Federal prosecutors indicted a Baltimore police detective over his alleged role in helping Gun Trace Task Force Sgt. Wayne Jenkins plant a gun on a man he had hit with his pickup truck in 2014.
Robert Hankard, 43, is also charged for allegedly falsifying police reports from a 2015 drug bust, and giving false testimony about the gun-planting incident when he appeared before a federal grand jury in February 2019.
According to the indictment, Hankard, a 12-year veteran of the department, received a call from his partner, Carmine Vignola, on March 26, 2014, while he was off-duty. Vignola informed him Jenkins was “hemmed up” in something and asked if Hankard had any toy or replica guns.
“Hankard understood that his partner was asking for a BB gun or air soft gun so that it could be planted on a suspect,” prosecutors say.
The detective came to Hankard’s house and picked up a BB gun, which he then gave to Sgt. Keith Gladstone, prosecutors allege.
According to an earlier indictment charging Gladstone, the sergeant took it to the scene near the intersection of Belair Road and Anntana Avenue in Northeast Baltimore, where Jenkins “had just deliberately run over” a man who jumped out of his car and ran, and planted it by the truck. Jenkins asked a fourth officer to move it “near the front driver side wheel underneath the pickup truck.”
The man, later identified by The Sun as Demetric Simon, was taken to a hospital for treatment and drugs were found on him. Charging documents later claimed Simon had pointed a gun at police.
In addition to drug counts, Simon was charged with possession, use and discharge of a gas or pellet gun or BB gun and was detained. Those charges were dismissed almost a year later.
Gladstone was federally indicted in March 2019 for his role in planting the gun, charged with witness tampering and planting evidence. In May, he pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to violate civil rights.
During a 2015 incident, prosecutors allege Hankard and his partner planted drugs on a man they were investigating. They searched the man’s truck as he sat in it outside the motel where he was staying but didn’t turn up anything.
Other officers on the scene, including Gladstone, then allegedly entered the man’s room without a warrant and discovered a woman inside, along with a large quantity of heroin and a small amount of cocaine.
Prosecutors say Gladstone took some of the cocaine and asked if Hankard was “okay” with him planting it in the man’s truck to justify the arrest. Hankard allegedly consented.
The man and woman were taken to “The Barn,” an off-site police facility, where they were interrogated by police. Hankard appeared before a judge in the early hours of Sept. 25, 2015 and asked for a search warrant for the room, saying only that officers had recovered a key from the man and believed there was more drugs in the room, prosecutors allege.
Hankard allegedly offered a similar version of events in the official incident report, and later authored a supplemental report “which purported to describe the execution of the search warrant,” prosecutors say.
The man arrested in the case was charged with possession with intent to distribute narcotics and in 2016 received 10-year sentence, eight years and six months of which were suspended.
Following the 2017 arrests of Gun Trace Task Force members, all charged with robbery, planting evidence, racketeering and a host of other crimes, Gladstone and Vignola agreed to meet at a YMCA near Gladstone’s Pennsylvania home to discuss the gun planting incident.
They went into a pool, to show neither man was wearing a wire, and agreed Vignola and Hankard would deny any involvement in supplying the BB gun.
Appearing before a federal grand jury in February 2019, Hankard testified he received a phone call from Vignola, who told him Jenkins was in trouble and asked about toy or replica guns.
“I was unsure of what he meant and I was like, What do you mean, [C.V.]?” he testified.
When Vignola asked again, Hankard testified that he responded “absolutely not” and hung up.
He later testified that he tried to block the incident out of his mind and didn’t tell his superiors.
“I’m just one of those cops that I do everything by the book and I just didn’t even want to think about it,” he testified.
Hankard is charged with one count of conspiracy, one count of conspiracy to deprive civil rights, two counts of falsifying records and one count of false declarations before a federal grand jury. If convicted, he faces a maximum sentence of 60 years in federal prison.
Vignola in September pleaded guilty to lying to a federal grand jury. As The Sun noted at the time, prosecutors accused “Rob” of supplying the gun in court documents, but they hadn’t yet charged him with any crimes.
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