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Gun found in Safe Streets raids is linked to 2 shootings

The Baltimore Police Department found these guns during a recent raid on the Safe Streets offices on E. Monument Street in July.
The Baltimore Police Department found these guns during a recent raid on the Safe Streets offices on E. Monument Street in July.(Tom Brenner / Baltimore Sun)

One of the guns found in a raid on the Safe Streets violence prevention program's East Baltimore office has been connected to at least two shootings, authorities said in new court documents.

That Safe Streets office — part of a program that is funded by the city and hires ex-felons to mediate disputes — remains suspended after a July incident in which police chased robbery suspects to the program's East Monument Street offices and found a trove of guns and drugs.

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In a federal search warrant affidavit to search phones recovered during the raids, police wrote that a semiautomatic handgun was stolen during a burglary in 2014.

"A [Baltimore Police Department] firearms examiner determined the Ruger semi-automatic handgun had been used in a nonfatal shooting on July 12, 2015, the day previous to its recovery," an agent with the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives wrote. "Examination also revealed that the handgun had been used in a July 2, 2015, nonfatal shooting and another incident on April 26, 2015."

The Ruger handgun was one of several loaded weapons found during the searches, according to court records. Others included a semiautomatic handgun with a 26-round extended magazine found in a "drop-style ceiling" in the office. Two loaded guns and four extended magazines were found in a cabinet. A plastic bag containing .40-caliber cartridges was found in a plant pot.

Police also said they found 450 suspected heroin capsules as well as materials such as cutting agents and sifters used to prepare heroin for distribution.

Police wrote in the affidavit that "probable cause exists to believe that there is evidence that [the defendants] and unknown co-conspirators have conspired to sell heroin and engage in crimes of handgun-related violence in the furtherance of drug trafficking."

Nine people were arrested at the site, including two Safe Streets employees, who city Health Commissioner Dr. Leana Wen said have been terminated. The employees were identified as Artez Harris, who had been a "violence interrupter" for Safe Streets since September 2013, and Ricky Evans, who had worked for Safe Streets since February.

Those allegedly involved were indicted by a grand jury on drug and firearms charges Aug. 13 and have arraignments scheduled for Sept. 16. None has an attorney listed in court records.

City officials remain supportive of Safe Streets, which has been credited with stemming violence in the neighborhoods where it is active. The Board of Estimates this month approved funding from the Abell Foundation to establish a new Safe Streets site, likely in Sandtown-Winchester, the site of Freddie Gray's arrest.

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Wen said then she would like to see Safe Streets expanded to an additional six sites, which would bring the number to 11.

"We very much believe in the efficacy of Safe Streets," Wen said. "We are implementing new security protocols and better background checks. We really believe in recruiting ex-offenders and giving people a second chance."

Court records show Harris, 37, and Evans, 35, were co-defendants in a drug case in 2007. Harris pleaded guilty and was sentenced to 12 years in prison, with all but two years suspended, while all charges against Evans were dropped.

Evans has been charged twice with murder and acquitted both times. In 1999 he was found not guilty of conspiracy to murder in the killing of 21-year-old Harry Brown in the first block of N. Streeper St. Evans was charged with first-degree murder in another case in 2002, and three years later was found not guilty.

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