Four Baltimore teens arrested in violent carjacking ring in city, county

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Maryland Attorney General Brian Frosh and others gather to announce the indictments of four teens in a carjacking ring. Photo via T.J. Smith/Twitter.

A quartet of Baltimore teens faces decades of prison for a string of 26 alleged carjackings and attacks on drivers from last fall, including more than a dozen carried out with firearms and several that left victims with broken bones and other injuries.

Dalante Graham, 18, Tyheim Gray, 19, Daquan Johnson, 18, and Travon Williamston, 17, face dozens of felony and misdemeanor charges, including carjacking, participation in a criminal gang, armed robbery, assault, theft and other offenses, for a series of incidents stretching from mid-September through early December of 2017, according to an indictment announced today by the Maryland Attorney General’s Office. All of the cases happened in Baltimore City or County, amounting to about one every three days, Attorney General Brian Frosh said.

An indictment also named a fifth suspect, 19-year-old Moya Pittman—described as a half-brother of Graham’s—though he is no longer charged in the state’s indictment. Court records show prosecutors dropped 11 charges against him last December.

According to the narrative offered by the state’s top prosecutor today, the group started off their spree with knives, but graduated to guns and physically maiming their targets in a series of what Acting Baltimore Police Commissioner Gary Tuggle referred to as “bump and grabs.”

“Members and associates of the Enterprise would intentionally cause superficial vehicle accidents with their victims on the streets of Baltimore County and the City of Baltimore,” the indictment explains. “Then, while feigning a normal exchange of information, the Members would attack the victim and drive away in both the victim’s vehicle and the striking vehicle.”

Frosh said the teens were “unnecessarily and cavalierly violent,” citing victim injuries like a fractured skull or a broken nose, as well as a delivery driver who they allegedly shot at while he was fleeing in his car, breaking his windshield. In some cases, the indictment alleges, they would target the same victim a second time, using the same set of keys to break into and steal another one of their cars.

The goal of the operation was not to sell the autos in whole or even for parts, but rather to “joyride around with the cars and then dump them,” Frosh said. The indictment notes that two days after the group allegedly stole a 2014 Cadillac SRX on Nov. 24, Gray allegedly livestreamed from inside the stolen SUV while “brandishing a handgun.”

“They took pride in feeling no concern about the consequences of their violence,” Frosh said. “They left a trail of stolen cars, stolen wallets, stolen phones and broken bones.”

The last known incident listed in the indictment happened Dec. 7, 2017—the theft of a white 2008 Honda Accord.

With the help of city and state prosecutors and the FBI, city and county police were able to link together the series of carjackings and attacks stretching back several months from then.

A phone number for an attorney listed with Graham’s name in court records was disconnected Monday, and an attorney listed for Williamston has not responded to a message requesting comment. Gray and Johnson did not have attorneys listed with their names.

Baltimore City State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby lauded the investigation Monday, calling it “indicative of yet another multi-agency collaboration that showcases the criminal justice system at its best.” She referenced “stories of cars being taken from mothers and children, with children in tow, or the elderly being preyed upon because of their vehicles.”

“I consider the announcement of these indictments a true triumph in our fight on the senseless and life-changing crimes across the state,” she said.

Tuggle, fresh off another press conference in which he addressed the resignation of a rookie city cop captured on video punching a man bloody this past Saturday, addressed the need for police to intervene in young people’s lives before they follow a path of worsening criminal behavior. He noted the carjackings began when three of the four were juveniles, and that they became more violent over time.

“One of the things that we really, really need to get a handle on is how do we at some point intercede before they get to that level?” he posed. He stressed that with young suspects who fall into such a pattern, law enforcement must be “sensitive to who they are, and how do we contain them?”

Frosh surmised that the string of carjackings “accounts for the majority of carjackings in this area, Baltimore City and Baltimore County,” from that time period last year.

Carjackings in Baltimore City rose 35 percent in 2017, but have fallen 24 percent through the first seven months of this year, the most recent figures from Baltimore police show.

Baltimore County does not separate out data for carjackings in its publicly released data summaries, but Corp. Shawn Vinson, a department spokesman, said they had 46 reported carjackings in 2015, 77 in 2016, 2016 in 2017 and 22 in the first three months of this year alone. He attributed the annual rise to newer key fob-based technology “that requires the key fob to be inside or near the car before it will start.”

This story has been updated.

Ethan McLeod
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