Blackwell indicted in heroin conspiracy

26-year-old linked to violent drug feud in Baltimore

August 25, 2010|By Scott Calvert, The Baltimore Sun

A federal grand jury has indicted 26-year-old Steven Blackwell — long suspected by Baltimore police of being a major drug kingpin on the city's east side — on a charge of running a heroin ring that stretched from New York to the Dominican Republic.

Blackwell, a resident of Elkton, was indicted with Tahirah Carter, 34, of Cockeysville and Joy Edison, 24, of Elkton. All three face a maximum sentence of life in prison if convicted of the drug conspiracy, which prosecutors allege began in late 2003.

The two-page indictment was returned Aug. 11 and unsealed Wednesday, after Blackwell and the two others were taken into custody. Blackwell was arrested Tuesday in New York and made an initial appearance in federal court there Wednesday.

Authorities have labeled Blackwell a key player in a violent drug feud that has spilled onto the streets of Baltimore. Episodes included the abduction of his two younger brothers, a quadruple shooting outside an appliance store and a shootout at a backyard cookout that injured 12 people, including Blackwell.

Yet until now, Blackwell's most serious charge in years had been disorderly conduct.

"This investigation has been one of our highest priorities," U.S. Attorney Rod J. Rosenstein said in a statement. "Federal prosecutors and agents are working closely with Baltimore City police and prosecutors and focusing resources on suspects believed to be involved in the city's most serious crimes."

Police Commissioner Frederick H. Bealefeld III credited the indictment to a partnership with federal prosecutors and two years of "tenacious work" by police officers and FBI agents. "This indictment represents a milestone achievement in the fight against violent crime in Baltimore," he said.

Three city prosecutors were also assigned to the case and "worked very hard," said Baltimore State's Attorney Patricia C. Jessamy.

In April 2008, Blackwell's two younger brothers were abducted by masked gunmen from their Catonsville home by rival drug dealers who thought Blackwell was cheating them on the price of heroin, according to documents previously filed in federal court by an agent for the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. Blackwell paid a $500,000 ransom to spring his brothers, the records show.

Six weeks later, authorities said, gunmen took revenge with a quadruple shooting outside the Allen & Family Appliance store, a discount appliance shop in East Baltimore. The store was operated by the family of Terrell Allen, described by law enforcement officials as a drug dealer who took part in the Blackwell kidnapping. The shooting killed Allen's father, Tony Allen, 52, and a 27-year-old named Omar Spriggs. Terrell Allen and another man were injured.

In the months that followed, several Blackwell associates were killed. Then on July 26 of last year, gunfire rang out at a backyard cookout in East Baltimore held to commemorate their deaths. Twelve people were shot and wounded, including Blackwell. A pregnant woman and a two-year-old girl were also among the injured.

A month later, Blackwell was charged with disorderly conduct in East Baltimore after police approached him for a field interview. Blackwell grew "loud and belligerent," court records said, and yelled, "[Expletive] you all. I'm going to make it very hard on the police around here."

In late December, Terrell Allen was sentenced to four years in federal prison for being a felon in possession of ammunition. Allen, 36, had pleaded guilty in September, two months after federal agents raided his Essex home and found 21 rounds of ammunition in a table next to his bed.

In 2001, when Blackwell was 17, he faced an attempted-murder charge after a stabbing victim identified him in a photo array, but that case was dropped. He'd also faced an attempted murder charge in 2000 as a juvenile, but those records are not public.

Blackwell's father, Steven Blackwell Sr., was convicted in 2006 and is serving a 10-year federal prison sentence after police recovered 160 grams of raw heroin, $25,000 in cash and a handgun from his residence.

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