Feds shut down another open-air drug shop; Baltimore abides

Two-hundred police and federal agents from as far away as Georgia raided 13 locations in and around Baltimore yesterday morning searching for drugs, money, and guns from an East Baltimore crew that for years operated from the 1100 block of N. Montford Avenue. 

"I can say, without question, that East Baltimore is safer today," Federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms Special Agent in Charge Daniel L. Board, Jr. told assembled reporters in Acting Maryland U.S. Attorney Stephen M. Schenning's office. 

Thirteen people ranging in age from 18 to 55 have been indicted for selling heroin and cocaine, and having and using illegal guns. "This is an organization that operated in that area of Montford and Chase for quite some time," Baltimore Police Deputy Commissioner Dean Palmere said. He said the department is still investigating. 

The federal investigation began in September of last year, after two of the alleged leaders of the crew beat an attempted murder charge in state court. Ernest McRae, age 37, and Jackie Bagley, 38, extended credit to another drug dealer, who then declined to pay for his heroin and was shot in the head, according to an account in the search warrant affidavit that was unsealed today. The victim is not named in the affidavit. 

Along with Bagley and McRae, the indictment charges Rodney Addison, 39; Deandre Anderson, 22; Kurt Atkins, 55; Vernon Bartee, 51; Johntae Brown, 19; Dominic Durham, 18; Wilbur Forrester, 38; Keith Johnson, 46; Antonio Jones, 23; Andrew Manuel, 21; and Stancil McNair, 20. All but Manuel and Durham face possible life in prison. All are in custody except Jones, Durham, and Forrester, who are fugitives. 

With controlled drug-buys, long-term surveillance, confidential informants, and wiretaps arrayed against men with long and mainly successful criminal careers, the case looks like several recent federally-led roll-ups of Baltimore City drug crews. From 2013 through 2016 the U.S. Attorney made dozens of cases against warring Cherry Hill gangs, and announced cases last year against the Murdaland Mafia Piru in the city's northwest. In March they indicted 11 people (including the head of the east side's vaunted "Safe Streets" program) dealing out of Latrobe Homes, and in June they took down a Sandtown crew they said was responsible for five murders. 

These followed late-2000s cases against Tree Top Piru and PDL Bloods, Black Guerilla Family and Dead Man, Inc. factions. 

In each case, high-ranking federal agents said the operation made Baltimore safer. "No one's naïve enough to say we won the war," Palmere told reporters.

So far this year, 290 people have been murdered in Baltimore.  


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