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Video of Annapolis police interviews connected to 2017 murder leaked, circulated on social media

Videos of two people being interviewed by Annapolis police in connection to a 2017 homicide have been leaked and circulated on social media, raising concerns about the safety of the people in the clips and how the footage was leaked.

In an interview with The Capital, Annapolis Police Chief Ed Jackson confirmed Wednesday evening that the videos are genuine.

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Officials do not know the source of the breach, but the Annapolis Police Department has launched an internal investigation, Jackson said. The agency has called on local, state and federal law enforcement partners, all of whom are monitoring the investigation.

The leak does not appear to have been caused by a hack or a software breach, nor does it appear to have been released from inside the department, he said. “We haven’t had anything to suggest it was leaked from us.”

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Jackson said his investigators are only aware of two videos picturing two individuals who spoke to the police in connection with the homicide of 40-year-old George Forrester in January of 2017. Detectives are searching for more videos after allegations that someone threatened online to post more.

Lawrence Montague, 31, is serving 50 years in state prison after an Anne Arundel County jury convicted him of Forrester’s murder. He is appealing his conviction.

Cold case investigator Stanley Brandford, one of Jackson’s closest advisers, said the release of the videos appears to be a witness intimidation tactic.

“We’ve been in contact with the families and we are concerned," Jackson said. "And we’re going to do everything we can to protect them.”

Added Jackson: “We’ll meet their needs based on what they want, too.”

As with all investigations that lead to an arrest and charges, Jackson said his department turned over all evidence and information to prosecutors. Prosecutors are required to disclose evidence to defense attorneys so that the person charged can receive a fair trial, not a trial by surprise. Videos, notes and transcripts are often turned over in the legal process, known as discovery.

An Anne Arundel County jury convicted Montague of second-degree murder. He appealed the Circuit Court conviction to the Court of Special Appeals. Maryland’s second-highest court, it upheld the trial court’s conviction.

Now, Montague has asked the state’s top court, the Court of Appeals, to review his case. The status of the latest appeal is unclear, as well as who’s representing Montague.

The Capital reviewed two videos, the visual and audio quality of which are shoddy. Many words are unintelligible and the images distorted. However, police officials confirmed the people pictured in both clips, which have been circulated on social media sites Facebook and Instagram, were being questioned in interview rooms at the Annapolis Police Department on Taylor Avenue.

Brandford said neither person was suspected in the homicide, but that it’s common for detectives to question people who are brought in about their knowledge of various crimes, especially in a small city like Annapolis.

In one clip, a person can be heard referencing a man named “Love.” Love was a nickname Montague used in the drug trade. Police said Forrester died after trying to purchase drugs from Montague and presenting him with counterfeit currency.

Forrester was gunned down in Newtowne 20, which was at the time was embroiled in a violent conflict with the Bywater Mutual Homes community, a neighborhood located less than a mile away. The beef contributed to the deadliest 12-month stretch in the city’s history, which saw it record as many homicides. Forrester’s death capped off the spate of violence.

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A person pictured in the clips also referred to another homicide that occurred during that stretch. Charles Carroll Jr., 25, was fatally shot in the Bywater community in July of 2016. His case has yet to be solved but has been a focus for Brandford’s cold case squad, which Jackson instituted to crack stubborn cases.

In the video, the person is asked by a detective who killed “Butter.” Butter was Carroll Jr.'s nickname, according to the investigative file. Detectives have a few theories as to why he was gunned down. One centers on the fact that Carroll Jr. was friendly with both neighborhoods and that the Bywater crew got fed up. Asked who was responsible for the killing, the man in the video responded with a nickname for someone.

Jackson nor Brandford could confirm whether the department was aware of someone who went by that nickname.

Two men investigators believe to be responsible for Carroll’s killing are serving time in prison on murder conspiracy charges stemming from the fatal shooting of a man in a fake firearms deal in Glen Burnie. Prosecutors had trouble investigating the Glen Burnie murder, in part because of a lack of credible witnesses, and couldn’t convict them of premeditated murder.

All Carroll Jr.'s case is missing, investigators have said, is a witness.

The police officials said they’re concerned that the release of this video could have a chilling effect on the Annapolis community’s willingness to come forward to the police department with information about violent crimes.

Jackson wondered how the public would interpret the leak. He hopes that people won’t think that if they give information to police “that your information will be plastered all over social media.” He assured this was an isolated incident.

“We’re taking it serious, very serious," Jackson said. "We’re exhausting every resource to help us get to the bottom of this.”

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