Washington v. Balt. Police Dept.

Decision Date12 April 2023
Docket NumberCIVIL SAG-19-2473
PartiesGARY WASHINGTON, Plaintiff, v. BALTIMORE POLICE DEPT., et al., Defendants.
CourtU.S. District Court — District of Maryland
MEMORANDUM OPINION

Stephanie A. Gallagher, United States District Judge

Plaintiff Gary Washington filed an Amended Complaint against the Baltimore Police Department (BPD) and several of its former homicide detectives, Thomas Pellegrini, Oscar Requer, Richard Fahlteich, John Tewey, and Fred Ceruti (collectively, “the Officer Defendants), seeking damages resulting from Plaintiff's thirty-two-year incarceration for a homicide he alleges he did not commit. ECF 5. Discovery has now concluded and the Officer Defendants have filed a motion seeking summary judgment.[1] ECF 161. Plaintiff opposed the motion, ECF 166, the Officer Defendants filed a reply, ECF 179, and Plaintiff filed a surreply with leave of court. ECF 193. This Court has considered those filings, the attached exhibits, and the supplemental exhibits and arguments filed by the parties. ECF 188, 189, 190. This Court also held a motions hearing on February 27, 2023. After considering all of those filings, exhibits, and arguments this Court will grant the Officer Defendants' motion for the reasons described herein.

I. FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

The chronology of events in this case, and the content of the statements made by various witnesses at different times, are not in dispute, although there is present disagreement about what actually happened during interactions between the Officer Defendants and various witnesses in 1986 and 1987. This summary, then, will focus on the statements, testimony and undisputed facts documented in the record.

On the evening of December 27, 1986, Faheem Ali, known as “Bobo,” was fatally shot in the 2300 block of Barclay Street in Baltimore City. ECF 166-4.The Officer Defendants, with some other colleagues, responded to the scene to investigate the homicide. Id. An anonymous caller to the police station reported that Gary Ward was responsible for Ali's shooting. Id. at 3. The officers conducted brief interviews with several persons they encountered in the vicinity of the homicide, including a thirteen-year-old witness, Rozetta Dorsey. Id. Detectives Requer and Pellegrini's subsequent report stated:

Rozetta Dorsey the thirteen year old witness was interviewed and it appears she know [sic] the name of the person responsible for the death of Faheem Rafig Ali.... Rozetta Dorsey was asked if she knew Ricky or Gary Washington. She knew both of them and remembered seeing the victim talking to Ricky before he was shot. She said, Ricky went into his house leaving the victim on his steps. “A car came around the corner and one of its occupants a man in a long tan coat called BoBo (victim) and he walked to the man and he shot him.” Ricky was not the person who did the shooting. I asked her if Gary was the person who shot BoBo, she hesitated and said she was not sure. It appears she know [sic] the identity of the suspect but is affraid.[sic]. She will be re-interviewed at a later date.

Id. Through their interviews, the police discovered that another young boy, Otis Robinson, may have been out on the street at the time of the shooting and may have relevant information. ECF 161-10 at 3.

Robinson and his mother were transported to the police station two days after Ali's shooting. Id. at 3-4. There is a signed handwritten statement from Robinson in the record, documenting that it was “taken in the homicide office large interview room on 29 Dec 86 at 2210 hrs.” ECF 166-16 at 1. In that handwritten statement, which appears in question-and-answer format, Robinson stated:

I was in the living room with Mr. Herb at 2311 Barclay St., he gave me a dollar to go get a Coke & B.C. so I stepped out the door, I was walking up the street toward 24th Street, I heard Gary Washington and Bo Bo arguing and Gary asked about some money, and Bo Bo said I'll get it when I'm ready to get it. Then Gary hit Bo Bo in his jaw then he drawed his gun, and shot Bo Bo then Bo Bo ran across the street tripped on the curb and fell on the sidewalk, on the other side of the street. Then I tried to get into my house but the door was locked so I ran back down to Herb's house. When I was running down to Mr. Herb's house I saw Gary Washington run up to Camp Street and meet up with a boy that was driving the red car. Gary got in the car and I saw them drive up 24th Street.

Id. at 1-2 (strikeouts in original). He also said that the other boy “was sitting on the steps next door to Ricky Washington's house, then when Gary pulled the gun out he shot Bo Bo' real fast then the other boy started running up to Camp Street to get the car.” Id. at 2. Robinson answered “yes” to the question, “You are giving this statement voluntarily and have not been threatened and your mother Pamela Chavious is present during this statement, is that true and correct?” Id. at 4. After Robinson interlineated and initialed certain changes to the factual statements written by the officer, Robinson and his mother, Chavious, signed the statement.[2] Id. Their signatures were witnessed by Detectives Pellegrini and Fahlteich. Id.

The record also contains a typed statement from Robinson, “taken at the Homicide Unit Office by Detective Oscar Requer in the presence of Detective Ceruti on January 2, 1987 at 1930.” ECF 166-17 at 1. When asked to “tell me again what happened,” Robinson responded:

I was at my mother's friend house at 2311 Barclay Street, his name is Herb. Mr. Herb gave me a dollar and asked me to go and get a coke and a B.C. I went out side and that's when I saw Gary Washington and Bo Bo standing in front of Gary's house. Gary was fussing with Bo Bo about some money. Gary asked him where was his money, and Bo Bo said “I'll get it when I'am [sic] ready.” Gary hit him (Bo Bo) in his jaw, Bo Bo grabbed his jaw and Gary pulled out his gun real fast and pulled the triger. [sic] Gary threw the gun toward my side of the street (Odd side of the street). This other guy ran up the street to get the car. Then Gary ran toward the car and got in it and they drove toward Camp Street. Bo Bo was running and he tripped on the curve, I ran back to my house and banged on the door but couldn't get in, so I ran down to Mr. Herb's house. I told Mr. Herb that a boy was in front of his door was shot and I think he is dying.

Id. During the course of the question-and-answers documented in the typed statement, Detective Pellegrini showed a photo array to Robinson, who identified Gary Washington when asked to identify “the person you seen shoot Bo Bo.” Id. at 4; ECF 188-1 at 13 (report of photo array). That typed statement containing the photo identification is also signed by Robinson, and was again witnessed by Robinson's mother, Chavious, and Detective Requer. ECF 166-17 at 4-5.

The other juvenile witness, Dorsey, came to the police station with her mother on January 3, 1987. There is a written statement “taken at the Homicide Unit Office on 3 January 1987 at 1920 hours by Detective Oscar Requer in the presence of Detective Thomas Pellegrini.” ECF 166-21 at 1. During the typed statement, Officer Requer asks about an interview of Dorsey on the street on the night of the murder, during which Dorsey denied knowing the person that shot Bo Bo.” Id. Dorsey admitted that Gary Washington shot Bo Bo,” but stated that she did not tell Detective Pellegrini on December 27, 1986 because she was afraid. Id. at 2. During the course of the question-and-answer, Detective Pellegrini showed Dorsey a photo array and Dorsey picked a photo of Gary Washington as “the person who shot and killed Bo Bo.” Id. at 4; ECF 188-1 at 12 (report of photo array). Dorsey signed the typed statement to indicate that the pages “contain a true and correct statement of facts just given us by you.” ECF 166-21 at 5. The statement was also witnessed and signed by Detectives Pellegrini and Requer, along with Dorsey's mother, Bridget Scott. Id.

On January 5, 1987, the Officer Defendants sought a search warrant for Plaintiff's residence, on the basis of the written statements and eyewitness identifications from Robinson and Dorsey, along with the location of the homicide in front of Plaintiff's home. ECF 166-12 at 7882.

On January 7, 1987, Robinson testified before a grand jury and told a story consistent with his written eyewitness statements, again identifying Plaintiff as the person he saw shoot Ali. ECF 161-14. He told the grand jury, “I saw Gary Washington and a boy named Bobo arguing about some money and Gary told him he better have his money and Bobo say he will wait. And Gary quickly hit him in his jaw and drawed a gun and he shot ‘em. Then Bobo ran across the street and tripped on a curb at 2311 and Gary Washington tossed the gun he shot Bobo with up on the roof.” Id. at 3. Robinson testified that initially he had seen three men talking but just before the shooting, the third man “ran up and backed the car out of Camp Street and was waiting for Gary Washington.” Id. He also testified he had known Bobo “about a year.” Id. at 4.

On April 27, 1987, during an interview at the State's Attorney's Office, Robinson's mother, Pamela Chavious, told Detectives Requer and Pellegrini that Ricky Washington, Plaintiff's brother, had approached Robinson and “told him when it came time, that he better say the right thing” and that he is giving Robinson “hard looks” when he sees him. ECF 166-11 at 239-40; ECF 166-12 at 26. Based on that information, the States Attorney's Office agreed to relocate Robinson and his mother. Id.

The state court held a motions hearing in Plaintiff's criminal case on June 4, 1987. ECF 161-9. Robinson also again testified, consistent with his witness statements and grand jury ...

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