Dana Hayes said police have been trying for more than a year to link him to his stepfather’s 2020 killing.
Still, the 37-year-old accountant applied for a job with the Baltimore Police Department. A Morgan State University graduate, Hayes was hired as the agency’s chief of fiscal services. His first day was April 11.
Nine days later, Hayes said, detectives handcuffed and searched him at police headquarters when he showed up for work Wednesday morning.
Later that day Police Commissioner Michael Harrison announced that he fired Hayes because a background check failed to turn up an old gun charge and he was a “person of interest” in a homicide investigation. Hayes has not been charged.
“I was detained in front of my colleagues like a criminal,” Hayes said in an exclusive interview with The Baltimore Sun.
Hayes said he did not kill his stepfather and his gun charges, which date to 2018, were expunged in 2021 after he completed probation.
Ricky Jones, Hayes’ stepfather, was shot multiple times July 26, 2020, in Northwest Baltimore. Hayes owned a real estate business, D&L Investment Properties, and said Jones worked for him at the time. Hayes said he has told police on several occasions he did not kill his stepfather, but thinks police are investigating him because he was the last person to talk to Jones.
“What motive would I have?” he said. “He never did anything to harm my mother. He never did anything to make us feel unsafe.”
At around 5 a.m. Feb. 24, detectives executed a search warrant at Hayes’ apartment, rousting him from bed and leaving him handcuffed in the parking lot, he said. Detectives seized cellphones and a car-tracking device from his home, but left a handgun he had. Hayes said he was using the tracker on his girlfriend’s car.
Hayes said he is legally allowed to possess a gun following his expungement and has received his Handgun Qualification License from the Maryland State Police.
The day his apartment was searched Detective Ceasar Mohamed interviewed Hayes about his stepfather’s killing and Hayes said he told Mohamed he was in the process of having his background check completed and soon would be working at the department.
Mohamed questioned Hayes for hours, saying he had been watching him for more than a year, Hayes said. He said he told Mohamed what he could, in an attempt to be helpful, but he recalled the detective left him with a chilling message: “You’re going to fall sooner or later.”
Hayes would see Mohamed again months later, this time in an elevator at police headquarters. The pair made eye contact and Hayes said he tried to strike up a conversation — he thought his role in the investigation ended with the interview and wanted to try and create a sense of collegiality — but Mohamed walked off.
The Baltimore Police Department typically does not comment on active criminal investigations.
In Hayes’ termination letter, which he provided to The Sun, human resources officials wrote that a “subsequent review” of his background uncovered “derogatory information” that would prevent him from being hired. In an internal police memo, Harrison said he fired Hayes because of his “failure of disclosing information” related to his background.
Harrison announced Hayes’ firing Wednesday at an unrelated news conference, saying police human resources failed to find the gun charge in their search and that Hayes was on the department’s Gun Offender Registry — a list of all people convicted of firearms offenses in the city that police maintain under Baltimore City Code.
Hayes was charged with handgun possession in 2018 but was never convicted. He had his record expunged in 2021 as part of a deal with a judge that he complete probation before judgment, a legal alternative to conviction allowing people who successfully complete probation to have their records expunged.
Under Maryland law, a person who has their record expunged does not have to disclose any information about their old charges and cannot have it held against them for employment purposes. It is a criminal offense for public officials to disclose any information about an expunged case without a court order.
“The public policy behind expungement is to remove any record of the offender’s wrongdoing so that they can rehabilitate themselves and become employable,” said Andrew I. Alperstein, a criminal defense attorney and former prosecutor.
Because his charges were expunged, the court file technically does not exist — for example, one of the expungement orders Hayes provided to The Sun is stamped “File Not Found,” a signifier to court officials they should not disclose the information in it. Hayes said it his understanding they would not show up in a background check, even one as “extensive” as the police department’s.
Hayes told The Sun he doesn’t understand how he could be on the police’s gun offender database if the offense that put him on the list no longer exists.
Alperstein said it’s perplexing the city would keep people on the registry whose cases were expunged, because it is an apparent violation of Maryland law.
Enacted in 2007, the registry requires gun offenders to return to the police department’s Gun Offender Monitoring Unit on Mount Hope Drive to update their information every six months, after registering initially, for five years. Anyone who violates the ordinance faces a fine of up to $1,000 or one year in prison or both.
”It makes no sense to allow the police department to maintain the record of an offender when somebody’s case that caused the gun offender record to exist has now been ordered removed and a judge made that decision and set that path in motion when they gave an offender probation before judgment,” Alperstein said.
The Baltimore Police Department did not respond Thursday to requests for comment about the registry and how expungement might affect those listed on it.
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After Mohamed and other detectives detained him Wednesday, police executed another search warrant at Hayes’ apartment, this time telling a judge he was illegally in possession of a firearm in violation of his probation, according to the judge’s order that sealed other details about the search warrant. Hayes provided the sealing order to The Sun.
Hayes’ probation ended in February 2021, according to a letter from the Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services.
“It makes no sense in the world that I would apply for something in the police department if I had done these actions (police are) accusing me of,” Hayes said.