Last week, the beginning of an explosive corruption trial involving eight members of Baltimore's elite Gun Trace Task Force revealed that a handful of Baltimore cops allegedly kept fake guns in their patrol cars to plant on innocent people—a failsafe they could use if they happened to shoot an unarmed suspect, the Baltimore Sun reports.
Detective Maurice Ward, who's already pleaded guilty to corruption charges, testified that he and his partners were told to carry the replicas and BB guns "in case we accidentally hit somebody or got into a shootout, so we could plant them." The directive allegedly came from the team's sergeant, Wayne Jenkins, the Washington Post reports. Though Ward didn't say whether or not the tactic was ever used, Detective Marcus Taylor—another cop swept up in the scandal—was carrying a fake gun almost identical to his service weapon when he was arrested last year, according to the Sun.
The revelation is just one of many egregious abuses that have come out of the sprawling trial that the Sun has called "Baltimore’s biggest police corruption scandal in memory." Prosecutors say the squad, which was tasked with getting illegal guns off the streets, abused its power by robbing suspects and innocent people, raiding homes without warrants, and selling confiscated drugs, among other crimes.
But the BB gun testimony is particularly disturbing in light of 12-year-old Tamir Rice's death in 2014, the 13-year-old in Baltimore who was shot twice by cops in 2016 after he allegedly sprinted from them with a replica gun in his hand, and the 86 people fatally shot by police in 2015 and 2016 who were spotted carrying toy guns.
Six of the eight task force members charged in the corruption scandal have pleaded guilty to racketeering charges, but Taylor and Detective Daniel Hersl have pleaded not guilty. They're currently on trial while several of their former partners testify against them.
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