Drug Case Aims At D.C. Officer 

  Drug Case Aims At D.C. Officer 

Posted by FoM on April 12, 2000 at 07:19:27 PT
By Allan Lengel & Ruben Castaneda 
Source: Washington Post 

A federal probe into a major drug gang is sharpening its focus on D.C. police officer Andrew J. McGill Jr. now that the gang's boss has pleaded guilty and agreed to cooperate with authorities investigating McGill and other D.C. officers.Erskine "Pee Wee" Hartwell, gang boss, friend and co-defendant of McGill's, pleaded guilty Monday in U.S. District Court in Greenbelt to drug trafficking and acknowledged roles in several slayings and shootings. 
Ten of 14 defendants have pleaded guilty in the case, and two are fugitives, leaving McGill as the only defendant scheduled for trial. He is the only D.C. officer indicted in the case, but at least two other current and former officers are under investigation.In a plea agreement statement, Hartwell, 32, said that McGill tipped off the gang to impending drug raids and that the officer received "things of value" from the dealers. McGill has pleaded not guilty, and his attorney seemed unfazed yesterday by the gang leader's accusations."It came as no surprise, and we're still preparing for trial," set for May 2, said William C. Brennan.McGill, 29, was indicted in January, more than a year after the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration stumbled upon him during its probe of the drug ring, authorities said. Among other things, he is accused of leaking information to the drug gang, buying drugs and trying to sell them and lying to a grand jury.But the suspicions against him had festered for years, from the weight room at his station house to the halls of D.C. Superior Court.Co-workers say they filed internal reports accusing the D.C. police officer of tipping off drug dealers about raids on Forrester Street SW. Some said they often saw him hanging out with dealers. Once, an officer said, he watched McGill drive the car of a dealer who was being investigated by McGill's own unit.All the while, McGill continued to work--first in a plainclothes unit investigating drugs and vice in Southeast and Southwest Washington, and then as a uniformed patrol officer in Northeast.The McGill case is a blemish on a department fighting to upgrade its image. It also has prompted questions among some officers: How did McGill remain on the job years after colleagues say they filed more than a dozen reports accusing him of improper conduct and corruption? And just how vigorously did internal affairs pursue the allegations against him in 1997?"The department had opened an inquiry on the allegations about McGill, but beyond that I can't say anything," said Executive Assistant Police Chief Terrance W. Gainer. "It's fair for an officer to wonder why McGill was permitted to be a policeman, based on what those officers thought they knew. But if we could have taken administrative action or criminal action, the department would have."The case could have broader consequences for the department. At least two former colleagues of McGill's have come under federal investigation. Victor Kelly Jr., 32, an 11-year veteran, resigned from the force before pleading guilty last month to lying before a grand jury investigating the drug case that ultimately involved McGill. And the uniform of a second officer, who is still on the force, was seized during a 1998 raid on a drug dealer's apartment on Forrester Street, law enforcement authorities said.Winston Robinson, commander of the 7th Police District, where McGill worked from 1990 to 1997, declined to comment on why McGill remained on the force after officers accused him of corruption. Robinson has headed the district since the early 1990s and is currently the longest-standing district commander in the department."There's nothing unusual about an officer being under investigation and still working out on the street," he said, speaking generally. "If there's a covert operation, you want to keep it covert; you don't want your target to be aware."Brennan, McGill's attorney, suggested that the case against McGill, who remains under house detention in Prince George's County, may not be what it seems."Do you know what all your friends do when they're not with you?" he asked. "This could be a classic guilt-by-association case."McGill was raised in the Forestville area. His father was a prison guard, his mother a Metro bus driver. After attending Suitland High School, he joined the D.C. police force in 1990, a class that eventually was found to be riddled with a disproportionate number of corrupt officers. Over the years, colleagues saw McGill in different ways, according to interviews with about 18 current and former D.C. officers. Many declined to have their names used.Some saw him as outgoing, funny and charming. Others found him to be a street-tough officer who openly associated with the suspected drug dealers he eventually came to be indicted with. Once, during a dispute in the station house, McGill angrily told an officer that he could have him "offed," a federal prosecutor noted during a pretrial hearing in January.Shortly after joining the force, McGill married. He and his wife lived in Capitol Heights and had a son. The marriage dissolved in 1997, officers said."He was always complaining he didn't have money," said a plainclothes officer. "He cried when he had to pay child support. Then he would turn around the next week, come in with a new outfit."In 1996, McGill was transferred from the 7th District vice unit to a plainclothes unit that targeted guns and drugs in the same area. By then, he had been friends with suspected drug dealer "Pee Wee" Hartwell for at least a couple of years, and suspicions had begun to mount, colleagues said.In 1996 and 1997, patrol and plainclothes officers said they often saw McGill hanging out in front of a suspected drug house at 37 Forrester St. SW with dealers including Hartwell, whose gang had been the target of raids and investigations dating to 1989.Forrester was a thriving open-air drug market, site of a series of fatal shootings. "It wasn't unusual to see [McGill] on Forrester with his Pathfinder or Lexus," said a uniformed officer who patrolled the area. "You always saw him parked out there."At first, the uniformed officer said, "I thought he must be a good vice officer. He's trying to get to know them." But the frequency of McGill's visits with the men led the officer to change his mind. "I kept seeing him. I came up with my own opinion. He wasn't the kind of person you would hang out with."In November 1996, Hartwell was convicted in Prince George's County Circuit Court of reckless endangerment in connection with a 1995 shooting in Clinton. He was sentenced to a year in jail, and McGill visited him, according to the U.S. attorney's office.Even as Hartwell went to jail, suspicions about McGill intensified. Some officers in his guns-and-drugs unit suspected that McGill had leaked information after they came up empty-handed in raids on Forrester Street.In February 1997, a plainclothes officer in his unit said, the guns-and-drugs squad assembled in the parking lot of Hadley Memorial Hospital for a pre-raid meeting. The supervisor announced the target: 37 Forrester St. McGill grabbed a cell phone and made a call, the officer said.Already suspecting that McGill might be tipping off the Forrester gang, the drugs-and-guns unit had plainclothes officers watching the building. Moments after McGill made his call, drug dealers scrambled out of 37 Forrester, said the officer, who added that several officers filled out internal reports about McGill and the incident.Also in early 1997, a second plainclothes officer in McGill's unit saw McGill drive on Forrester in a car owned by a suspected drug dealer the unit was targeting. The dealer sat in the passenger seat."He was quite bold about it. . . . I was shocked," said the officer, who added that he and others submitted reports on that incident to their sergeant.The same plainclothes officer said McGill repeatedly tried to dissuade the unit from raiding Forrester, an allegation contained in the indictment. On one occasion in early 1997, the officer said a unit member radioed for everyone to head to Forrester to try to arrest open-air drug market dealers.But McGill got on the air and said: "Let's not go there. We never get anything there," the plainclothes officer recalled.In all, several of his colleagues said they filed more than a dozen internal complaints while McGill served on the unit from 1996 to 1997.Brennan, McGill's attorney, declined to comment. "We'll respond to the allegations in court," he said.Not all officers in the 7th District station, on Alabama Avenue SE, were suspicious of McGill. Some described him as a regular guy."He seemed like a friendly guy, outgoing, always smiling and laughing," said Capt. William A. Smith, who was not a boss of McGill's and was unaware of allegations against him at the time. "He was an average officer, no more, no less."In July 1997, all seven of the city's police districts were being reconfigured, and the 7th District had to transfer about 16 officers to other jurisdictions. McGill was moved to the 5th District in Northeast, where he returned to uniform patrol.When asked if McGill had been transferred because of officers' suspicions, Cmdr. Robinson said, "I don't want to comment on that."McGill patrolled the Fort Lincoln area in Northeast Washington. His supervisor, Sgt. James O'Boyle, said some officers didn't trust McGill and complained about his work habits. "They considered him to be lazy and unproductive," he said, nonetheless adding, "he was . . . very polite, very friendly."It wasn't until late 1998, more than a year after McGill's transfer, that he came under the scrutiny of the DEA, which was probing the Hartwell gang.Laura DiCesar, a DEA spokeswoman, said McGill's use of a cell phone prompted investigators' interest. She declined to elaborate. Those familiar with the probe say investigators are looking into calls he made before the Forrester raids.On Aug. 18, 1999, McGill was called before a federal grand jury in Greenbelt and, according to the indictment, was asked, "And you never released any information about 37 Forrester Street to Erskine Hartwell?""Never," he replied.On Jan. 6, he was arrested as he reported to work at the 5th District station on Bladensburg Road NE.Some wondered why McGill wasn't removed sooner."If they knew he was a bad officer, why would they have watched him for so long?" asked a patrol officer in the 7th District. "If I was running in an alley and chasing one of his boys, if he comes in the alley, whose side is he going to be on?"Researchers Bobbye Pratt and Karl Evanzz contributed to this report. By Allan Lengel and Ruben CastanedaWashington Post Staff WritersWednesday, April 12, 2000 ; B01© 2000 The Washington Post Company Related Articles:D.C. Officer's Alleged Drug Role Detailed Officer Allegedly Leaked Information Police Officer Charged With Drug Trafficking Officer's Ties to Gang Outlined Links Officer to Drug Ring 

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