Locust Point 'shooting' lets youths learn about police work by doing it

The Baltimore Sun

The time is 3:30 p.m.

Mark Manureman, a maintenance supervisor, hears gunshots in a luxury loft on the 19th floor of Silo Point, a new condominium complex built in an old grain elevator in Locust Point.

The cops come and confront the nervous super.

"How old are you?"

He answers 34.

"Why are you shaking?"

"Because I saw something I've never seen before."

"What?"

"I saw a man, and I think he's dead. I didn't know what to do so I called 911."

Manureman is really Baltimore Police Officer Ron Teufer. The cops are 30 students from 11 recreation centers who are participating in a monthlong exercise to investigate a mock shooting in Apt. 125, from the discovery of the body to the trial of the suspect.

It's Friday night, and they really are high up in Silo Point, in a million-dollar condo filled with the latest kitchen appliances and granite countertops, and breathtaking views of the city and beyond.

And there's a body upstairs lying facedown next to the couch.

But at the moment, the teens don't seem too concerned. They are preoccupied with grilling the man who called the police.

"I suspect you are the one who did it," proclaimed Arrecka Bouknight, 13, just a tad prematurely.

Marie Sennett of the public defender's office helped develop the program to offer teens a new way of looking at law enforcement - for many, police are the ones who tell them to "move off the corner" - and to get new ideas for careers.

Already, some want to be police officers, attorneys and one even aspires to be a medical examiner. Assistant State's Attorney Erin McCarthy and four Southern District police officers also are participating.

The homicide detective is, of course, Sgt. Joe Friday, the responding officer is U.R. Not and the suspect is Joseph Bagman.

Southern District Officer Kevin Vaught staged the elaborate scene - he said he couldn't resist names such as Sgt. Joe Friday.

The case involves the death of a man who confronted his maintenance worker about sleeping in a model apartment and comes complete with a police report - No. 099B012345 - and detailed charging documents using standard police jargon:

"This writer observed victim Donald McDaniel lying on his back with his head facing north and feet pointing south, bleeding from the chest area."

Over the next month, the teens will meet with real city homicide detectives, tour the crime lab, discuss evidence with prosecutors, prepare a case and, on March 12, stage a trial in a real Baltimore courtroom.

The officers peppered the kids with questions and they talked about search warrants, suspects' rights to an attorney, whether police can lie to obtain information and when witnesses can be detained. They noted the apartment had surveillance tapes, and asked them how to go about getting copies.

Bouknight went after Teufer, the man who called police, with a vengeance, firing off a rapid series of questions before the man could answer.

"Do you know who did it?"

"No."

"You sure about that? You positive?"

Teufer finally stopped the inquisition and noted that none of the young cops in the room seemed interested in the body. Someone, he told them, should check on the man and see if he is indeed, dead.

The entire group then raced into the next room to find Officer Martin Runk sprawled on the floor. But no one stayed to guard their only witness, who disappeared.

"Not one person ordered me to stay," Teufer said. "If they need me, they'll have to come looking for me. I could be anywhere."

And so went the exercise - clue to clue, lesson to lesson.

They learned that you can't solve a case by leaning into the body and asking, "Who killed you?" as one girl did, even if the body is still breathing and answers back with a shrug.

Vaught asked what authorities would do with the pillow the victim's head was touching, and several said to take the whole thing to headquarters.

"What kind of evidence do you think you can find on it?" Vaught asked.

"Hair, skin, saliva," answered Mia Griffin, 18.

Vaught said he understands why some would balk at showing kids a homicide. But he said it's the one crime that involves every aspect of the criminal justice system - "where every piece of the puzzle has to come together."

"This is not about death," he told the students. "This is to show you what we do, investigate, make the scene talk to us. We will let you ask the questions and pick out the things you think you will need in court."

online

Find a gallery of photos at www.baltimoresun.com/teens and read Peter Hermann's crime blog at www.baltimoresun.com/crime

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