Umar Burley and Brent Matthews went to prison after drugs were planted on them by members of Baltimore’s elite Gun Trace Task Force (GFTF). The GFTF’s notable goal was getting guns off the street. In reality, it became a den of thieves, preying on both their constituents and taxpayer funds.
Matthews spent 2.5 years in prison. Burley spent seven years in jail. Their convictions for heroin distribution, allegedly planted by the GFTF, were vacated in late 2017. They had both pleaded guilty in 2011.
Baltimore has agreed to settle this police misconduct case for $8 million. The police involved in the incident included Sgt. Wayne Jenkins, Detectives Sean Suiter, and Ryan Guinn. That is just one of the numerous GFTF settlements. In August, the city agreed to a $1.1 million settlement for two other GFTF-related lawsuits. In these claims, the plaintiffs alleged GFTF members planted guns on them.
Of the nine members of the GFTF, eight have been charged with crimes. Two were convicted in federal court, and six pleaded guilty.
Illegal Stop and High-Speed Chase
In an April 2010 illegal traffic stop, several GFTF members encountered Burley and Matthews. The police officers were dressed in plain clothes and approached the men with guns drawn. They had no identification. Burley and Matthews thought they were being robbed.
A high-speed chase ensued, with Burley behind the wheel and Jenkins pursuing in the police car. The chase ended abruptly when Burley’s vehicle collided with the car of Elbert Davis, 86, who was killed in the crash. His wife was seriously injured.
Davis’ estate sued Burley, and the settlement includes $1.8 million to the estate. Burley and Matthews should receive $6.3 million. The Davis family has filed a separate lawsuit against the city.
According to their 2018 lawsuit, Burley and Matthews alleged not only that they were wrongfully arrested, but that the city was aware of this misconduct and did nothing to stop it.
Cooperating police officers in the federal prosecution spoke of an ongoing practice of stealing money and falsifying evidence. They were not concerned with getting caught.
The GFTF’s crime spree came to a stop after a suburban drug investigation.
Suicide or Homicide?
The day before he was to testify before a grand jury about the incident, Suiter was found dead of a gunshot wound to the head. While the death was originally ruled a homicide, there are suspicions he actually killed himself.
Guinn, who was not charged with any wrongdoing, gave his account of the incident before the grand jury.
A Guilty Plea
Jenkins, considered the GTFT ringleader, later pleaded guilty to violating Burley and Matthews’ civil rights by participating in the cover-up. However, Jenkins says he was not involved in planting the drugs. He was sentenced to serve 25 years for various crimes, including robberies and evidence falsification. He also stole overtime from the police department and resold the drugs he took from his employer.
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