Cops & Courts – March 26, 2021

Cops & Courts – March 26, 2021

Gun Fired In Hotel Room

OCEAN CITY — A South Carolina man was arrested last week after a handgun he left hidden in an uptown hotel room allegedly discharged through the wall of an adjacent hotel room.

Last Wednesday, Ocean City Police Department (OCPD) officers responded to a hotel at 112th Street to investigate suspicious circumstances. They met with the hotel general manager, who reportedly advised hotel staff discovered damage to a hanging wall mirror inside a room on March 12. When employees went to replace the mirror last Wednesday, they discovered a suspected bullet hole on the interior wall behind the mirror.

Detectives examined the wall and determined a ballistic had been fired, traveled through the wall into a neighboring room, went through the hanging wall mirror, a bed’s headboard and into the adjacent wall where the projectile came to rest, according to police reports.

The general manager reportedly told police the room was being rented long-term by a family of four, including Jamir Jones, 18, of Dillion, S.C., two other adults and a 13-year-old juvenile. Jones reportedly told police a man they only knew as “Zae” had recently stayed with them and had recently left. According to Jones, Zae had a handgun and forgot it in a laundry basket in their room. Jones said he and the other two adults went to work at a chicken factory in Delaware on March 11, leaving the 13-year-old juvenile at the hotel.

Jones reportedly told police the juvenile was looking for something and moved the laundry basket, causing the gun to fall to the floor and discharge, which caused the damage. The juvenile reportedly admitted moving the laundry basket and the firearm fell to the floor, causing it to discharge. The juvenile denied ever touching or manipulating the handgun.

Permission was granted to search the interior of the room and officers discovered that room’s hanging wall mirror was also damaged with what appeared to be the entrance hole for the projectile. Permission was also granted to search the vehicle of the adult male in the family and the handgun was located in the trunk rolled up in a ballcap. The gun was unloaded, and the magazine was located within a shoe in the trunk. A computer check revealed the gun was reported stolen in Dillon, S.C.

Officers went back to the hotel room to question the other adult male in the family, but Jones reportedly admitted the gun was his at that point. Jones advised he left the handgun hidden in the laundry basket while he went to work on March 11, and when he returned, he learned the 13-year-old juvenile had fired inadvertently.

Jones also acknowledged he made up the original story about the man known only as “Zae,” according to police reports. Jones was charged with a slew of weapons charges, reckless endangerment and providing a false statement to a police officer.


Domestic Assault

OCEAN CITY — An Ocean City man was charged with first-degree assault last weekend after allegedly attempting to strangle his girlfriend at the downtown residence.

Around 7:25 p.m. last Friday, an Ocean City Police Department (OCPD) officer was dispatched to the area of 11th Street for a reported domestic assault involving strangulation. Upon arrival, the officer reportedly observed a female who appeared to be hiding behind a vehicle outside a residence. According to police reports, the officer met with the female, who constantly looked back over her shoulder at the residence.

The only information the victim could supply to the officer was that her boyfriend, later identified as Travis McKenna, 41, of Ocean City, was inside the residence and was “drunk, aggressive and is going to fight you,” according to police reports. The officer observed red marks on both sides of the victim’s neck, which appeared to be consistent with hand imprints from a strangulation, according to police reports.

The officer observed McKenna standing behind the glass storm door of the residence, but when the suspect observed the uniformed officer, he reportedly shut the door quickly. McKenna did come out eventually, but stood on the porch and refused to come down the steps to talk to the officers, according to police reports. When the suspect appeared about to walk back inside, two OCPD officers went up the steps and attempted to take him into custody, but McKenna resisted, according to police reports.

McKenna was eventually placed under arrest and handcuffed. When asked what his name was, McKenna remained silent on multiple occasions. OCPD officers eventually had to get his identity information from the victim, according to police reports.

During a subsequent interview, the victim reportedly told police McKenna had his hands around her neck during the incident, but at no time did she fear for her life, nor did she lose consciousness. However, the victim did tell police because of McKenna’s level of intoxication, she believed had she not been able to break free of his grip, she wasn’t certain what he would have done to her.

Based on the evidence and testimony, McKenna was arrested and charged with first- and second-degree assault, resisting arrest, obstructing and hindering, malicious destruction of property and disorderly conduct. He was later released on a $10,000 bond.


Passenger Threatens Cops

OCEAN CITY — A Baltimore man was arrested this week after allegedly threatening police officers during a midtown traffic stop.

Around 1:35 a.m. on Monday, an Ocean City Police Department (OCPD) officer was patrolling in the midtown area when he observed a vehicle driving erratically. According to police reports, the vehicle swerved from the far-left lane to the bus lane and back again, and appeared to be driving in complete disregard for any other vehicles on the road.

A traffic stop was initiated at the corner of Coastal Highway and Convention Center Drive. As the officer was exiting his vehicle, the passenger door of the suspect vehicle swung open and the passenger, identified as Aundre Gaston, 35, of Baltimore, allegedly got out and launched into an expletive-laced tirade at the officer, asking him, among other things, the reason why he was pulled over.

According to police reports, the officer realized Gaston was becoming more agitated, hostile and aggressive toward him and another officer who arrived to assist. The officer reportedly told Gaston to walk back to him and he would explain the reason for the stop. However, Gaston stared at the officer, then reached into the front seat.

The officer ordered Gaston to stop reaching into the vehicle and told him to walk back toward him slowly. At that point, Gaston reported rolled up his sleeves and started walking directly toward the officer with both of his fists balled up and threatened the officers.

The initial officer drew his conducted electronic weapon, or taser, targeted Gaston and told him if he continued walking toward him in his aggressive stance he would be tased. He was ordered to lay down on the ground, but instead walked back toward his vehicle, according to police reports.

Fearing Gaston was going back to get a weapon, or lock himself in the car, the two OCPD officers moved in on Gaston and, after a physical struggle, were able to take him into custody. He was charged with second-degree assault, resisting arrest, obstructing and hindering, disorderly conduct, failure to obey a lawful order and intoxicated public disturbance. The driver was issued minor traffic citations.


Mom, Daughter Charged

OCEAN CITY — A local woman was arrested on drunk-driving charges and her mother was arrested on numerous other charges following a two-vehicle collision in north Ocean City last week.

Around 10:25 p.m. last Wednesday, Ocean City Police Department (OCPD) officers responded to a motor vehicle crash on Twin Tree Road in north Ocean City involving a moving vehicle striking a parked vehicle. Responding officers located two heavily-damaged vehicles at the scene. The investigation revealed the driver, later identified as Erin Esbenshade, 23, of Ocean City, allegedly left the scene and walked into a residence directly in front of the crash scene.

Erin Esbenshade reportedly told police she had been driving her mother and a friend home and was traveling too fast at a curve in the road, which caused her to strike the parked vehicle. Roadway evidence allegedly showed Erin Esbenshade’s vehicle struck a curb, drove on a sidewalk and a lawn prior to the collision with the parked vehicle.

Two people were injured during the collision, including the driver, Erin Esbenshade, and a passenger, identified as Karen Esbenshade, 50, of Lititz, Pa. According to police reports, Erin Esbenshade exhibited signs of intoxication and did poorly on field sobriety tests. She was ultimately arrested and charged with driving under the influence, leaving the scene and other counts.

Meanwhile, when police arrived, Karen Esbenshade was reportedly standing in front of the damaged vehicles, both of which were registered in her husband’s name, according to police reports. Karen Esbenshade told police, “we’re just working it out between us,” according to police reports.

Karen Esbenshade, who was injured with a cut under her eye, reportedly tried to walk away from the officers and go inside the house. The officers ordered Karen Esbenshade to remain outside as she was relevant to an active DUI investigation, but she continued to try to go inside the house, according to police reports.

An OCPD officer reportedly grabbed her arm, but she tried to pull away. Karen Esbenshade then fell on the ground and would not get up. Instead, she was shouting loudly off and on for about a minute until police got her back on her feet and escorted her to a patrol car, according to police reports.

Karen Esbenshade continued to yell and scream and resist the officers’ attempts to get her under control. At one point, she bit an OCPD officer and clenched her teeth on his arm and would not let go, according to police reports.

When police were transporting Karen Esbenshade to the Public Safety Building, she reportedly began kicking the plexiglass window covering in the transport vehicle repeatedly, to the point the entire vehicle would shake, according to police reports. She was ultimately charged with second-degree assault, disorderly conduct, intoxicated endangerment and malicious destruction of property.


Jail For Wrongly Touching

OCEAN CITY — A Beltsville, Md. man, arrested last June for touching women inappropriately on the Boardwalk, pleaded guilty last week to second-degree assault and was sentenced to 79 days in jail.

Around 2:30 a.m. last June 27, an Ocean City Police Department (OCPD) officer was on mounted patrol on the Boardwalk in the area of 4th Street when he observed a male suspect, later identified as Richard Alarcon, 24, of Beltsville, Md. Other evening shift officers had shown the officer a picture of Alarcon earlier and advised he was reportedly touching women’s buttocks inappropriately on the Boardwalk.

The officer continued patrolling north on the Boardwalk with Alarcon still walking behind him about a block away before the officer stopped in the area of 7th Street. According to police reports, the officer watched as Alarcon walked closely by two women on the Boardwalk.

As the group passed the mounted officer, one of the women said aloud Alarcon had just touched her buttocks. The victim explained to police Alarcon had just touched her inappropriately as they neared the mounted officer’s position on the Boardwalk.

The victim was visibly upset and told the officer she wanted to press charges against Alarcon. When asked why he had touched the victim, Alarcon reportedly told her he had done it because he thought she was cute. Alarcon was arrested and charged with second-degree assault.


Verdict Appeal Rejected

BERLIN — A Maryland appeals court this week denied an appeal filed by a Berlin man convicted last year of possession with intent to distribute cocaine and sentenced to 15 years in prison.

On Oct. 2, 2019, Vernell Moore, 26, of Berlin, was pulled over on Whaleyville Road after law enforcement officers had recognized him from prior investigations and suspected he was driving on a suspended or revoked license. During the course of the traffic stop, a K-9 unit was brought to the scene and positively alerted to the presence of a controlled dangerous substance.

A search of Moore’s vehicle led to the discovery of crack cocaine and the suspect was arrested for possession with intent to distribute. Last March, Moore was convicted of possession with intent to distribute cocaine and was sentenced to 15 years. He appealed the conviction, asserting the initial stop was predicated on an assumption by the officers involved that he was driving on a suspended or revoked license. The appeal also asserted the officer who initially pulled him over unnecessarily stalled the stop in order to allow time for the K-9 unit to arrive on the scene. The Maryland Court of Special Appeals this week denied Moore’s appeal and upheld the conviction in the Worcester County Circuit Court.

“In this timely appeal raising Fourth Amendment challenges, Moore contends that police lacked reasonable articulable suspicion for the traffic stop, and that they improperly prolonged Moore’s detention to conduct a canine scan,” the opinion reads. “For the reasons that follow, we disagree and affirm the judgment.”

In the appeal, Moore asserted an Ocean City Police Department officer passed him on the road in Berlin and radioed his colleagues in the Worcester County Sheriff’s Office to check on the status of his license. The OCPD officer had recognized Moore from prior drug investigations. The Worcester County Sheriff’s Office detectives conducted a background check and determined Moore’s license had been revoked prior to pulling him over. Moore asserted the traffic stop was predicated on a hunch by the OCPD officer who had passed him on the road.

“In our view, this stop was not predicated on impermissible speculation, but on appropriate police work that confirmed the detective’s suspicion about Moore’s license status,” the opinion reads. “We agree with the motion court that the detectives did what the Fourth Amendment demands, by making visual observations in the field, investigating further by obtaining additional information from a law enforcement database, and then sharing what they learned with each other. This investigation and collaboration supplied the detective with facts raising a reasonable suspicion that Moore was driving on a suspended license.”

In the second question raised on appeal, Moore asserted the officer who initially pulled him over delayed the stop until the K-9 unit from the Berlin Police Department arrived on the scene. However, the entire stop from start to finish was just 11 minutes.

“Applying the constitutional yardstick of reasonable diligence, we are satisfied that the detective was reasonably diligent in conducting the records checks and ticket writing necessary to complete the traffic stop,” the opinion reads. “Moreover, we agree with the motion court that the 11 minutes from traffic stop to dog alert further evidences prompt police work rather than pretextual prolongation. Even though there is no safe harbor timeframe for a reasonable traffic stop, this encounter falls on the shorter end of the spectrum for stops that have passed constitutional muster because records checks or ticket writing were still underway when the canine alerted.”