Baltimore Police Officer Wesley Cagle is convicted of assault and weapons charge
Cagle was acquitted of more serious charges, including attempted first-degree murder, tied to 2014 shooting
Two officers shot a burglary suspect; Cagle then came out of an alley and fired, authorities say
A Baltimore police officer was found guilty of first-degree assault and a weapons charge Thursday for the 2014 shooting of an unarmed burglary suspect.
But a state court jury found Officer Wesley Cagle not guilty of more serious attempted murder charges in the shooting of Michael Johansen, 46, who survived and was later charged with burglary. Cagle will be sentenced in November.
The Baltimore Police Department, in a statement, said the case was “an example of our absolute capacity to hold police officers accountable” and “a reminder to our community that … officers in Baltimore are willing to step up when they see something they know is wrong.”
Police Commissioner Kevin Davis was taking “immediate action” to terminate Cagle’s employment, according to the statement.
“His actions are not representative of the vast majority of our men and women who wear this uniform,” read the statement, which was posted on the department’s Twitter account.
Cagle was hit with counts ranging from attempted murder to assault last summer, three months after prosecutors announced separate charges against six other officers in connection with the controversial death of Freddie Gray in April 2015. The Gray case became a symbol of the black community’s mistrust of the police and focal point of a national debate about police accountability.
Cagle’s conviction for first-degree assault and use of a handgun in a crime of violence comes one week after prosecutors dropped all charges against three remaining officers facing trial in connection with Gray’s death. The death sparked days of unrest.
In the Gray case, three additional officers were previously acquitted and another faced a retrial after a jury deadlocked.
But the Cagle investigation preceded the outrage over the death of Gray and other African-American men at the hands of police across the nation.
It stemmed from a December 2014 incident after which Cagle was placed on administrative leave. The 14-year veteran was later suspended without pay after criminal charges were filed in August 2015.
The thing is, two other Baltimore police officers shot at a suspect late last year in East Baltimore, but neither of them are facing charges.
A total of four officers responded to a reported commercial burglary in progress at about 4:45 a.m. on December 28. Two of them saw a masked suspect, identified as 46-year-old Michael Johansen, try to sneak out the store’s side door.
Two officers – neither of which was Cagle – confronted that man and told him to show his hands. Instead, the “suspect reached down,” the office said.
That’s when Cagle entered the picture, walking in front of the other two officers who were standing nearby with their guns drawn.
“Officer Cagle positioned himself over top of Johansen, at which time Johansen stated, ‘What did you shoot me with, a beanbag?’” Mosby told reporters Wednesday. “And Officer Cagle replied, ‘No, a .40-caliber, you piece of (expletive).”
“And Officer Cagle replied, ‘No, a .40-caliber, you piece of (expletive).”
By that point, said the state’s attorney, witnesses didn’t see the fallen suspect as a threat; he wasn’t making “any aggressive or threatening movements.”
They found no weapon traced to Johansen. But that, in their judgment, did not mean the first two officers to open fire acted inappropriately – in fact all of “the other three officers … acted legally and within BPD protocol,” according to authorities.
If he is convicted, the attempted first-degree murder count alone could carry a life sentence. The attempted second-degree murder charge he faces has a 30-year sentence, a first-degree assault count carries 25 years maximum, second-degree assault could work out to 10 years and using a handgun in a crime of violence could lead to a 20-year prison term.