- The Washington Times - Tuesday, January 9, 2007

BALTIMORE — A man who had been arrested 17 times in recent years was charged yesterday with killing a Baltimore police officer in an early morning robbery attempt, prompting grieving and angry police officials to express outrage that the suspect wasn’t in jail.

The death of Detective Troy Chesley Sr., 34, was the third violent attack against a city officer in three months.

Police charged Brandon M. Grimes, 21, of Baltimore, with first-degree murder in the shooting at 1:20 a.m. yesterday. In the past 3 years, Grimes has been charged with handgun, drug and car-theft crimes and repeatedly avoided lengthy jail time.

The two men exchanged gunfire outside Detective Chesley’s girlfriend’s home in West Baltimore.

Police said the suspect was severely wounded in a leg and is under guard at St. Agnes Hospital.

Detective Chesley’s death was the latest killing in a city that has seen an upswing in violence early this year. He was the 10th homicide victim in the first nine days of 2007 and his death was followed by two more killings yesterday.

Police Commissioner Leonard Hamm said agencies composing the city’s criminal justice system that are often are at odds with each other as they grapple with high crime rates must take a hard look at a system that allows people like Grimes to roam the streets.

“We need to stop being petty,” Commissioner Hamm said. “We need to put our egos at the door and concentrate on people like Brandon Grimes.”

In March, Grimes posted $45,000 bail to get out of jail on one handgun charge. He then got out of jail a month later on $100,000 bail. His trial on the gun charges was scheduled to begin today in Baltimore Circuit Court.

He pleaded guilty in 2004 to auto theft, receiving a 10-year prison sentence. But the sentence was suspended, except for about three months he had served. Grimes also was arrested in November on a breaking-and-entering charge as well as two drug charges, according to court records.

Col. Frederick Bealefeld, chief of the police department’s detective unit, angrily pointed out that police had risked their lives twice before to take guns away from Grimes — only to see him get another gun and kill “one of our brothers” a day before his trial.

“This is the sort of mayhem and craziness that we see all too often,” Col. Bealefeld said at a press conference at police headquarters.

State Sen. Nathaniel McFadden, Baltimore Democrat, said a lack of respect for police is “to the point now where you can’t stand it anymore.”

Criminals won’t hesitate to kill, even when carrying out petty crimes, said Lt. Paul Blair Jr., president of the city chapter of the Fraternal Order of Police.

“I’ve seen them kill for minor street robberies of $10, and they kill the person because they looked at them wrong,” he said.

Last month, Officer Momudu Gondo was wounded Dec. 5 as he got out of his car near his home in Northeast Baltimore. Police arrested a suspect about a week later. Officer Gondo, who also returned fire at his assailants, was wearing a ballistic vest and survived.

In November, Sgt. Christopher Nyberg managed to disarm a would-be robber who held a knife to his throat, Lt. Blair said. Sgt. Nyberg, a former Marine, shot two of the four persons who tried to rob him as he walked home in the Federal Hill neighborhood.

And in September, Officer Robert Cirello was shot while on patrol in Patterson Park. He was wearing body armor and survived.

Detective Chesley wasn’t wearing a protective vest, a police spokesman said.

Lt. Blair said unseasonably warm temperatures could be playing a role in the recent spike in homicides. “This is thug weather,” he said. “It’s a mild winter so far, and the thugs get to rob day and night.”

Baltimore finished 2006 with 275 homicides, up six from the previous year.

Detective Chesley had just gotten off work when he was approached by at least one person, and gunfire was exchanged, police said. He was a 13-year-veteran assigned to a unit that works in public housing.

Detective Chesley is survived by two sons ages 12 and 14. Their mother died of a heart attack in 2004.

• AP writer Kristen Wyatt contributed to this report from Annapolis.

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