A Baltimore Police Department homicide unit sergeant was ordered held without bail Friday after allegedly extorting, kidnapping and threatening to arrest a home contractor whose work he was unhappy with and whom he drove to a bank to withdraw money for a refund.
Three other homicide unit detectives were present at one point during the confrontation, and the department said a preliminary review indicates all were on duty at the time.
“You are going to give me my money back, and I’m going to give you freedom,” Sgt. James Lloyd told the contractor, according to charging documents.
The Baltimore Sun was unable to reach the contractor for comment.
Lloyd, 45, of Gwynn Oak, was arrested and ordered held without bail by a Baltimore County District Court judge. Baltimore Police Commissioner Michael Harrison said Lloyd would be suspended without pay and an internal affairs investigation has been launched.
The other three officers have not been charged with a crime, but Harrison said their police powers were suspended and they were assigned to administrative duties, continuing to collect pay. Lloyd identified them to county investigators as Juan Diaz, Manuel Larbi and Troy Taylor, according to charging documents.
The department said Harrison had taken “swift and decisive action to the maximum state law allows.” His chief of staff, Eric Melancon, said the state Law Enforcement Officers Bill of Rights limited the commissioner’s options.
“The public demands a level of accountability that the commissioner can only give to a certain extent because of those laws,” Melancon said in a brief interview.
The charges stem from a dispute about a home improvement job, Baltimore County police said. Charging documents show the incident occurred June 25 and was reported to county police the same day.
Lloyd, a 21-year veteran of the city police department who was the lead detective on the investigation of the death of Detective Sean Suiter, was upset with a patio that a contractor had built, county police say.
He demanded a refund and confronted the contractor with information about his driver’s license being suspended, saying he could arrest him, according to charging documents. Then, authorities said, he made the victim get into Lloyd’s car. The victim told police that he feared being arrested and complied with Lloyd’s demands of going to the bank and getting a certified check for the refund, officials said.
At a bail review hearing Friday, defense attorney Matthew Fraling told Baltimore County District Court Judge Kimberly Thomas that the matter should be a civil issue and not criminal, saying it all stems from “poor construction” by contractor on a new patio.
“I agree 100% this should have stayed a civil matter,” replied county prosecutor Thomas Kane. “The defendant made certain decisions which grossly changed the character of the interaction with the victim.”
Fraling asked that Lloyd be released on his own recognizance, while Kane asked the judge to set “some monetary bail.” Thomas, however, said Lloyd posed a threat to public safety and ordered him held.
Some time after the Suiter case was essentially concluded by the department, Lloyd moved to the homicide operations unit, which tracks down witnesses for detectives.
Suiter was shot in the head on Nov. 15, 2017, while conducting a follow-up investigation of a homicide in West Baltimore. Police have said they believe he was shot with his own gun at close range, and police now consider his death to be a suicide. It remains classified as an unsolved homicide, however.
Lloyd’s arrest comes amid increased scrutiny of police conduct locally and nationwide following the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis at the hands of police. Floyd’s death, which occurred after a police officer knelt on his neck for nearly nine minutes, sparked widespread protests demanding sweeping police reforms and calls to defund department budgets.
Last year, Lloyd made a base salary of $101,000 but with overtime grossed more than $138,500, according to the city’s salary database. Larbi earned a base salary of $80,300 and $140,500 with overtime; Taylor made $135,000 with overtime on top of a salary of $91,800; and Diaz made $129,900 with overtime and a salary of $87,200.
County police wrote in charging documents that the victim said he and his crew were doing work on another home in May when Lloyd stopped and asked if he could build a patio at his residence. He said they agreed on a price quote of $7,000.
Lloyd contacted the man later and said some of the patio stones had come apart, and that Lloyd’s wife or girlfriend wanted the patio to be much larger. The victim said he told Lloyd he wanted another $1,400 for the work.
When the victim arrived, Lloyd was upset and said “we have problems.” He asked to see the victim’s driver’s license, and when the victim asked why, Lloyd flashed his police badge, according to charging documents. The victim said he saw a gun on Lloyd’s hip underneath his suit jacket. He said Lloyd pulled out a folder, showed the victim a picture of himself and asked if he knew his driver’s license was suspended. Lloyd told him he could have him arrested and his vehicle towed, officials said.
The victim said a second officer joined Lloyd. Lloyd said he wanted $3,500 of his money back, county police said.
Two other officers then entered the backyard with their badges and handguns openly displayed, charging documents said.
The victim said he “became afraid for his safety due to the aggressive tone of the conversation, the threat of his arrest along with the visible police badges and firearms,” county police wrote in charging documents.
Lloyd drove the contractor to a bank, and had him withdraw a cashier’s check for $3,500 while holding onto the man’s driver’s license, county police said. The man said he told Lloyd he didn’t want any problems, and that Lloyd allegedly responded: “Problem would be if I take you in the woods.”
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County police pulled phone records, bank records and surveillance footage from the bank to confirm the contractor’s account. Lloyd spoke with investigators Wednesday and said he was “not pleased” with the patio work and the victim agreed to repay him, county police said in charging documents. He acknowledged conducting a background check and learning that the man’s driver’s license was suspended for non-payment of child support.
The victim reached out to a friend who is a Prince George’s County police lieutenant for advice on what to do about the incident, police said.
In a statement, Baltimore Mayor Bernard C. “Jack” Young said he was “utterly sickened and appalled by the allegations against members of the Baltimore Police Department.”
“I have spoken with Commissioner Harrison and I am fully supportive of the actions he’s taken to address those involved. Any allegations of illegal acts committed by a member of the department will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law,” Young, a Democrat, said. “We have a police force full of men and women who take serious their oath to protect and serve. We will not stand for any members who violate this sacred promise or the public’s trust.”
Brandon Scott, the City Council president and Democratic candidate for mayor, said the incident was “exactly what erodes trust in the Baltimore Police Department.”
“The type of abuse of power reported also undermines our police department’s ability to solve homicides in a city that continues to be plagued with violence,” Scott said in a statement.
The Fraternal Order of Police, which has been locked in public battles with city officials, did not issue a statement about the case.