With the push of a button, the door to Baltimore Police Sgt. Isaac “Ike” Carrington’s van opens up, and a ramp deploys onto the asphalt. He guides his wheelchair up and inside, positioning himself where the driver’s seat would normally be. A handheld device allows him to navigate the vehicle.

Sometimes he runs errands. Other times he’ll visit the Fraternal Order of Police lodge in Hampden. But when he travels to his home in Northeast Baltimore, he can only sit in the driveway and visit.

More than three years after being shot and paralyzed from the chest down in a robbery while he was off duty and talking to a neighbor, Carrington has been unable to return home. He’s still experiencing medical complications — including having to be re-hospitalized in recent weeks — while awaiting promised renovations to his home that will make it wheelchair accessible and compatible with his needs. Instead, he lives alone in the guest lodging quarters at a hospital in Baltimore County.

Carrington struggles with pain as well as loneliness, but is hoping to get involved with the Police Department as a speaker at the training academy. He said he has faith he will one day walk again.

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“I’m praying a lot,” he said. “I feel like I’m gonna walk again.”

The Baltimore Banner and media partner WJZ-TV spoke with Carrington as well as investigators from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives ahead of the sentencing of the final defendant in his shooting.

With the push of a button, the door to Baltimore Police Sgt. Isaac “Ike” Carrington’s van opens up, and a ramp deploys onto the asphalt. He guides his wheelchair up and inside, positioning himself where the driver’s seat would normally be.
With the push of a button, the door to Baltimore Police Sgt. Isaac “Ike” Carrington’s van opens up, and a ramp deploys onto the asphalt. He guides his wheelchair up and inside, positioning himself where the driver’s seat would normally be. (Justin Fenton)

The case was solved through a collaboration between Baltimore Police and the ATF, which were closing in on the carjacking crew prior to Carrington’s shooting. Carrington, whose role within the Police Department was investigating nonfatal shootings, had himself been briefly assigned to investigate one of the crew’s suspected early shootings before that victim succumbed to his injuries.

The ATF said it has been getting more involved in investigating violence in Baltimore, using a database of cartridge casing evidence to quickly match ballistics to other cases and identify groups causing disproportionate violence.

“I think that this case in particular was pretty textbook in showing that this model and the technology that we’re using actually works, to be able to point us in the direction to say we’re pretty certain that we know it’s the same crew or same individuals that are committing these crimes,” said Toni Crosby, the special agent in charge of the ATF’s Baltimore field office.

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“We know that these individuals are brazen enough to pull the trigger that they’re going to do it again.”

The man authorities believe to be the shooter, Rashaud Nesmith, pleaded guilty to racketeering conspiracy related to his role in a truly staggering amount of violence — straddling two different criminal organizations.

Nesmith, now 21, was first charged in a racketeering indictment related to a string of carjackings, robberies and shootings that included the Carrington shooting as well as three killings in 2019. He was later charged in connection to the “Triple C” gang, which is linked to more than 40 killings and attempted killings. He was sentenced Monday to 40 years.

Carrington said he sometimes wonders: “Why did I get to survive while these other people died?”

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Carrington grew up in East Baltimore and graduated from Lake Clifton High School. His father was in the military, and his mother talked about wanting to be a police officer. He and his brother both became city police officers, with Isaac starting out as a community resource officer. He said what he liked best about the job was driving around the city, getting to talk to people. He planned on staying on the force for 30 years.

While many officers, even those who grew up in the city, decide to move away, Carrington and his wife chose to stay.

“This is where I was raised,” he says.

On Aug. 8, 2019, Carrington was talking to a neighbor who was unloading groceries on a 90-degree August afternoon. He was set to leave the next day with his wife for a Black law enforcement conference in New Orleans.

A masked male — standing no taller than 5 feet, 6 inches — walked up with a gun drawn. “Don’t move,” Carrington recalled him saying.

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“Don’t do this,” Carrington said. “I’m a police officer.”

Carrington’s neighbor dropped his wallet and keys to the ground and started to run. Carrington decided to take off as well, thinking if he could get to a nearby car, he could take cover and draw his service weapon. He made it only a few steps before he heard gunshots. He toppled to the ground, thinking he had tripped. In fact, one of the first shots had shattered his femur.

Carrington rolled over to see the gunman advancing, the gun pointed at him. “Don’t do this,” he said again.

“Come on, let’s go,” an accomplice in a stolen vehicle yelled to the gunman, Carrington recalled. “And get that gun.”

Carrington said the shooter reached down and took his gun from the holster and got into the car. Neighbors started streaming outside, applying towels to Carrington’s gunshot wounds, and an officer who arrived on scene applied a tourniquet. Carrington had been shot multiple times throughout his body, including his spine. Carrington does not recall feeling pain, but he knew something was terribly wrong.

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At Maryland Shock Trauma Center, he recalls Dr. Thomas Scalea entering his room. “We’re gonna take care of you,” Scalea told Carrington, then turned to his staff: “Knock him out.”

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When Carrington was shot, authorities say Nesmith, Karon Foster and a group of other young men had been terrorizing the streets of Baltimore for months, going from carjacking to carjacking, robbery to robbery, shooting people who didn’t comply.

Plea agreements for co-conspirators tied them to at least 12 carjackings and robberies over a two-month span. They killed 29-year-old Taven Lowther in June. They killed Devon Chavis, 28, a barber who cut hair for celebrities, in July. Eight days after that, they killed Kendrick Sharpe, 48, an Army veteran and father of five.

Toni Crosby, special agent in charge of the Baltimore ATF field office, speaks with reporters at the Fallon federal building, Wednesday, October 19, 2022.
Toni Crosby, special agent in charge of the Baltimore ATF field office, speaks with reporters at the Fallon federal building on Wednesday, Oct. 19, 2022. (Jessica Gallagher/The Baltimore Banner)

The ATF began investigating the spree after the June 12 shooting of Lowther, when they were contacted by the homicide detective assigned to the case. The ATF’s Crime Gun Enforcement Team consists of 10 agents, three task force officers pulled from the Baltimore Police homicide unit, and analysts. They gathered surveillance footage from the area, and combing through records would eventually develop a lead on a cellphone that had been present in the area.

On Aug. 8, they linked the cellphone to Foster, and went to present some of their preliminary findings to the State’s Attorney’s Office.

While making the presentation, they were informed that Carrington had been shot. Supervisory Special Agent Troy Dannenfelser said agents instantly believed it could be the same crew.

“It was very evident that the fact pattern presented very similar to the fact pattern in not only the Lowther murder, but some other events that we’re working between this time of July and August,” Dannenfelser said.

Investigators were able to get a state arrest warrant for Foster, and federal search warrants to obtain more evidence. When they located Foster a few days later, he was in possession of a key fob for the vehicle used in the shootings of Carrington, Chavis and Lowther.

When they had enough evidence to arrest Nesmith, they seized his cell phone and found a picture he had taken of two guns on his lap. One was Carrington’s gun.

Investigators recovered this image from the phone of Rashaud Nesmith, which depicts two guns including the stolen service weapon of Sgt. Isaac Carrington.

The gun was eventually recovered from another defendant when he was arrested months later — a particular relief to Carrington, who feared his service weapon could be used to hurt people.

“The agents, Agent [David] Cheplak and TFO [Bryan] Kershaw ... worked tirelessly every morning. I would wake up and there would be a warrant to review, a grand jury subpoena, witnesses,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Patricia McLane said at a court hearing earlier this year. “If we didn’t have such dedicated agents this [crime spree] could have gone on for months and months.”

· · ·

Carrington filed for worker’s compensation following the shooting. His attorney, Warren Alperstein, convinced the city that because Carrington identified himself as a police officer to the shooter, he had put himself on duty. Alperstein said the city attempted to help the Carringtons find a new place to live that was compatible with his medical needs, but have in more recent months been trying to square away a contract to renovate his home.

Carrington said Bernard C. “Jack” Young, who was mayor when Carrington was shot, still checks in on him, as does Councilman Robert Stokes and FOP President Mike Mancuso, but he’s lost touch with others.

“It’s like ‘Hey, we’re going to look out for you; you’re family.’ And then you don’t hear from people,” Carrington said. “It’s kind of like, ‘Wow,’ you don’t hear from them and then you haven’t been home in three years and it’s like, damn, the process couldn’t be sped up? What’s going on?”

“I know people get busy. I understand that. But you do kind of feel like you’re left out.”

Although an infection sent him back to the hospital earlier this month, Carrington was discharged in time to be able to attend a Thanksgiving dinner and watch football at the FOP lodge.

Carrington says he is regularly in pain, though he considers this a long-term sign of hope.

“I’m feeling pain, and the irony is I’m not supposed to feel pain,” he explained. “People that are in the same position as me, they say after a couple of years, some things started to come back — some feelings started to come back. So, you keep up your faith that those things may come.”

Carrington did not attend Nesmith’s sentencing Tuesday, saying he was not feeling well. The hearing was relatively brief. Nesmith declined to speak; his attorney, Christopher Nieto, said he had “no doubt” that if Nesmith had not been caught, he likely would have been killed. He’ll likely be in his late 50s when he is eligible for release.

“He knows what he has done and understands he’ll have four decades to pay for that,” Nieto said.

At the spring sentencing hearing for the driver, Foster, attorney Stephen Mercer said Foster had been exposed to crack cocaine in the womb and lead paint in the home where he was raised — “poison in his environment that he could not control.” Foster apologized to the victims. “I didn’t mean for any harm to happen to anybody. I just wasn’t thinking,” he said.

Carrington and relatives of the slain victims gave victim impact statements at that hearing. “I wouldn’t want this this pain that I carry daily on my worst enemy,” Lowther’s mother said.

Some of the victim’s relatives told Judge Stephanie A. Gallagher that they wished for Foster to be sentenced to death — one said they wanted him to face a firing squad.

Carrington, for his part, said he forgave the shooters long ago, while he was still in the hospital. He believed it was necessary for him to move forward.

“My life is just totally different. Totally different. I can’t even explain how difficult it’s been dealing with living this way,” he said at the sentencing hearing. “But they haven’t taken my spirit, my strength. I’m still Ike, so they haven’t taken that. So I keep pressing on, keep pushing. Keep pushing and hope one I eventually get back home ... [and that] something good will come out of this.”

justin.fenton@thebaltimorebanner.com