Baltimore continues to reach settlements with victims related to the Gun Trace Task Force scandal, including two men who served years in federal prison after police planted drugs on them following a deadly crash.
City Solicitor Dana Moore confirmed that a settlement had been reached in a lawsuit brought by Umar Burley and Brent Matthews, who were locked up in 2010. The men said they fled from plainclothes officers who drew guns on them, and that police planted drugs in their car after a crash that killed an 87-year-old man.
Moore would not disclose the amount, and attorneys for Burley and Matthews declined to comment. Moore said as many as 20 cases now have been settled, and no dollar figures have been disclosed. The cases are expected to be presented to the Board of Estimates for approval in the coming weeks.
Burley and Matthews' case is believed to be one of the larger settlements, however, because both men served extended time in prison. Burley also owes a $1 million judgment after being sued years ago by the family of Elbert Davis, who died in the crash. Like other plaintiffs, they claimed in their lawsuit that the Baltimore Police Department knew or should have known about years of misconduct involving the officers.
With the settlements, such claims and other questions about individual incidents won’t be litigated in a courtroom.
Former Sgt. Wayne Jenkins pleaded guilty to taking part in a cover-up of the planting of drugs in the incident. Jenkins, the ringleader of the Gun Trace Task Force, is serving 25 years in a South Carolina prison for that incident as well as a slew of other robberies and drug dealing.
Burley and Matthews said they were sitting in a vehicle when Jenkins and Detectives Ryan Guinn and Sean Suiter suddenly drove up on them, guns drawn. They said they did not know the men were police and fled.
Jenkins said he knew drugs were planted in the vehicle after the crash, and wrote a false statement of probable cause. Jenkins has denied planting the drugs himself.
“From the bottom of my heart, I wish I could take that day back,” Jenkins said at his sentencing. “I wish I had come clean when I found out the drugs were planted.”
Suiter was shot in the head one day before he was to testify before a grand jury regarding the Burley incident. His death has been ruled a homicide, though questions have been raised about whether he might have committed a suicide staged to look like a killing. His family and attorney have pushed back on that theory, which was endorsed by an outside panel asked to review the case.
A federal judge vacated the convictions of Burley and Matthews in 2017 following the revelations about the case.