Baltimore City Police Interim Commissioner Kevin Davis talks about the handgun that was found in a holding cell Thursday in the Eastern District Police Station. (Kim Hairston/Baltimore Sun)
As police investigate how a handgun was smuggled into the holding cell of a police station this week, newly released documents show that a man who committed suicide in another police station last year not only had a gun but also a lighter, knife and more than $1,000 in cash.
The incidents raise fresh questions about policies and procedures at police stations. Officials had promised to review security measures in January after a man walked into a station with a loaded handgun, marijuana and cocaine and told officers he was working for Black Guerrilla Family gang leaders to test police security.
"It certainly begs a really large question: How safe is it to be in a police station that such an occurrence can happen, now multiple times?" said City Councilman Carl Stokes, an East Baltimore Democrat.
Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake and police officials promised to investigate and take steps to prevent future security breaches.
"We cannot go on allowing incident after incident like this to occur and endanger the lives of our officers as well as those in police custody," said Kevin Harris, a spokesman for the mayor.
"The mayor has instructed interim Commissioner [Kevin] Davis to be as transparent as possible in explaining how these incidents occur, and more importantly, all the steps being taken moving forward to protect our officers and the public."
The Police Department said in response to this week's incident that "all circumstances … will be thoroughly examined to make sure this does not happen again."
The department's headquarters downtown has a front-entrance metal detector, police said, but the district stations do not. Police have said they have clear policies requiring that anyone taken into custody or transported be searched for weapons.
On Friday, police released a report on the death Aug. 5, 2014, of Tyree Woodson, 38, who had been taken into custody on an attempted-murder warrant at the Southwestern District police station. Police have said they believed Woodson may have concealed the gun inside a medical boot on his leg. According to the report, taken the day of the incident and released under a public records request, officers found Woodson on a toilet with his pants down, dead from a gunshot wound.
A department spokesman said Friday that the investigation remains pending one year later, and declined to comment further on the case.
City Councilman Edward Reisinger said police should provide more information about their reviews of such incidents. "The administration should be more transparent than what it is today," Reisinger said.
Stokes said the incidents "put potentially dozens of lives of our law enforcement at risk."
"Somebody ought to lose their job if they're allowing such a breach in protocol," Stokes said.
Police disclosed Thursday that a handgun was found in a holding cell in the Eastern District Police station. The department is investigating how the gun got into the cell, though Davis said Friday that he believes human error led to the incident, not a lack of clear policies.
"A mistake was made. Human error contributed to an unacceptable situation," Davis said. "A firearm should never make its way into a police station under any circumstances."
Davis said officials should "emphasize training and accountability" when such incidents happen. "The bottom line is that a human being who happens to be a police officer made a mistake and got too rushed, was in too big of a hurry, and missed the gun during a pat-down or a search," he said.
In the Police Department's statement on the incident, officials said it was "in no way a reflection of the hard work and dedication of the officers in the Eastern District."
In an interview, Woodson's mother said she continues to doubt that her son could have smuggled a gun into the police station, or that he would take his own life. She said she has been told investigators are still working on the case but has received no information from police in the past year.
"You're not going to do what you want to my child and get away with it," said Verdessa McDougald.
According to the police report, Woodson was in a bathroom after being taken into custody. Detective Chris Hollingsworth said he was in the hallway of the police station when he heard a gunshot.
Hollingsworth said Maj. James Handley, commander of the Southwestern District at the time, asked him to move the weapon away from Woodson because they were unsure if he was still alive.
Officer Dale Mattingly, who responded to the bathroom from the parking lot, said he found Woodson inside the stall, seated on the toilet, with his pants around his knees and his arms to the side. Woodson suffered from a single gunshot wound to the head, Mattingly said.
Mattingly said they found a Glock 23 behind a trash can, where Hollingsworth had moved it. Mattingly said Hollingsworth told him, "He shot himself."
An autopsy by the state medical examiner's office ruled that Woodson died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound.
Police processed the scene and recovered a pair of glasses, the Glock, a black watch, a silver ring, brown wallet, a box of Newport cigarettes, a set of keys, a black lighter, a black knife, $30 in counterfeit money and $1,373 in cash, according to Mattingly's report.
At the time, Deputy Commissioner Jerry Rodriguez called Woodson a "dangerous criminal" and said he was a gang member, though he declined to say which gang.
McDougald said it only makes sense that police would have searched her son if they considered him such a threat. "If he's as vicious as they made him sound, they should have searched my son 20 times," she said.
Mattingly, court records show, had been one of four officers who arrested Woodson in 2013 on various assault and drug charges. Woodson was acquitted at trial of all charges in May 2014, three months before his death.
Handley has since been transferred to the agency's property section.
Guns have been discovered in stations before.
Then-Police Commissioner Anthony W. Batts promised the review of security measures in January after police said the gang member smuggled a gun and drugs into the Northeastern District station. Rawlings-Blake fired Batts this month in the wake of Freddie Gray's death from injuries sustained in police custody a spike in violent crime.