Correction: An earlier version of this column gave an incorrect title for D.C. Superior Court Judge Ronna Beck. This version has been corrected.
With better diligence on the part of law enforcement, D.C. police Officer Linwood Barnhill and Kahlil Malik Tatum, the man thought to have abducted 8-year-old Relisha Rudd, won’t be allowed to go the way of D.C. fire Lt. Kellene Davis.
Davis, a 28-year veteran of the department, was accused of failing to help a dying man this winter and faced six administrative charges of neglect of duty. After two days of closed-door hearings in March, and before the department’s disciplinary panel could announce its findings, The Post reported, Davis was allowed to retire with her full pension, about 70 percent of her $100,000 salary.
Davis eluded official judgment. The government shouldn’t allow that to happen with Barnhill and Tatum.
Barnhill, a 24-year police veteran, was arrested in December and charged with prostituting a 15-year-old and a 16-year-old. He must be held accountable.
Tatum, dead reportedly by his own hand, is accused of killing his wife, Andrea Denise Tatum, and abducting Rudd from the D.C. General homeless shelter where she lived with her mother and brothers and where he worked as a janitor. The little girl has not been seen since March.
Tatum’s death should not exonerate him from judgment. As with Barnhill, there is so much more about his case that the public needs to know.
That may explain why I showed up in D.C. Superior Court on Good Friday. I wanted to make sure Barnhill wasn’t getting the Kellene Davis treatment.
He was there, thank goodness, manacled and clad in an orange jumpsuit. In his December court appearance after his arrest, Barnhill reportedly smiled occasionally as he sat at the defendant’s table; last week, the grin was gone, replaced by wariness. He even frowned at times. The hearing lasted only about 10 minutes, long enough for D.C. Superior Court Judge Ronna Beck to hold a bench conference with Barnhill’s lawyer and the federal prosecutor. A status hearing is set for June 13 at 10 a.m. Prosecutors still haven’t presented Barnhill’s case to a grand jury, so you never know. I’ll stop by then to make sure he’s still around.
In addition to the prostitution charges against Barnhill, this much is also known: He displayed on a Web site photos that advertised the availability of young girls. His album contained images of a young woman in undergarments; a young woman posing nude; a man in a uniform wearing a badge and counting stacks of cash; a hand holding a bag of a substance that appears to be marijuana; a woman kneeling on the floor exposing her naked rear end; and more of that ilk. After I wrote a column about Barnhill’s photo album [“The growing arrest record for D.C. police,” op-ed, Dec. 14], it was removed from Photobucket.com.
We also know, according to a finding of fact issued March 25 by Magistrate Judge Frederick J. Sullivan, that Barnhill “has been engaging in, according to prior reports, inappropriate and criminal behavior for years.” Sullivan also cited police internal affairs complaints that accuse Barnhill of conduct unbecoming an officer, including “using his apartment for prostitution” and receiving a “cut of the money.”
The government appears to have a strong case against Barnhill. Then again, the case seemed pretty solid that Davis was culpable in the neglectful treatment of Medric Cecil Mills, the 77-year-old who had a heart attack across the street from a fire station but was not helped. Yet she walked. That’s why Barnhill’s case bears watching.
So, too, with Tatum. He’s dead, but his case can’t be closed. Relisha Rudd is still missing, and the search for her goes on. So, too, should the search for truth. We still don’t know why Relisha’s family turned her over to the homeless shelter’s janitor.
Neither do we know why Tatum, who lived with his wife in Southeast, showed up with Relisha on a surveillance video taken Feb. 26 at a hotel in Northeast. Why did he take her there?
Similarly, why had Kahlil and Andrea Tatum gone to a motel in Oxon Hill, where Andrea’s body was later discovered? What led D.C. police to that location?
In response to that last question, D.C. police communications director Gwendolyn Crump wrote in an e-mail: “We were following up on leads in an attempt to locate Kahlil Tatum, during our search for Relisha Rudd.” We’re still left in the dark.
The government’s findings on Davis remain secret. Enough of that.
There is a moral imperative for the government to tell all it knows about Barnhill and Tatum. Eyes must be opened to the exploitation of girls in our city, even though the city has been known to avert its gaze from hard-to-watch situations in the past, as happened with Kellene Davis.
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