Eleven people face charges for their alleged connection to a South Baltimore drug distribution organization that authorities say was responsible for selling the deadly opioid fentanyl in the Brooklyn neighborhood.
“We were able to successfully take down a drug organization in the Patapsco-Brooklyn neighborhood that was wreaking havoc by distributing fentanyl and fentanyl-heroin mix,” Baltimore State’s Attorney Marilyn J. Mosby said at a news conference Monday in which she and officials from partnering agencies announced the arrests.
Fentanyl accounted for nearly 1,200 overdose deaths in Maryland during the first nine months of 2017, the most recent data available from the state health department. That’s more than three in four of all opioid-related overdose deaths.
Twelve agencies, including Baltimore, Anne Arundel and Howard County police and the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, were involved in the investigation that resulted in the drug charges and an arrest in a July 2016 homicide. Authorities also seized more than 300 grams of fentanyl, illegal firearms and more than $42,000 in cash.
“The ability to stop and intercept drug activity, especially the targeting of fentanyl distribution, is an integral component to tackling violence,” Mosby said.
The drug investigation evolved from a homicide investigation into the death of 24-year-old Jenna Manuel, who was shot multiple times July 16 while sitting in a vehicle outside her home in the 600 block of Maude Ave. in Baltimore’s Brooklyn neighborhood. Mosby said Manuel was shot while her 5-day-old child sat in the car.
The investigation into the drug organization led to both suppliers of fentanyl and dealers who sold the drugs on the street, including one defendant who was incarcerated at the Patuxent Institution in Jessup while helping the drug organization, Deputy State’s Attorney Janice Bledsoe said. The charges did not include manslaughter for overdoses, which prosecutors have considered in other cases.
One of the defendants, Montez “Woo” Chapman, was arrested on Feb. 16 with 100 capsules of fentanyl and cash, Bledsoe said. After searching his vehicle and home, investigators found a gun, manufacturing equipment, and more than 300 grams of fentanyl and $25,000 in cash, she said.
Chapman did not have an attorney listed in online court records.
Investigators found additional cash and guns after executing search warrants against other defendants.
Some defendants face between 40 and 50 counts for fentanyl-related charges. Robert “Lil Robbie”/ “Z” King, 19, is charged in Manuel’s death, and he faces 84 total counts. His public defender could not be reached for comment Monday.
Charging documents said witnesses gave a suspect description that resembled King, and they also provided a description of a burgundy Honda. King had been stopped previously by police in a burgundy 2007 Honda, the documents said. Cellphone records also put King at the scene of the homicide, the document said.
An unnamed witness also told police that King confessed to the homicide, and a second unnamed witnessed recalled that King said “I got that [expletive],” shortly after Manuel was shot, according to the document.
Prosecutors would not provide information Monday about why Manuel was targeted, and a motive was not included in the charging document.
The charges are also a product of the Baltimore Police Department’s special opioid task force that was created last year, said Baltimore Police Maj. Chris Jones, the commander of the homicide unit.
During an investigation into an overdose of a Johns Hopkins University student, he said, investigators realized the strong correlation between distribution of the opioid and the city’s violence.
Investigators with the police department met with prosecutors and looked at areas where large amount of drugs were recovered and where there were high rates of violence, including Manuel’s murder, Jones said.
DEA Special Agent Todd Edwards said the investigation is an example of the way the agency is evolving its investigations by collaborating with local law enforcement and looking at violent crime.
“This problem is not going away,” he said.