A Baltimore officer who allegedly planted evidence at a scene is under investigation after his own body camera caught him in action.
Video first reported by WBFF showed the unidentified officer in January, with the first frames capturing him putting heroin pills into a soup can lying in an alley.
He and two officers with him briefly step out onto the sidewalk before he says “I’m gonna go check here,” returns to the alley and finds the same drugs in the same can.
Where the drugs came from is not immediately clear from the video, though public defenders in Baltimore have said that the cop planted the evidence.
Charges against one-time suspect Tyrone Jones, 27, included possession with intent to distribute, but were dropped last week.
“His reaction was ‘I told you I didn’t do it! I told you!,’ his sister Sheena Taylor-Jones told the Daily News on Wednesday.
She said that she credited her brother for sticking by his story that the drugs weren’t his, even if it meant staying in jail since January.
Jones was previously offered a plea bargain that could have seen him spend 12 years in prison but rejected it, his sister said.
Louis Curran, a public defender for nearly three decades, told the News that he noticed the irregularities in the video while going over it and other officers’ cameras ahead of a trial date last Friday.
Police dash cameras are constantly recording, but only save 30 seconds at a time until an officer hits record. The resulting recording includes the last half-minute of video that it had saved along with video and audio of everything afterwards.
Curran speculates that the officer in Jones’s case was waiting to turn his device on for his “discovery,” but miscounted and captured his alleged planting at the very beginning of his clip.
“I guess that he’s not the sharpest knife in the drawer,” he said.
Curran saw the evidence of possible manipulation late last Wednesday night and responded to prosecutors’ plea offer with his finding.
Jones, who also allegedly had a pill on his person during his arrest, is currently still in jail as he faces a parole violation hearing, the lawyer said.
Baltimore Police Commissioner Kevin Davis confirmed at a Wednesday press conference that one of his officers has been suspended and stripped of his police powers during an internal investigation.
Davis said that another bag of drugs was also found at the scene, and held open the possibility that the placement of drugs in the can was a reenactment of finding a second bag at some point when body cameras weren’t rolling.
Two other officers have been put on administrative duty.
Baltimore Assistant Public Defender Deborah Levi lamented to the Baltimore Sun that the officer caught by his own camera was called as a witness in another case only days after a lawyer uncovered his alleged evidence manipulation.
Police will work with the public defender’s office on dealing with other cases where the officers are involved, Davis said.
The Baltimore State’s Attorney’s Office also confirmed that prosecutors are looking into the video.
Curran said that it is unclear if there are other cases where the officer may have handled evidence in a similar way, but is grateful that the body camera was able to capture an instance of alleged police misconduct.
“You find stuff and hear stuff but it’s hard to actually get proof of it and video is a whole new layer,” he said.
Taylor-Jones said that her family is considering suing the Baltimore police for her brother’s time in jail, but that their focus now is making sure that people hear his story.