Gun case follows multiple arrests

The Baltimore Sun

He has eight gun arrests and no gun convictions, but Tyrone Henderson was indicted yesterday on federal charges that could send him to prison with a life sentence.

Henderson, 23, has collected the most gun arrests - two of them this year - of anyone being tracked through Mayor Sheila Dixon's new GunStat project.

A federal grand jury returned a four-count indictment that includes using a gun during drug trafficking, cocaine distribution and two charges of illegal gun possession.

If Henderson is convicted on federal charges, Baltimore Police Commissioner Frederick H. Bealefeld III said, "That doesn't just send a message to him; his buddies see that. That's a huge win for all of us."

Yesterday's development follows a city prosecution oversight that allowed Henderson back on the streets after a gun arrest at the beginning of the year.

When city police searched Henderson's West Baltimore home in January, they found cocaine and packaging, according to court documents. They also found Henderson with a loaded .22-caliber semiautomatic handgun in his right hip pocket, the documents say.

City prosecutors called him "a danger to the citizens of Baltimore" and asked that he be held without bail. A judge set bail at $500,000 cash - akin to no bail - and he stayed in jail.

Then, on Feb. 13, a prosecutor dropped all of the charges in District Court.

City prosecutors said federal prosecutors had their eye on an indictment but had not taken the case.

Federal prosecutors have obtained indictments in 109 Baltimore gun cases in the first six months of the year. The federal system often hands out longer sentences and tough probation terms, but it can handle only a small fraction of the city's 700 or more annual gun and nonfatal shooting defendants.

Typically, city charges are not dismissed until after a federal indictment.

"In this case, there was an expectation that the federal government would move more quickly, and that this case would proceed on a federal track," said Margaret T. Burns, a spokeswoman for the city state's attorney's office.

She said a narcotics prosecutor, rather than a gun prosecutor, handled the case and was "under the mistaken impression that the case was in federal status," Burns said.

A routine seat-belt initiative landed Henderson in more trouble.

Officers conducting the check June 8 in the 2000 block of Pennsylvania Ave. saw a burgundy Honda Accord stop in the middle of the road, according to charging documents. An officer waved the car over, believing the driver was confused.

The 22-year-old female driver looked nervous, the officer wrote, and said she had a learner's permit. Henderson told the officer that he didn't have a driver's license.

After the two were ordered to pull over, the officer saw Henderson reach into the waistband of his pants, the documents say. He put his hands up and was arrested. Police seized a 9 mm Intratec handgun loaded with 35 rounds, the documents say.

Henderson was arrested, and prosecutors again recommended that he be held without bail, this time calling him "an extreme danger to the citizens of Baltimore." He has been in jail since then.

The federal indictment covers both arrests this year.

Paul Blair, president of the city police union, said the mistakenly dropped case shows that law enforcement agencies need to do a better job of working together.

"If you think the feds are going to pick up the case, you have got to make sure that the guy doesn't get out of jail before then," Blair said. "We wonder why we have all this violence in the city."

Before this year, city police had arrested Henderson at least nine times, court records show. Charges ranged from drug possession to first-degree murder.

His only adult conviction appears to be from a guilty plea April 2006 to a charge of drug distribution. He was sentenced to about five months in jail.

Court paperwork also shows a juvenile guilty finding for gun possession when Henderson was 15.

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