D.C. officer had been investigated since 2011, police say

A veteran D.C. police officer charged with prostituting two teenage girls had been investigated over allegations of drug use and running a prostitution ring out of his Southeast apartment as early as 2011, a D.C. police internal affairs officer said Wednesday.

New details about Linwood Barnhill Jr.’s case and history with the force emerged at his preliminary hearing in D.C. Superior Court. Barnhill, 47, dressed in an orange D.C. jail jumpsuit with his wrists and ankles shackled, often smiled, shook his head and took notes as two of his colleagues testified against him.

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Barnhill was arrested Dec. 11, a week after D.C. police searched his apartment while looking for a missing teenage girl. Police said the 16-year-old was inside, along with another teen, who told authorities that they were working as escorts for the officer. He was charged with two counts of pandering a minor for the purpose of prostitution.

During Wednesday’s hearing, Officer Jeffrey Williams of the D.C. police department’s internal affairs division testified that the department received an anonymous phone call in 2011 alleging that Barnhill was operating a prostitution ring. Williams said the caller told police that Barnhill used Craigslist to find women to work for him and that he would “share” the money from clients with the escorts.

The caller also told officers that Barnhill smoked marijuana, Williams testified.

Williams said the department investigated the allegations, including conducting surveillance on the apartment, but did not find evidence of wrongdoing. Williams also testified that Barnhill tested negative for drug use at that time.

Police spokeswoman Gwendolyn Crump said after the hearing that the 2011 tip was “thoroughly investigated by internal affairs.” She said she could not comment further on the matter.

During Wednesday’s hearing, Detective Morani Hines, of the youth investigation unit, testified that the current investigation against Barnhill is continuing. He said police found nude photographs of a third female on Barnhill’s cellphone. Officers had not spoken to her yet, Hines said.

In addition to marijuana in Barnhill’s apartment, Hines said, officers also found boxes containing “more than 100” condoms. “The number of condoms you would see in a brothel,” he said.

Barnhill’s attorney, Joanne D. Slaight, argued that two victims, 15 and 16, gave conflicting information to police and were not credible. One initially gave police a false name, Slaight said.

Hines, under cross-examination by Slaight, also said one of the juveniles told police that she had lied to Barnhill, telling him she was 18.

During questioning by Assistant U.S. Attorney Ari Redbord, Williams said Barnhill was injured in September 2012 after accidentally discharging his weapon. Details of the injury were not discussed in court, but Williams said Barnhill was put on desk duty as a result. Barnhill, who was assigned to the 7th Police District, in Southeast Washington, has not been allowed to carry a weapon since the shooting, Williams said.

Williams testified that when he called Barnhill this month to say an arrest warrant had been issued, Barnhill agreed to turn himself in but said he wanted to meet with his attorney and eat first. About four hours later, after repeated calls from Williams, Barnhill met fugitive task force officers, Williams testified. He said Barnhill “appeared intoxicated.”

After Wednesday’s hearing, Magistrate Judge Frederick Sullivan called Barnhill a “rogue police officer” and a danger to the community. Sullivan ordered Barnhill to remain in jail until his next hearing, Jan. 28.

D.C. Police Chief Cathy L. Lanier told reporters before Barnhill was arrested that the 24-year veteran had three sustained complaints against him, none indicating sexual misconduct. She gave no details about other investigations.

The chief has repeatedly stressed that Barnhill was off duty at the time of the alleged misconduct, including being on inactive duty for the past 15 months.

 
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