Running an errand turned bad for a Baltimore City Police officer on March 14. According to authorities, Sgt. Keith McNeil was sitting in his black Toyota Tundra on the 1900 block of Belair Rd., outside a friend’s garage. Before he was able to exit his vehicle, a gunman approached, raised a handgun, and fired several times.Several bullets pieced the car, striking McNeil in the chest.
McNeil, a 19-year veteran, was transported to Shock Trauma. While doctors worked, Police Commissioner Anthony Batts amassed a team to search for the suspect who had attacked the officer. Within hours, a suspect was identified: Gregg Thomas, 34, an ex-convict released from prison in January 2013.
Police tagged Thomas “Public Enemy No. 1” at a March 15 news conference. Batts showed Thomas’ picture and called him a “coward,” urging citizens to contact police if they saw him. “We are going to track him down … it may be better if you turn yourself in,” Batts said during the news conference. “Whether you need to contact your attorney, contact a news reporter … turn yourself in to a local police department or police station right away.”
He added, “We are not going to stop, we are not going to back off.”
Thomas contacted local television news station, WJZ. On March 16, two days after the shooting, Thomas turned himself in – with the news station in tow. Before turning himself in, he told a reporter for the station of his innocence.
“Because I ain’t do nothing. I mean I’m not going to run away from nothing,” Thomas told the reporter. “I got two daughters that I really love. And I promised them I wouldn’t go back to jail. I just came home.”
Thomas is being held without bail at the Baltimore City Detention Center.
According to Mark Vernarelli, director of public information for the Maryland Dept. of Public Safety and Correctional Services, Thomas was released from prison last year after serving 10 years of a 30-year prison sentence, with 15 years suspended, for second-degree murder.
Vernarelli explained Thomas was released under the state’s mandatory supervision and release statute, Correctional Services Article 3-704. These regulations allow for “a diminution of the period of commitment or total sentence length, up to a maximum allowable deduction of 15 days per calendar month.”
An inmate, who consistently earns all 15 days of the available deduction per month, could have five years deducted from his sentence after serving 10. Having served 10 years of his 15-year sentence, Thomas was to serve the remaining five years in the community under the terms of mandatory supervision. This requires he report monthly to his community supervision agent, a requirement with which he had been compliant.
Meanwhile friends, family, and a community of police officers are continuing to hold a prayerful vigil at the bedside of McNeil, who is, according to the charging documents, currently on life support, in a coma, fighting for his life.
“I want to thank everyone for their concern for our officer who is currently in critical condition,” Lt. Eric Kowalczyk said in a statement to the AFRO. “We take comfort in the knowledge that he is receiving the best medical care anyone in the world could hope for. I’d also like to thank everyone for their patience.”
In a second news conference, Batts thanked law enforcement agencies that were involved in the search for Thomas. He also acknowledged the three officers who took Thomas into custody. Batts said, “Once less suspect, one less killer on the streets of Baltimore.”
Roberto Alejandro contributed to this report.