Investigation of gun in cell continues

5 inmates housed there over previous 24 hours, but not initial suspect

May 02, 2001|By Laura Barnhardt | Laura Barnhardt,SUN STAFF

The locked-room mystery of how a loaded gun turned up in a vacated Anne Arundel County police station jail cell continued to baffle investigators yesterday, with no fingerprints to trace and conflicting police records.

In the 24 hours before police found the gun in a Southern District cell, at least five inmates had been detained there, according to documents released by the department yesterday.

But apparently the occupants taking up temporary residence in the cell did not include the prisoner whom police initially suspected of hiding the .25-caliber Beretta semiautomatic handgun. The inmate was not listed on the prisoner log as having been in the cell where the gun was found by a booking officer Friday afternoon, according to police.

Complicating the case, crime scene investigators found no fingerprints on the gun - making it more difficult to prove who hid the weapon in a small open space on the side of the combination toilet and water fountain unit in the cell.

Police officials said they were still investigating discrepancies in the department reports.

Capt. Thomas A. Suit, the Southern District commander, said police would be examining logs of when security checks were made in the cell and which inmates had been detained there.

The gun posed a potential deadly threat to inmates as well as police personnel, who are not allowed to have guns in the lockup area.

In an incident report, police named an East Baltimore man - charged early Friday with drug offenses and attempting to break into an automated teller machine - as the primary gun suspect, only to find him not listed on the prisoner log as having been in the cell.

Police said that the gun, which was loaded with nine rounds of ammunition, including one in the chamber, had been reported stolen in November in the White Marsh area of Baltimore County.

The jail incident remained under investigation with no charges lodged against anyone - criminal or disciplinary - although officials said it appeared that department policies had been violated.

All suspects under arrest are required to be patted down by officers before they are transported to police stations and again after arrival - before being booked and placed in a cell, said Lt. Joseph Jordan, a department spokesman.

Department policies also require a security check of a vacant cell before and after each use, Jordan said.

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