Please ensure Javascript is enabled for purposes of website accessibility

With trial looming for Baltimore officer, another GTTF victim files civil rights lawsuit

A victim of the Baltimore Police Department’s corrupt Gun Trace Task Force unit has filed a multimillion-dollar federal civil rights lawsuit just weeks before one of the officers involved in his case is set to go to trial on conspiracy charges.

The lawsuit filed last week centers on a March 2014 incident in which a group of Baltimore police officers planted a BB gun on the plaintiff, Demetric Simon, to cover for Sgt. Wayne Jenkins, who had rammed Simon with a police vehicle, according to federal court records.

Several of the officers involved in the incident, including Jenkins, have been prosecuted for crimes related to the Gun Trace Task Force. One of those named in the lawsuit, former Detective Robert Hankard, is set to face trial early next month on charges including conspiring to deprive civil rights.

“The biggest issue here is the conduct of the city and its officers, and how long they allowed this to continue,” said Larry Greenberg, a Baltimore lawyer who is representing Simon with attorney Michael Wein.

“Even when they had knowledge or should have known, they continued to allow it,” Greenberg said.

A spokesperson for the city did not respond to an email requesting comment Tuesday.

Click this image to read the full complaint.

Click this image to read the full complaint.

The new lawsuit is the latest fallout from the widespread corruption of the Gun Trace Task Force, or GTTF, a specialized police unit that ultimately became more akin to a criminal enterprise.

The complaint quotes extensively from federal court filings and investigations into the GTTF, including a lengthy report by former Department of Justice Inspector General Michael Bromwich.

According to the complaint, Officer Keith Gladstone received a phone call from Jenkins on the evening of March 26, 2014. Jenkins had struck Simon with his vehicle, according to the complaint, and asked Gladstone for help because he needed a justification for his use of force. No drugs or weapons were found on Simon at the scene.

Gladstone and another officer, Carmine Vignola, sought out a realistic-looking BB gun that they could plant on Simon, according to federal court filings. Hankard provided the BB gun, federal prosecutors allege, knowing that it would be planted on a suspect.

Simons was arrested and charged, including with “possession, use, and discharge of a gas or pellet gun.” He spent 317 days in jail, according to the complaint. Even after the charges were dismissed, Simon stayed in jail for several more weeks because the 2014 arrest was considered a probation violation.

In 2018, after Jenkins was arrested on unrelated charges, Gladstone and Vignola met in a swimming pool — a precaution used to ensure neither was recording the other — to discuss the incident. The two men agreed to lie about what had happened, according to the complaint.

Jenkins is serving 25 years in prison for charges unrelated to Simon’s allegations. Gladstone and Vignola both pleaded guilty to charges related to framing Simon. Vignola was given 18 months in federal prison, and Gladstone has yet to be sentenced.

Simon did not receive any credit for the time he spent in jail during subsequent criminal proceedings, according to the complaint. He successfully completed a drug treatment program late last year and is staying with family now, his lawyers wrote.

Simon’s lawsuit requests at least $17 million in damages and alleges civil rights violations, malicious prosecution, and civil conspiracy.