Officer indicted,held in guns case

By Matt Zapotosky
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, October 27, 2010

A Prince George's County police narcotics detective accused of taking guns he had seized from criminals and reselling them on the streets was indicted Tuesday on 13 counts of misconduct in office and theft, according to law enforcement officials and online court records.

Juan Carter, who had been suspended from the department since late last year, was ordered held on $200,000 bond while police internal affairs investigators combed through his house in an effort to compile more evidence, according to officials and online records.

Prince George's County Police Chief Roberto L. Hylton said investigators think Carter, who was assigned to a state police-run firearms task force, was reselling guns he had seized from criminals. One of the guns, Hylton said, was used in the shooting of an off-duty Prince George's officer during a botched robbery.

"He violated the trust given to him by this community," Hylton said. "This is just totally unacceptable."

The indictment is the culmination of an investigation initiated last year into 23 guns that turned up missing after they were seized by a state-run firearms task force. Sources have said Carter was responsible for seizing the guns - and incident reports indicated that each was seized - but they were not in the department's property room, as they should have been.

Hylton said that institutional breakdowns and lax oversight by state police supervisors were also to blame for the missing guns and that others might be charged or disciplined. He said the task force did not have clear rules on which agency should be responsible for keeping track of seized guns, and that allowed Carter's misconduct to go unnoticed.

The task force, which according to state records seized nearly 430 guns from its inception in 2007 to September 2009, has been disbanded, Hylton said.

"The administrative process was not actually delineated properly," Hylton said. "This was just a total breakdown of supervision and command."

Hylton said that at least nine guns remain unaccounted for. Sources said that earlier this year, as many as 23 guns were missing but that some were turning up. Hylton confirmed that investigators had recovered a gun Carter had seized but that was later used in the September 2009 shooting of off-duty Officer Eric Horne during a botched robbery.

Investigators think Carter was reselling the guns he had seized, and they have talked with some of his buyers, Hylton said. Late Tuesday, Prince George's internal affairs investigators towed a Mercedes S-430 from the driveway of his two-story brick home on Eddinger Road in Bowie. They also had seized what appeared to be a shotgun or other long gun, which was visible in the yard.

Hylton said Carter will be suspended without pay, effective Wednesday. Carter had declined to comment for a previous story and was in police custody Tuesday. Online court records did not list him as having a lawyer.

The investigation into the missing guns was initially a federal case, Hylton said, but soon other authorities dropped out. Hylton said his officers worked closely with the office of Prince George's County State's Attorney Glenn F. Ivey to press forward.

"This was too serious to give up," he said.

Still, the indictment is a blow for the historically troubled department. At the time the probe began, federal authorities were investigating five current and former officers suspected of taking money to protect a gambling ring.

More recently, an alleged cheating scandal rocked the department's training academy. That investigation is ongoing, though officials have said a lazy instructor, rather than the cadets themselves, is to blame for the impropriety.

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