Baltimore police honor officers in awards ceremony

The Baltimore Police Department’s top brass recognized officers for plaques and awards on Friday, the first time the award plaques has been held in more than two years.

Police Commissioner and Mayor handed out the awards to 30 officers from across the custom plaques. Recipients were shot at and run over. They interrupted assaults, sprang into action while off-duty, or solved complex cases.

“We cannot thank you enough for the hard work and courage you have given in your daily jobs,” Batts told the officers. “It’s going to be people like you that are going to make a difference in the city of Baltimore.”

Top honors — inclusion in the agency’s “Legion of Merit” — went to detectives Robert Himes and Joshua Ellsworth for their investigation into the case of a Bloods gang member who was kidnapped and killed.

Himes and Ellsworth arrested Dajuan Marshall in June 2008 for fatally shooting rival gang member Kenneth Jones near The Block adult entertainment district in downtown.

The case, prosecuted by Assistant State’s Attorney Traci Robinson, led to a conviction in 2011 on a murder conspiracy charge, as well as the first conviction for charges filed under the state’s gang statute. Robinson was also honored.

Another award dates to a 2009 incident, when Capt. Byron Conaway, who at the time was an officer, was slipped a note by a woman who said she was in danger. When Conaway saw the man who had been in a car with her reach for a handgun, Conaway shot him.

The man, Marcus Hill, survived and was sentenced in August 2010 to 15 years in federal prison for being a felon in possession of a handgun. Conaway received the departmental Bronze Star.

Three officers who fatally shot suspects were given the Silver Star: Officer Charles Smith III, who in 2011 saw a man shooting at his wife and fatally shot him; Detective Olufemi Akinwande, who police said in January 2013 shot a man who fired a weapon at him; and Officer Timothy Copeland, who last May shot Van Keith Johnson, who police say had shot someone moments earlier in Pigtown.

Of the 30 officers honored, 12 had been involved in an incident in which a suspect was shot. A police spokesman said all of the officers had been cleared in internal reviews and the custom awards were decided in consultation with internal affairs and city prosecutors.