A cop claiming to be the one in Connor Meek's Sun op-ed about getting mugged responds (UPDATED)

Bike theft prompts apparent police response--on Facebook.

Connor Meek should not have been riding his bike on an unlit path—toward the casino, according to Michael Witmer, who posted to Facebook today with further admonishments for the crime victim. 

Meek wrote a an op-ed, published yesterday in The Sun, complaining about how police handled the theft of his bicycle by a group of young people. Meek dialed 911 and walked a mile to the Southwest District Police Station, where a police officer told him it was closed for business. 

“I stood there for a moment trying to formulate a response to the only circumstance I hadn't prepared for: The police station was closed. Closed. The police station.”

Connor was persistent, and eventually got a detective to take his statement. That cop interrogated him about the exact location of the crime and then told him he was at the wrong district, and got him a ride to the Southern District. “The Southern District Station was over four miles away. But I agreed, and was escorted to the Southern District by an officer who held his iPhone in his right hand for the entire drive, seemingly getting directions. We arrived and — lo and behold! —the Southern District Station was closed from 7 p.m. to 7 a.m. The officer mentioned that this was because people ‘want to come in here and shoot us up.’”

The piece prompted much discussion, including this Reddit thread where people claiming to know or be police say the real problem is a huge and recent drain of able bodies from the department.  

Today, Michael Witmer added insult to, well, other insult: “I explained to you why I was having you driven to the Southern District, if you don’t understand but say you do then I can’t explain it differently. Im not a mind reader,” he posted to Facebook. “P.S. you were riding your bike in the dark with no light down a dark trail that closed at dusk to the casino. Do you see any issues there? Think about what your [sic] complaining about before you speak!” 

There is a Det. Michael Witmer assigned to the Southwest District. He’s been involved in more than 300 criminal cases, according to online court records. City Paper has asked Baltimore Police to confirm that that Witmer is the Facebook Witmer, who has posted several profile photos in BPD uniform. He's also posted a number of police- and military-related memes, including one posted on June 29, more than two months after the death of Freddie Gray, with a sign reading "The beatings will continue until morale improves" over a skull and cross-bones. Witmer posted it with the message "BPD MOTTO!!!!!!!!"

We’ve also asked the department to tell us more about the hours the district police stations are open to walk-ins, and whether the department has suffered a loss of manpower recently that prompted any changes in hours or policies.

We hope to update this story when we get more information.

 

UPDATE 1:

Since we first posted this, Witmer has taken down his Facebook post about Meek's column and the skull and cross-bones picture, and Meek emailed this response to City Paper, then called to talk in more detail. First, the email:

Detective Michael Witmer was the most professional and courteous policeman that I dealt with during my encounter on June 15th. He was the third officer I had told that I had just been assaulted. He was the first one to ask if I had been injured. That basically says it all right there.

As we sat down, the first question I recall was about a book I had been carrying. He told me that he was a bit of a book-nut, and was interested in what I was reading. I think most law-abiding citizens will agree that that is the wrong question for a detective to ask the victim of a recent crime. How about - anything related to the crime! This is not a book club.

First, I must address his complete omission of the real issue. The police station was closed.  The city is not outraged because my bike got stolen. They're imagining themselves running up to that door with a real emergency, reading a hand-written sign noting that the police station is closed.

To gain access to the Southern Police Station, the detective accompanying me had to call someone at the Southwest station, who then called the Southern station, and Det. O'Connor opened the door.

I'd also like to respond to the note regarding the "unlit path." This crime occurred at 8:15 on June 15th. On June 15th the sun set over West Baltimore at 8:35. The sky was lit well enough that people were still playing golf. 

And I have a problem with any Baltimore City Police Department detective who actually will actually come out and say to the media, Well, he shouldn't have been there. That's not our problem. It's also crazy that he went to the media at all instead of an official police response to me. And they'll say, well you went to the media. Who was I supposed to go to, the police. 

You need to work with the community. Care, cooperate, and educate. The message from the police department should not be: Be afraid. Be very afraid.

In a phone interview, Meek reiterated that the sky was not yet dark when the kids came up on him. He said that while he was on the phone awaiting a 911 operator, another couple met him on the trail and said they had been attacked by what must have been the same group. “The guy was a big guy and he was scratched up,” Meek says. “He said that while five of the kids were fighting him the rest ran into the woods to get sticks or something.”

Meek says he’s been a crime victim before in Baltimore, having had five bicycles stolen in his five year’s residence. “This was the first time I’ve been mugged,” he says. “After the first few [stolen bikes] I sort of stopped reporting it . . . I just always got 50-100 dollar bikes because I know I’m not gonna have them for too long. And I figured, pre-Freddie Gray, ‘These police are busy, I’m not gonna tie them up with a stolen bike.’

“I’ve been trying to talk about anything but the stolen bike,” he says.

 

UPDATE 2:

Two Sun reporters tweeted about a statement, which was not sent to City Paper, about a BPD response to Meek's op-ed. It reads: "This incident is alarming and disappointing, we want to assure our communities the Baltimore Police Department is here to serve them and ensure their safety, regardless of the time of day. Earlier today, Chief of Patrol, Colonel Darryl DeSousa, has ordered all police districts to maintain lobbies that are accessible to the public 24-hours a day. In the past, some districts have had to temporarily close their front desks during the overnight hours due to manpower shortages. The Baltimore Police Department has initiated an investigation following the allegations made earlier this week by a citizen's Op-ed published in a local newspaper.
Detective Jeremy Silbert
Public Information Officer
Baltimore Police Department"

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