City officer arrested in arson case

Records show she runs business, lives with convicted drug dealer

October 05, 2006|By Julie Bykowicz and Gus G. Sentementes | Julie Bykowicz and Gus G. Sentementes,Sun reporters

A Baltimore police officer from a specialized unit targeted in a corruption investigation appears to have been violating Police Department policy by living and running a business with a convicted drug dealer, court documents show.

Terre N. Shields, 28, and her boyfriend, Rashad J. Brooks, 29, were arrested this week on charges they set ablaze Shields' 2002 Acura sports utility vehicle, possibly to defraud her auto insurance company.

She is the second city police officer this year to face such charges.

The detailed charging documents in the Shields-Brooks case reveal that Shields, an officer since July 2000, has been living in an apartment with Brooks and, since this spring, has been operating a convenience store with him.

Baltimore Police Department general orders include a section stating that "members of the department shall refrain from making personal contacts with persons of questionable character."

Court records show Brooks has twice been convicted of drug distribution in Baltimore County. He is scheduled for a Baltimore Circuit Court trial this month on three new drug charges.

The couple are charged with multiple counts of malicious burning stemming from the June 18 incident. Shields was in the process of posting $50,000 bail last night, and Brooks is being held without bail, according to a District Court official and court records. District Court hearings are scheduled this month.

Brooks' attorney, Jerry Tarud, called the malicious burning case "lacking." A phone message left for Shields was not returned.

Matt Jablow, a police spokesman, said Shields has been suspended with pay as a result of the malicious burning charges. She faces a suspension hearing to determine if her pay will be revoked pending the resolution of the criminal case, Jablow said.

The charges come about two months after Shields' former unit, one of the Police Department's "Specialized Enforcement Teams," was disbanded and its officers assigned to administrative duties. Prosecutors also have investigated the unit.

None of the unit's seven officers has been charged with crimes connected to the corruption probe.

Officers in that unit, who often worked in plain clothes and unmarked cars, are alleged to have falsified information on charging documents and stolen from people they arrested.

Jablow said a police internal investigation into the SET unit, which he said is continuing, prompted the malicious burning charges.

Charging documents show that Fire Department investigators immediately suspected arson and opened an investigation. The Shields-Brooks investigation was then turned over to a Police Department arson investigator.

Shields and Brooks live together in an apartment in Southwest Baltimore's Wakefield neighborhood, and the two have been running a convenience store near Mondawmin Mall since April, according to court documents.

Public records show that the store, Chula's Place, was chartered in March under Shields' name and their apartment address.

About 2:30 p.m. June 18, court documents state, Shields reported her 2002 Acura SUV missing from the apartment parking lot. At 7:30 p.m., the vehicle was in flames on Flora Street, about four blocks from the convenience store, the documents state.

The vehicle had crashed into the garage door of a building, the documents state.

A witness said the vehicle was speeding up and down the street several times that day with at least three teenage boys inside, the document states.

Tarud, Brooks' attorney, said police should have focused their investigation on the teens rather than on his client and Shields.

The court documents state that inconsistent stories and the vehicle's built-in security system - which allows for only one key to start the engine using radio-frequency technology - led investigators to suspect the couple of arson. Shields had not reported the key missing.

Shields' auto insurance investigators met with the police arson investigator July 27 to say that the security system was functioning properly at the time of the fire and that there was a melted red plastic gasoline can in the front passenger's side of the vehicle, according to the court documents.

Shields is the second Baltimore police officer this year to be accused of burning a car for insurance money.

Officer Keosha Buie, 22, was charged June 30 in Baltimore County District Court with fraud, attempted theft and making a false statement to an officer.

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