The Baltimore Police Department claimed “every effort was made to collect any items of evidentiary value” in the 100-page postmortem on the Brooklyn Homes mass shooting.
But forensic crime scene experts have said otherwise.
Earlier this summer, The Baltimore Banner spoke with several experts who denounced BPD throwing out copious amounts of trash from the crime scene, claiming it resulted in the destruction of DNA evidence that could have been pivotal to a case where police have made little progress identifying and arresting suspects.
“Within my career, I’ve seen slight instances of things like this but nothing as wide scale,” said Boston University forensic science professor Adam Hall in an interview with The Banner earlier this summer.
The after-action review justified tossing the thousands of red solo cups, plastic utensils, and other trash from Elarton Court, calling the block party’s remnants “debris” that was hindering evidence collection.
“Due to the area being rather large and covered with debris, it would be possible to overlook certain pieces of evidence,” the report said. “However, as debris removal was underway, which was requested by BPD, another canvass was also conducted and additional ballistic evidence was recovered and collected by CSU.”
Neither the after-action report nor past comments from BPD specified if any debris was taken in as evidence. In the report, BPD specified it collected over 100 items, such as clothing and cartridge casings, for potential DNA analysis.
BPD said in the report that investigators first canvassed the scene the night of the shooting to collect ballistics and other physical evidence. The Crime Scene Unit then conducted another canvass during the daytime to collect additional physical evidence.
Police requested the Housing Authority of Baltimore City send cleaners to remove the trash, which the report said resulted in additional ballistic evidence being collected. As housing authority employees cleaned, according to the report, a crime scene technician remained on scene to collect new evidence as the trash was removed.
Both the after-action report and forensic experts interviewed by The Banner stressed that the Brooklyn Homes mass shooting was an especially complicated crime scene. In a typical mass shooting, there is one assailant, but there were likely over a dozen shooters at Brooklyn Homes.
The report also addressed civilians entering the crime scene, stating that the scene was not limited to just BPD personnel, but also Brooklyn residents trying to access their homes and personal belongings.
“BPD must balance evidence preservation and collection with the ability to grant residents access to their homes, which was a critical lesson learned in past events where BPD unnecessarily restricted access to entire blocks and neighborhoods citing investigative requirements,” the report said.
One such past event was the police’s handling of the Harlem Park crime scene where Detective Sean Suiter was killed. According to the American Civil Liberties Union of Maryland, BPD sanctioned a six-day, multiblock lockdown of the crime scene, violating the constitutional rights of Harlem Park residents. Four of these residents sued the city, resulting in a settlement and a public apology from BPD.