The Baltimore police department said Friday that it is reviewing whether a graphic photo of a homicide victim posted on social media overnight by a longtime and increasingly controversial homicide detective violated department policy.
Sgt. Robert F. Cherry, who was transferred out of homicide and into a midnight patrol shift last month, tweeted the homicide photo at 5:06 a.m. Friday.
“This is but one of many incidents of violence in Baltimore city that our police officers deal with ... and this young Black man was NOT shot by police.” Cherry wrote in his tweet. “Let’s STOP the violence and Save Lives. Call 410-396-2100 with tips on homicides or shootings in Baltimore.”
The image showed a man’s body lying on a sidewalk in a pool with a large gash in the front of his forehead.
The post has since been deleted, but after several critical comments, Cherry, a 27-year-veteran of the department, responded: “Typical Woke Baltimore ... ‘Take down the photo, it’s traumatic’ . .. but no one is asking ‘How can I help solve this brutal murder and bring justice to this deceased Black man?’”
Cherry did not return phone calls and text messages seeking comment.
“The Baltimore Police Department is aware of a disturbing tweet that was released and deleted by one its members,” spokeswoman Lindsey Eldridge said. “The Department has referred this incident to our Public Integrity Bureau for an internal investigation.”
Police did not have the man’s identity and said they are still looking into the matter, adding they are certain that the photo is from a Baltimore case.
The tweet outraged multiple elected officials who denounced Cherry and the post on social media.
A spokesman for Democratic Mayor Brandon Scott, Cal Harris, said Friday: “The mayor is aware of and disgusted by the tweet in question. Anyone who loses their life to gun violence deserves more than being relegated to a mere statistic, headline or social media post.”
Maryland Delegate Marlon Amprey, a Democrat representing West and Southwest Baltimore, responded to Cherry’s post that he shouldn’t have used the unidentified man to make a point in favor of police.
“A picture of the deceased victim of violence is not necessary for the point you are moving. It’s disrespectful to the family of the young man pictured here,” Amprey wrote on Twitter. “I respectfully ask that you remove it. Even on the scene of a crime you respectfully cover victims.”
Baltimore City Councilman James Torrence also criticized Cherry, referencing his own personal losses to gun violence and the trauma caused by posting such images.
“As someone who has had a family member slain in Baltimore, this is traumatizing for loved ones of victims,” Torrence said. “Please remove this photo for the sake of this young man’s family and loved ones.”
Cherry responded to both officials, continuing to argue his point.
It is not the first time in the past year that Cherry has stirred controversy with his posts. He has been vocal on Twitter, often posting late-night tirades aimed at activists, police brass and city officials. Cherry tweeted support for a Tacoma, Washington, police officer who drove over protesters, for example.
Cherry served in top union leadership positions for a decade — he was vice president from 2004 until 2008 — then became president and served until 2014 when he decided not to run again. He returned to patrol duties, then rejoined the homicide unit in a supervisory role.
During his time in union leadership, he had the ear of both police and political leaders. In 2013, he published a “blueprint” for improving the department that included scaling down plainclothes units and improving the quality of officers.
Earlier this year, he sharply criticized the current deputy commissioner, Sheree Briscoe, and called out department commanders as “incompetent, (who) only promote themselves and who never investigated/testified in any felony/murder cases in federal or state court.”
He was involuntarily transferred to the midnight shift in the Southwestern District following in April following more controversial comments.
Baltimore Sun reporter Justin Fenton contributed to this article.