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Crime

Baltimore County prosecutors won’t charge police in October fatalities, question delay of attorney general’s office’s investigation

Baltimore County prosecutors decided not to bring criminal charges against two police officers involved in civilian deaths in separate incidents last October — and questioned why it took so long for state investigators to complete their reports, according to declination letters obtained by The Baltimore Sun.

Deputy State’s Attorney Robin Coffin found that Maryland Transportation Authority Police Officer Theodore Jeremenko acted appropriately in an Oct. 9 police pursuit that turned fatal and was “nowhere near” the 26-year-old man when he lost control of his vehicle, crashed and died.

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Coffin also determined that a Baltimore County police officer identified only as Lt. Mead was “justified” in shooting a 36-year-old man on Oct. 11 “for the protection of Lt. Mead’s life and the surrounding community.” A county salary database lists a Gregory Mead as a police lieutenant.

The two incidents were the first to be investigated by the state Attorney General’s Office in compliance with a 2021 law directing the office to establish an independent unit to look into police-involved deaths, including fatal pursuits, shootings and in-custody deaths.

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Under that process, the state’s new Independent Investigations Division prepares a report with findings and analysis then share it with local prosecutors. Those officials make a determination about whether to prosecute the officers involved.

In the declination letters, addressed to the attorney general and the leaders of the relevant police agencies, Coffin raised concerns about the length of time it took the state attorney general’s office to send both cases to local prosecutors for review, calling it an “undue delay” that contributed to stress and uncertainty.

In a written response last week, Maryland Attorney General Brian Frosh pushed back against “factual errors” in Coffin’s letter, stressing the importance of thorough investigations.

“We have been entrusted by the legislature to complete thorough investigations into every police-involved fatality in the state,” Frosh wrote.

Thomas Lester, a spokesman for the Independent Investigations Division, said the office’s reports “have not been made public yet.” The redacted versions would be made public within 30 days of the decision by the local prosecutor, he said.

Both were turned over to the Baltimore County State’s Attorney’s Office at the end of March, with Coffin issuing her findings by letter within about a week of receiving the reports.

Responding to Coffin’s timeliness concerns, Lester said the office tries to be as timely and efficient as possible in its investigations, but it “will not sacrifice the imperative of a thorough and impartial investigation” — comments echoed by Frosh in his response to Coffin.

The first case, an Oct. 9 police pursuit, led to the death of Jawuan Ginyard of Baltimore. Coffin wrote Ginyard was attempting to elude a police officer and under the influence of alcohol when he lost control of his vehicle. She said there was “no basis for the consideration of any criminal charges” against Jeremenko.

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The attorney general’s office said previously that Jeremenko saw a traffic violation by Ginyard at Conway Street and Interstate 395 in downtown Baltimore and pursued him on Interstate 95 South. He attempted a traffic stop near Interstate 695, but Ginyard drove onto I-695.

Jeremenko followed, according to the office’s statement, “out of concern that the driver was impaired.”

Ginyard exited I-695 at Wilkens Avenue, where he lost control on the exit ramp, hit the median and was ejected from the vehicle.

In raising questions about the length of the attorney general’s office’s investigation, Coffin wrote there was dash cam footage of the pursuit, which she said “practically on its own removed any possibility of criminal liability.” A supervisor involved in deciding the appropriateness of a pursuit was interviewed the same day, and Ginyard’s autopsy was signed in December, Coffin said.

“Even if this is considered a ‘police-involved’ death, it does not make sense that Officer Jeremenko and the family of Jawaun Ginyard had to wait five and a half months for the investigation to be forwarded to this office,” Coffin said.

Frosh wrote in his letter dated April 14 that he “strongly” disagreed the dash cam footage and supervisor interview were sufficient for a determination. Investigators received a copy of the autopsy on Feb. 7, Frosh said, and a Maryland State Police crash report, including a forensic examination of the crash scene, on Feb. 14.

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Relying only on the dash cam and supervisor interview would “fall woefully short” of thoroughly investigating the incident, Frosh said, and “do a disservice to the decedent and his family, Officer Jeremenko and the citizens of this state.”

He also wrote that his office had informed Ginyard’s family that charges would not be brought against the officer: “Your office had never contacted them, even after you made the decision not to prosecute.”

Ginyard’s family could not be reached for comment.

The second incident took place Oct. 11 when Jovan Lewis Singleton was shot and killed. According to Coffin, Mead attempted to detain Singleton in connection with an armed robbery and hit-and-run, when Singleton began running away.

Singleton fired two shots at Mead, according to Coffin’s letter, which she said was supported by a witness and a casing recovered from the scene. Mead fired six to seven rounds, striking Singleton, Coffin said, and thought he might have been shot because he felt a pain in his leg. The letter doesn’t specify whether Mead actually was wounded.

Coffin notes in the declination letter that the Independent Investigations Division was concerned because Mead would not do a “full forensic interview.”

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Coffin wrote that at her request, Mead later did an interview with Sgt. Christopher Taylor of the Maryland State Police. The interview is not included in the letter.

Coffin again raised concerns about the duration of the attorney general’s office’s investigation, writing that she was briefed in December about the investigation and all of the information in the report was shared then, but it took three months for it to be sent to her.

“The stress and uncertainty for all persons involved cannot be overstated,” Coffin said. “Undue delay, also, unquestionably does not serve the public.”

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Frosh again challenged Coffin’s assertions in his April 14 letter. He said investigators did not receive the autopsy until Feb. 1 and received a supplemental statement from Mead on Feb. 23. And, Frosh said, the office would be supplementing its original report with the information provided in the separate state police interview conducted at Coffin’s request.

John Singleton, Jovan’s father, said he hadn’t seen the attorney general’s office’s investigation into the shooting yet or gotten answers about where Jovan was shot on his body, specifically whether it was in the back or the front. (Coffin’s letter doesn’t specify the location of Jovan’s wounds.)

In response to the letter’s description of events, John Singleton said, “I don’t believe my son would do something like that.”

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Jovan had two sons, ages 12 and 15, John said. He added that Jovan was afraid of police because one of them had kicked him in the mouth as a teen.

There were 31 civilian deaths in Maryland involving law enforcement officers in 2020, according to the most recent state report tracking such deaths; of those, 15 were fatal shootings by police. Montgomery County Police had the most with four incidents, followed by Baltimore County Police, Baltimore Police, Maryland State Police and Prince George’s County Police, each with two.

The other civilian deaths, according to the medical examiner and the state report, included three suicides, nine accidents that led to 10 deaths, two deaths by natural causes and one undetermined fatality.

A state report tracking 2021 fatalities involving law enforcement is expected to be released June 30.


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