Deputy under scrutiny resigns His handgun, truck were stolen from his Baltimore house

September 19, 1998|By Peter Hermann and Devon Spurgeon | Peter Hermann and Devon Spurgeon,SUN STAFF

Baltimore Sheriff John W. Anderson considered John Rutkowski one of his best deputies and assigned him to an elite squad responsible for tracking fugitives on city streets.

But Rutkowski has resigned from a job he held for 22 years after his department-issued handgun and badge were stolen last month along with his pickup truck from his city house, allegedly by a visiting male prostitute who sold the weapon and used the money to go on a drug binge.

Anderson said a continuing Sheriff's Department investigation has resulted in the arrest of the prostitute and will continue examining the actions of the former deputy, whose career has been marred by questionable conduct before.

"He was one of my aces," Anderson said. "It just seemed to be his off time that caused him some problems."

Rutkowski, who lives in the 1200 block of Cooksie St., off East Fort Avenue, resigned two weeks ago.

The former deputy could not be reached to comment late this week, despite several attempts to contact him by telephone and visits to his house. He did not respond to a note left at his house seeking comment.

Anderson would not discuss details of the case, saying it could impair the department's investigation. But he said sheriff's deputiesand Baltimore police are concentrating on finding Rutkowski's .40-caliber semiautomatic handgun.

L "We definitely want to get that weapon back," Anderson said.

Rutkowski lost the gun on Aug. 27 shortly after he picked up a friend about 3 a.m. and took him home.

Rutkowski told city police that he fell asleep and that when he woke later that morning, his 1997 Ford Ranger was gone. Under the truck's front seat was a fanny pack containing the deputy's checkbook and a bag with his gun, wallet and badge.

Suspect arrested

Police said the suspect, Lance T. Johnson, was arrested when one of his friends tried to cash one of Rutkowski's checks the same day at a First National Bank.

Johnson, 26, of the 100 block of E. 22nd St., was charged with cocaine possession and stealing the truck and gun. The Ford Ranger was later recovered on North Calvert Street.

He was being held on $25,000 bail at the Central Booking and Intake Center and could not be reached for comment. No lawyer is listed on court documents, and the public defender's office could not determine yesterday whether anyone had been assigned to the case.

According to a police report and court documents, Johnson denied taking the truck or gun. Police said they searched his house and found 33 vials thought to contain crack cocaine.

According to court documents, one of his friends told police that he went to Johnson's house about 7 a.m. on Aug. 27 "to party with drugs and alcohol for several hours" with him. The court documents say that Johnson bought the cocaine with $330 he got for selling the deputy's gun.

Questionable conduct

Rutkowski, whose late father was a former deputy and state delegate, joined the force in 1976 without taking the civil service examination. He was hired by George W. Freeberger, who was then sheriff.

Two years later, Rutkowski was charged with drunken driving after he ran a red light and forced a city police cruiser off a street and into two parked cars. He was driving Freeberger's city-owned car at the time; Freeberger was in the passenger seat.

Rutkowski was sentenced to probation before judgment and continued on the force. Anderson, who was a deputy then, said Rutkowski was briefly suspended for the accident.

Anderson described Rutkowski as a hard worker, adding that "if we could have kept him working 24 hours a day, he probably would still be here today. He had some people in his house that shouldn't have been in his house. He got drunk and they ripped him off. I hope he gets some help."

Pub Date: 9/19/98

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