Before they took Woodson to the precinct, Thompson waited outside with him while Price went into the house to talk with McDougald and tell her they would be searching the home.
From this moment on Woodson was in police custody and we must rely almost solely on the FIT report to get a picture of what may have happened in the moments leading up to his death. It is important to keep in mind that none of the officers upon whose statements the following narrative is based gave any statement until several months after the event.
Price and Thompson took Woodson to the Southwestern District station and locked him in an interview room. According to a statement by Det. Kevin Carvell, he met Thompson there. Thompson told him Woodson had been searched.
Carvell said he handcuffed Woodson to the wall. He told Woodson to contact him if he needed anything and “closed the door and that was the last time he saw Mr. Woodson,” according to the FIT report.
Det. Matthew Dzambo took Woodson to the bathroom while he waited for the detectives. “When they entered the bathroom, Det. Dzambo searched the bathroom and each stall to ensure no weapons or contraband was lying around,” the FIT report reads. When Converse and Pow returned, they went into the interview room and told Woodson, back from the bathroom, that they had recovered a weapon from his mother’s house and believed he had used it to shoot his cousin.
“Detective Converse believes Woodson had leg irons on his feet but doesn’t recall if he was handcuffed,” the FIT report reads.
Again, I wondered, if there was a gun in his shoe, how could someone have put leg-irons on Woodson and not noticed it? It is possible that, if he got a gun into precinct, Woodson could have placed it in the bathroom on this first trip so that it was no longer on his person during the rest of his time in the precinct.
When Pow and Converse finally questioned Woodson in an interview room, they did not record it, but according to Pow, Woodson “admitted Jerome McDougald shot him and his girlfriend and also stabbed his friend. He was very respectful and concerned about the future of his family. He wanted his family relocated and admitted he was always BGF. He was very concerned in going back to jail because he was a primary witness in a murder case, which concerned members of the BGF.”
Then, according to the FIT report, Woodson agreed to look at the photos and do a photo array, but said he wanted a cigarette first.
The detectives led him to the lot behind the station. Pow “stated it was odd because they ask Mr. Woodson if he needed a lighter and he said he had one.” He also pulled out a pack of cigarettes. In his statement to FIT investigators, Det. Pow said it didn’t set off any bells “because it was just cigarettes,” even though Woodson was supposed to have already been searched.
Then they showed him a photo of the man who shot him and he initialed it. Converse said Woodson got emotional. Woodson allegedly told them he would give a recorded statement if they let him use the phone.
In his statement to FIT, Pow said that he left Converse and Woodson to go get a tape recorder but when he came back he heard Woodson say, “Baby I’m going to be gone for a long time, I love you.”
Converse said Woodson told White “he is going to jail and not coming home.”
White, at this moment in the narrative, is Woodson’s only documented contact with anyone outside of the Southwestern District following his arrest. And yet she said the FIT investigators never asked her about the phone call. There is no notation in the files that indicate any attempt to contact her.
She told me that Woodson was calm and collected on the phone. He was acting like he always did when he got arrested and was trying to calm her down. She was upset because of what the detectives who had searched the house had been telling her.
“The polices had been saying he’s going away for a long time, he’s not coming home, but they would not let us see what they had to supposed to have recovered,” she said.
That’s why she was upset. Woodson, who was calling from his cell phone, kept telling her to calm down and that he would call her when he got to Central Booking.
“I heard noise in the background like an officer was saying something and that’s when Tyree’s phone had hung up,” she said.
The detectives both told FIT investigators that Woodson started crying and wanted to use the bathroom.
According to Pow’s statements to investigators, he walked Woodson, who hobbled along on his crutches, to the bathroom. Pow did not check the stalls as Dzambo had done, but he asked Woodson if he wanted him to hold his crutches. According to Pow, Woodson didn’t respond and went into the stall. As Pow stood outside the stall, by the window, Woodson would have had to pull his jeans down and sit on the toilet while also removing the gun from wherever it was concealed. In the crime scene photos his pants are down but not his boxers.
If this is what actually happened, then Woodson sat there on the toilet with the gun in his hand facing a choice. He could either turn the gun on himself or on Pow.
If he was always BGF and was trying to protect his family, as police alleged, the answer was obvious. Killing himself would have been one thing, but killing a cop would have been a more forceful statement. George Jackson, founder of the prison gang, was charged with killing a correctional officer in prison and later smuggled in a gun to take other guards hostage. More recently, the gang seemed to want to retaliate against cops for shutting down its jailhouse operation, with stories spreading about the gang’s intention to target white cops in Maryland and New York.
Tyree Woodson and Tahesha White (Courtesy/Tahesha White)
If this is what happened, it’s hard to overstate the danger Pow, unknowingly, faced at that moment. But according to Pow, he didn’t notice anything until he heard a loud pop and a “clanking sound.” Then he saw the gun fall to the floor between the stall as a piece of plaster fell from the ceiling.
When he opened the stall door “Mr. Woodson was slumped over with blood coming out of his mouth. He was leaning back on the stall after he shot himself.”
Officers outside the door noted that they saw Pow run out and say, “My fucking suspect just shot himself,” according to the handwritten notes of a FIT investigator that ended up in the file.
Det. Chris Hollingsworth told investigators he was standing outside of the District Detective Unit office when he heard the shot. He said he cleared the hallway and called his sergeant. When he went into the bathroom, the ranking officer, Maj. James Handley, told him to move the gun—in case Woodson was not dead. Hollingsworth moved the gun behind a trash can, he said.
Again, because of the Law Enforcement Officers’ Bill of Rights, most of the statements we can use to reconstruct what happened were not given until months after the incident. The one police narrative that was written that day was written by Dale Mattingly.
Although integrity issues had prevented him from making a statement while Woodson was alive—and discredited the testimony of those who relied on his report to inform their own—Mattingly was given the final say on the day of Woodson’s death. He stood over the dead man and emptied his pocket. There is no photograph of Mattingly in the report and no evidence that his gun was tested.
Mattingly wrote that he pulled into the precinct parking lot at 2:42 p.m. He heard a call for a medic on the radio. When he walked in someone told him that “the individual that was injured was in the men’s bathroom.”
“Upon entering the bathroom, I Officer Mattingly observed Southwest District Detective Hollingsworth in the bathroom standing at the stall where a black male Officer Mattingly knew to be Tyree Woodson was with a single gunshot wound to the head.”
Mattingly asked Hollingsworth what happened.
“He shot himself and I moved the gun behind the trash can,” Hollingsworth said.
In the photos of the crime scene, the glasses that Woodson’s mother gave to one of the officers were lying on the side of the sink. Pow’s story about taking Woodson into the bathroom doesn’t account for them. And no one asked.
Mattingly’s report does not mention Pow at all. There is a door log in the investigatory documents, detailing when people entered the precinct after FIT arrived. I tried to file a public records request for the regular door log to the precinct, to see when Mattingly arrived, but such records are not maintained for officers, only visitors—so it is impossible for an outsider to know who was in the precinct when the gun was fired.
When I called Handley, who was the ranking officer, and asked if he knew that the report of the incident was written by a cop who the dead man had just accused of fabricating charges against him, Handley refused to answer and directed me toward internal affairs, whose investigators made up the FIT unit.
When a man was found dead in a police bathroom, authorities said he was a dangerous attempted murderer. But the facts didn't seem to add up.
“Eight years before my son was ever shot, police threatened him. Southwest District cops threatened him,” Tyree Woodon's mother said.
Offc. Mattingly arrested Woodson Dec. 26, 2012, alleging that Woodson tried to run over officers and smashed into their car as he fled.
At trial, the prosecutor said Mattingly had "moved on" and could not testify but it came out SAO was concerned with his "integrity issues."
After Woodson was cleared of all charges, he and his fiancee got shot. Police said Woodson shot the assailant, his cousin, in retaliation.
Woodson was again arrested, wearing a medical shoe, in which he was supposed to have concealed a gun from officers who searched him.
Police brought Woodson to the Southwest precinct where, they say, he shot himself in the bathroom. Officer Mattingly wrote the report.
The police investigation into Woodson's death left many questions unanswered. His mother and fiancee still wonder what happened to him.
The complete file given to Baynard Woods by the Baltimore Police via MPIA
This article is published in partnership with Democracy In Crisis.