Baltimore officer killed with gun that was confiscated, then returned

By Cheryl W. Thompson
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, November 21, 2010; 7:15 PM

Troy Chesley, 34, a plainclothes Baltimore detective assigned to the public housing section, had just finished his late-night shift in January 2007 and was putting the key in the front door of his girlfriend's North Baltimore home.

A young man rushed up behind him, brandishing a Sig Sauer 9mm handgun.

As the officer turned, the robber shot him in the chest and upper arm. Chesley fired back with his .40-caliber Glock service weapon at least six times, striking the gunman once in the right calf. Then Chesley collapsed on the front steps. He was pronounced dead less than an hour later.

The shooter, Brandon Michael Grimes, 21, left a trail of blood before fleeing in a van driven by his girlfriend. They drove to St. Agnes Hospital in Baltimore, where police arrested Grimes after the hospital reported a newly admitted gunshot victim.

Authorities were able to match blood at the scene to Grimes. He was convicted and sentenced to life in prison without parole.

"Troy ultimately caught his own killer by being able to shoot him," said Baltimore Police Sgt. Richard Purtell, who investigated the case.

The Sig Sauer used to murder Chesley had been used two months earlier in an attempted murder, according to Baltimore police.

The gun had originally belonged to Mustafa R. Alif, a Baltimore resident who bought it Nov. 29, 1997, from A & D Pawn Shop in Glen Burnie.

Alif, now 58, has worked for 20 years for a dairy in Baltimore, where he loads milk trucks. He has owned at least 13 firearms since 1997, seven of which were recovered by police investigating crimes by other people, including two drug offenses, an assault and robbery, and a concealed weapon violation, records show.

In March 2001, he was convicted in the District of Columbia of misdemeanor possession of an unregistered firearm after he shot and wounded a man who he said tried to rob him while he was delivering milk in Southeast. He was sentenced to six months unsupervised probation.

Five months later, on Aug. 21, 2001, Baltimore police raided Alif's house and confiscated eight guns, including an Egyptian-made AK-47 assault rifle and the Sig Sauer. Police acted after a routine check revealed that Alif had bought ammunition at a sporting goods store in Towson.

Authorities thought that his misdemeanor conviction prevented him from owning guns.

They were wrong.

Alif's conviction in the District did not prevent him from possessing guns under Maryland law, according to an internal memo from Doug Ludwig of the Baltimore state's attorney's office.

"Based on the defendant's prior conviction he was not prohibited under Maryland law from possessing the firearms in his home," Ludwig said in the Jan. 16, 2007, memo obtained by The Washington Post. ". . .The state had no recourse but to dismiss the charges."

Alif demanded that his seized guns be returned. Police complied, returning them in April 2003.

In April 2006, Alif called Baltimore police to report that the Sig Sauer and two other guns were stolen from his home by his 25-year-old son while Alif was on vacation in Virginia. Alif's son left a note indicating that he took the weapons but no longer had them, records show. He was not prosecuted, Alif said.

"He took them to use them," Alif said in a phone interview. "He said somebody was trying to kill him. But he ditched them when he saw the police because he didn't want to get caught with them. I understand that."

Nine months later, the Sig Sauer was used to kill Chesley.

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