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Baltimore man awarded nearly $8M in Gun Trace Task Force settlement arrested in Virginia after shooting, police pursuit

Umar Burley of Baltimore, who just settled a nearly $8 million lawsuit against the city, is accused of shooting his girlfriend in Virginia and shooting at this Virginia State Police vehicle during a pursuit Thursday. Burley was charged with malicious wounding and attempted murder, according to the Harrisonburg Police Department.
Umar Burley of Baltimore, who just settled a nearly $8 million lawsuit against the city, is accused of shooting his girlfriend in Virginia and shooting at this Virginia State Police vehicle during a pursuit Thursday. Burley was charged with malicious wounding and attempted murder, according to the Harrisonburg Police Department. (Virgina State Police)

A Baltimore man who recently received a nearly $8 million settlement from the city for the Gun Trace Task Force police scandal was arrested Thursday in Virginia for allegedly shooting a woman, then shooting at police during a pursuit.

Umar Burley, 50, was charged with malicious wounding and attempted murder, according to the Harrisonburg Police Department. Additional charges are pending related to the pursuit, Virginia State Police said.

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Police said officers were called to a Motel 6 on Main Street south of downtown Harrisonburg around 10 a.m. for a shooting. A 32-year-old woman was at the motel suffering from a gunshot wound to the face, police said, and was transported by air to the University of Virginia Medical Center in Charlottesville.

Umar Burley of Baltimore, who just settled a nearly $8 million lawsuit against the city, is accused of shooting his girlfriend in Virginia Thursday. Burley was charged with malicious wounding and attempted murder, according to the Harrisonburg Police Department.
Umar Burley of Baltimore, who just settled a nearly $8 million lawsuit against the city, is accused of shooting his girlfriend in Virginia Thursday. Burley was charged with malicious wounding and attempted murder, according to the Harrisonburg Police Department. (RSW Regional Jail)

Harrisonburg Police Sgt. Scott Drugo said that the woman was engaged to Burley and that witnesses said they heard an argument just prior to hearing a gunshot.

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“All indications tell us they were traveling together,” Drugo said.

The woman is in stable condition, police said, with serious injuries.

Witnesses told officers that Burley fled in a U-Haul truck, and police issued a ”Be on the lookout” for the vehicle. A Virginia state trooper saw the truck traveling north on Interstate 81 and attempted to pulled it over. Police said Burley shot out the back window of the trooper’s vehicle and sped away.

Police pursued the truck and said at one point the driver rammed several police vehicles and sideswiped a van on Route 11. No one was reported hurt.

Umar Burley of Baltimore, who just settled a nearly $8 million lawsuit against the city, is accused of shooting his girlfriend in Virginia and fleeing in this U-Haul truck Thursday.
Umar Burley of Baltimore, who just settled a nearly $8 million lawsuit against the city, is accused of shooting his girlfriend in Virginia and fleeing in this U-Haul truck Thursday. (Harrisonburg Police Department)

State police said the pursuit continued on Route 11 at speeds between 60 and 75 miles per hour, and police eventually were able to box the U-Haul in and force it off the road in Shenandoah County. State police said a gun was recovered at the scene.

“I’m heartbroken by the news, but at the same time caution that no one should jump to conclusions until we have a better understanding of what transpired,” said Burley’s civil attorney, Steve Silverman. “The allegations are not consistent with the man I have come to know.”

In November, Burley and his friend Brent Matthews were awarded a total of nearly $8 million after they served federal prison time because Baltimore Police officers planted drugs on them in 2010. The case was discovered during the investigation into the city’s corrupt Gun Trace Task Force.

The settlement was historic, eclipsing the $6.4 million settlement paid to the family of Freddie Gray, who died of injuries suffered while in police custody in 2015.

But Burley was in no celebratory mood when he spoke to The Sun after the settlement was approved.

“The only good thing about this I see is that I’m still living,” he said wearily. Burley said he planned to move out of the city, hopefully to a home in the mountains where he could rebuild himself as a person, “try to get a sense of life back.”

Umar Burley of Baltimore, who just settled a nearly $8 million lawsuit against the city, is accused of shooting his girlfriend in Virginia and fleeing in this U-Haul truck Thursday.
Umar Burley of Baltimore, who just settled a nearly $8 million lawsuit against the city, is accused of shooting his girlfriend in Virginia and fleeing in this U-Haul truck Thursday. (John Hood)

In the 2010 incident, Burley was in his vehicle with Matthews as a passenger when Wayne Jenkins, Sean Suiter and a third officer tried to box in the car, saying they’d seen a drug transaction. Burley, who says he did not know the men were officers, sped off and collided with another vehicle, killing 86-year-old Elbert Davis and injuring his 81-year-old wife.

The settlement includes the city taking responsibility for a civil judgment Burley owes to Davis’ family that was imposed in 2014 and has since grown with interest as it went unpaid.

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Burley served seven years in prison after the 2010 drug-planting incident and also was convicted of manslaughter in state court, while Matthews served 2½ years in prison.

More than a dozen officers have been charged and convicted in federal court as a result of the Gun Trace Task Force investigation, and hundreds of criminal cases brought by the officers have been dropped or vacated.

Jenkins, who would go on to lead the Gun Trace Task Force, pleaded guilty to civil rights violations for participating in the cover-up, though he insists he did not plant the drugs. He is serving 25 years in prison for crimes including robberies and selling drugs.

Suiter was fatally shot in the head the day before he was to testify in front of a grand jury about the incident. His death has been ruled an unsolved homicide.

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