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Justice

Md. AG releases report from new unit that investigated police-involved fatalities

Maryland Attorney General’s Office released its first report Nov. 29 on police-involved incidents from its Independent Investigations Division. Screen shot.

The Maryland Attorney General’s office released a report Tuesday on 23 police-involved fatalities that a new unit within the agency investigated over the past year.

The office’s Independent Investigations Division, established through state law, examined police-involved cases that included fatal shootings, fatal vehicle crashes and an incident with a person “in distress.” The cases are from incidents involving local police agencies that took place between Oct. 1, 2021 and Sept. 30 of this year.

“For the first time, Marylanders who died at the hands of police would not have their deaths investigated by the same police agency that employed those officers,” Attorney General Brian Frosh (D) said in a statement. “It was a true step toward impartiality and fairness.”

The nearly 50-page report breaks down cases by age, gender and race of officers and persons who died, evidence used and month, day of the week and time the incidents occurred.

Twenty-one of the 23 people who died were men and 14 were Black, according to the document. Of the 45 officers involved in the incidents, 38 were white.

The unit partners with state police to investigate cases and complete a report sent to a local state’s attorney’s office, which makes the final decision whether to prosecute a case.

As of now, the unit has eight civilian investigators, five attorneys, a paralegal, a victim and witness coordinator and a public information officer.

The document highlights how the attorney general’s office filed a suit against the Harford County Sheriff’s Office for not cooperating with an investigation after a deputy shot and killed a civilian on April 23. The report notes that months before the AG investigations unit became established, the sheriff’s office “vowed to not follow” any protocols.

Five days later on April 28, a Harford County judge granted the AG’s request for a temporary restraining order and for the sheriff’s office to release all evidence on the police shooting.

Two months later, the county’s state’s attorney indicated “while the case was still under active investigation, that he was declining to prosecute the case.”

The AG investigations unit still continued to work the case and after it received an autopsy report, it completed a report of its own and submitted it to the Harford state’s attorney office for consideration.

The document also provides brief summaries of each case that involved 15 police agencies in 11 jurisdictions. A few of them include:

  • Oct. 9, 2021 – Maryland Transportation Authority police officer Theodore Jeremenko conducted a traffic stop on Interstate 695 in Baltimore County after he observed a car driven by Jawuan Ginyard allegedly “speeding up and slowing down,” weaving through traffic and driving on the shoulder. When Jeremenko got out his vehicle, Ginyard drove off. Jeremenko got into his vehicle to pursue Ginyard, who later lost control of his car and crashed. He was pronounced dead at the scene.
  • June 8, 2022 – Prince George’s County police officer Antoinette Williams “activated her emergency equipment” after two drivers in vehicles failed to stop near Harry S. Truman Drive and White House Road in Upper Marlboro. One of the drivers crossed a double-yellow line and hit a vehicle head-on driven by Jonny Morris, who was not being pursued by police. Morris was taken to a local hospital and was later pronounced dead. The unidentified driver in the report was also taken to a local hospital and treated for non-life-threatening injuries.
  • Sept. 17, 2022 – Anne Arundel County police officers responded to a domestic violence incident in Harwood. Police received reports that Anthony Hopkins Sr. fired a weapon outside a home. As police arrived, shots were fired at a parked vehicle. Hopkins emerged from a wooded area and didn’t comply with commands to drop his gun. Hopkins “raised his gun in the direction of officers.” Approximately five officers — Cpls. Kalin Slayton, Brian Dehn, Zachary Devers, Jonathan Metcalf and officer Marina Hanlon — fired at Hopkins. Along with paramedics, they provided medical aid but Hopkins was pronounced dead at the scene.

Criminal justice advocates have said they hope incoming Attorney General Anthony Brown (D) continues to investigate police-involved incidents, make investigations more transparent and improving the office overall.

Sen. William C. Smith Jr. (D-Montgomery County), who chairs the Judicial Proceedings Committee, said he plans to introduce legislation when the General Assembly convenes in January that would allow the AG’s investigations division to receive prosecutorial power.

“The entire piece needs to be independent. Both the investigations and the prosecution need to be independent,” he said.

Although Smith was alarmed that more than 60% of those killed were Black men, he praised the attorney general’s office for providing the public information “in such as a transparent and thorough manner.”

“It’s never been done before. This is exactly how you want government to work,” he said. “No, the reforms are not finished yet, but…this is certainly a tremendous step in the right direction.”