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Justin Fenton

The Baltimore Banner

April 19, 2024

A fourth Baltimore County police officer has been indicted in connection with an incident in which an officer pepper-sprayed a detainee in the city last year.

Court records show officer Thomas Desmond, 35, was indicted on April 11 on one count of misconduct in office. The charges were not announced by city prosecutors, and the indictment does not further describe what Desmond is accused of doing — or failing to do.

Desmond, who county police said has been suspended, is listed as a co-defendant of fellow county officers Justin Graham-Moore and Jacob Roos, who were charged in February with misconduct in office for failing to intervene when Cpl. Zachary Small allegedly assaulted a detainee who had been taken to the city for medical treatment.

Small, 52, was charged with first- and second-degree assault, reckless endangerment, misconduct in office and a related charge, though prosecutors have since dropped the first-degree assault count.

The charges were filed in the city, because the altercation occurred outside Johns Hopkins Hospital, where the victim had been taken for treatment. The indictment says a total of 18 police officers and Johns Hopkins security guards were present.

The indictment against Small said he, Graham-Moore and Roos ventured into the city to pick up 32-year-old Justin Russell, who had escaped police custody at Johns Hopkins Hospital. He was placed into a patrol car with his hands cuffed behind his back and legs shackled. The windows of the vehicle were rolled up.

Russell began to hit his head on the back window, saying he couldn’t breathe. Small, according to the indictment, responded: “You break that fucking window and you’re gonna get the whole can of pepper spray!”

“I cannot breathe. You got all the windows rolled up,” Russell responded.

“Yes, you can,” Small said.

The indictment says Small then sprayed nine “shots” of pepper spray directly into Russell’s face, then closed the car door. “Mr. Russell began to gasp, choke, and call out for the assistance of the officers while doing so kicking against the car door to get the attention of the officers,” the indictment says.

“You asked for it,” Small said, according to the indictment. “Just remember this. I warned you.”

Small pulled Russell out of the car by his shirt and threw him onto the ground, the indictment says. He “gathered Mr. Russell’s locks at the roots” and began to yank his head and neck back and forth. Russell said he couldn’t breathe and asked not to be placed back into the patrol car. The indictment says Small lifted him up by his shirt collar and forced him back into the patrol car.

The indictment says Small did not call for medical assistance and did not render aid. Russell was transported to the Woodlawn precinct station instead. The indictment says Small violated multiple criminal laws and county police policies and procedures.

City prosecutors also filed charges earlier this month against Baltimore Police officer Darius Gaines on charges alleging he committed overtime fraud.

The indictment says an investigator learned that in January and February of 2023, Gaines had twice volunteered to work overtime shifts and clocked in and out but did not work. The ethics unit of the Public Integrity Bureau then initiated an undercover investigation, the indictment says.

Between March 13 and April 11, 2023, Gaines volunteered to work overtime crime suppression shifts at least 13 times, the indictment says. On such shifts, officers are required to take hourly pictures of their location and post them in an internal messaging system.

During the 13 shifts, Gaines posted no such photos, and his body worn camera was docked and inactive, the indictment says. He was paid $2,241.92 for about 106 hours that he did not work.

Like the charges against Desmond, the indictment of Gaines was not announced by prosecutors.

Neither officer had defense attorneys listed in court records.

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