Barnhill, who has been on the force 24 years and was assigned to the 7th District in Southeast Washington, was charged with two counts of pandering a minor for the purpose of prostitution.
The charges against the 47-year-old came hours after police and firefighter divers pulled another officer who faced criminal prosecution from the Potomac River on Tuesday night. Marc Washington, 32, a seven-year veteran also assigned to the 7th District, died a few hours later at a hospital, a day after he was released from jail, put on a 24-hour curfew at his Waldorf home and ordered to wear an electronic monitoring bracelet.
Washington was charged last week with taking pictures of a semi-naked 15-year-old who had run away from home and later returned safely. A cause of death has not been determined. His attorney declined to comment.
Although police think the two cases are unrelated, the allegations made days apart created a stir in the city’s law enforcement community and put the 7th District under scrutiny. One officer has been put on desk duty after police accused him of tipping off Washington to his impending arrest.
Officers were left facing both the tragedy of a dead colleague and an acknowledgment by D.C. Police Chief Cathy L. Lanier that the allegations had tarnished the reputation of the 4,000-member force.
Lanier made no public appearance Wednesday but stressed at a previous news conference and in a statement that detectives had arrested Washington within hours of a complaint, and had worked hard to quickly build a case against Barnhill.
“As disheartening as it is to have members of this department involved in this type of conduct, I take solace in knowing that it was members of this department who worked tirelessly to ensure that they were brought to justice,” the chief’s statement read.
Barnhill has not responded to interview requests since his apartment on Stanton Road was first searched Dec. 3. Relatives have declined to speak to a reporter. Police said the officer’s arrest powers were suspended in September 2012, when he was injured, and that he has not worked at the 7th District station in the past 15 months.
At Barnhill’s appearance in D.C. Superior Court, the 6-foot-6, 300-pound officer towered over marshals who surrounded him, his wrists and ankles shackled. He was ordered detained until a preliminary hearing scheduled for Friday. A medical alert was also requested for jail officials, although neither the prosecutor nor the defense attorney gave a reason. Magistrate Judge Karen Howze also ordered Barnhill to have no contact with the two teenage girls.
The court documents filed Wednesday give some new insight into how police tracked the suspect, saying the 16-year-old’s family conducted their own investigation into the missing girl and traced her to the Stanton Road apartment.
According to the documents, D.C. police went there Dec. 3 and confronted Barnhill, who was there with the missing girl and another female who initially said she was 18. Police said they later learned she was 15.
Authorities said in the documents that they smelled burnt marijuana and later found the drug in the officer’s bedroom. The 16-year-old told police she had been at the apartment several times after she met the officer at a mall. She said she was photographed nude and told she would get a new hairstyle, shoes and clothes. Barnhill told her she would go by the name “Juicy” and arranged for her to have sex with an older man for $80, the court documents say.
The girl also said that she met six young women or girls at the apartment and that their services had been advertised on Backpage.com, an Internet bulletin board, court papers say. The standard fee, the girl told police, was $80 for sex, with $20 going to the officer.
Police said they seized a mirror with the names of women, whom the teenager said worked as prostitutes, written on it, along with high-heel shoes, condoms, eight cellphones, a laptop computer and the officer’s 2004 black Lincoln Navigator.
Police said in court documents that the Lincoln was used to pick up the 15-year-old girl at the bus stop at Jasper Street and Alabama Avenue SE. Police said the officer regularly met her there starting in September. The documents say the officer asked her to be an escort, telling her “he plans bachelor parties and has ‘tons’ of girls,” according to the court papers. The girl told police that the officer “told her that her young age was not a problem because he had other minors who worked for him.”
At one photo session, authorities said the girl was accompanied by an adult female relative who waited in the officer’s living room while he took nude pictures of the girl in his bedroom, using a cellphone, court papers say. The girl also told police that the officer had her meet a bespectacled man named Don — described as in his 40s or 50s, tall and dressed in “business attire” — who paid for sex in the officer’s apartment.
Jennifer Jenkins, Ann E. Marimow and Clarence Williams contributed to this report.
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