criminal charges, primarily for possession of firearms, drugs, and assault. In 2011, according to police, he was observed on the Citiwatch camera engaging in a potential drug transaction at the 1600 block of West North Avenue, the corner of Pennsylvania and North avenues. When the patrol was dispatched, he fled. While he was running, according to police, he removed an object from his waistband and tossed it. The police department later determined that the object was a .380 caliber semiautomatic handgun.
Tucker's speech would not be the first time that the BGF mixed revolutionary fervor and cries for justice with criminal activity. The BGF was founded by the revolutionary leader and Black Panther George Jackson in a California prison in the late 1960s. But despite Jackson's revolutionary intent, the group—it considers itself an organization or family, rather than a gang—quickly turned to drug dealing in order to fund its other enterprises.
Still, the group has a long history of couching its criminal enterprises in the guises of legitimacy. Eric Marcell Brown and his former wife Deitra Davenport incorporated a publishing company, Dee Dat Publishing, in order to publish "The Black Book: Empowering Black Families and Communities." Though the "Black Book" endorses self-empowerment, Brown and Davenport were indicted in 2009 and later convicted for violence, extortion, prison smuggling, and drug dealing. City Paper has done extensive reporting on the efforts of BGF members to "claim redemption and profess to work for reductions in gang-related violence and crime."
But Tucker never quite claimed legitimacy, even if he has had a certain ubiquity. When City Paper spoke to him at the City Hall rally just before the Saturday April 25 fracas at Camden Yards, he said that yes, he was BGF and yes, there was a gang truce. He said they'd held a meeting with "a thousand people," a claim which hardly seems plausible.
Tucker went momentarily viral when he was photographed dancing with a rabbi during the celebrations after Baltimore City State's Attorney Marilyn Mosby announced that all six officers involved in the death of Freddie Gray would face charges.
The following Monday, a Fox News anchor reported that he watched a man, who turned out to be Tucker, get shot in the back. On the scene, others were saying they saw the officer shoot him.
In the police report, obtained by the Sun's Justin Fenton, Officer Ricardo Ojeda says he was told by a concerned citizen that "a black male wearing a gray and white shirt with a blue and white jacket tied around his waist and jeans was carrying a handgun on his person at the area of W. North Ave and Pennsylvania Ave," the same location he had been picked up with a gun in 2011.
Ojeda says that he contacted a Citiwatch operator who "advised that he was watching the individual I described and the individual was constantly displaying characteristics of an armed person." He called the Foxtrot helicopter to the area in addition on-the-ground backup. When a patrol car pulled up in front of the curb where Tucker was standing and Ojeda got out, he reports that Tucker began to run westbound on North Avenue. "I then gave chase. The individual kept reaching and holding his dip area (front waistband)," Ojeda writes. "I then observed him take and throw a black handgun to the ground from his dip. When the handgun hit the ground, it discharged one round, and the individual fell to the ground," and was placed under arrest.
According to Ojeda's report, a crowd began to throw "bricks, water bottles, bleach bottles, and cups" at the officers. Tucker, meanwhile, "began to scream and carry on as if he was injured and/or shot."
When City Paper arrived at the scene, it was quite tense and people affiliated with gangs said they felt they were being targeted by police, who are shown on video spraying several people on the scene with mace or pepper spray.
Tucker was brought to the University of Maryland Medical Center. State Sen. Catherine Pugh, who says she had no idea he claimed a gang affiliation, intervened and made it possible for Tucker to see his family before he was taken in and booked. "He was laying there in tears," Pugh recalls. "I asked him if he was OK and he said that he was. He said that he was scared. They were kind enough to let him see his mom and I explained to the officers that his mother was ill and he wanted to see her and let her know that he was OK."
In a Real News Network video of the encounter, Tucker's mother, whose name is not given, approaches her son, who seems to be in tears. She asks, "Why his face keep twitching?"
Someone else, it is unclear who, says, "he can't talk."
He leans forward and kisses his mother before he's taken to jail.
"I'm hoping he's OK, because I don't know what condition he might be in. Because I have never seen my child like that when he gets locked up—"
"He's been arrested before?" the interviewer asks.
"All the time," Tucker's mother responds. "Yes, he gets arrested and I've never seen my child cry."
She says that even when he was pushed off a stolen dirt bike by police, he did not cry.
Pugh says he called her the next morning from the detention center—a location once brutally controlled by the BGF's Tavon White. "He asked if I would come and see him and I went down and had a short conversation with him about his life and what he wanted to do with it. He said he wanted to do better, he said he wanted to be in auto repair business. He has three children."
The Baltimore Police Department has not responded to City Paper's questions as to whether the speech that Tucker gave at the barricades on Wednesday, April 22, were the source of their credible threat. But Tucker's activities of May 4 are consistent, down to the location, with his previous behavior when confronted by police while carrying a firearm.