Baltimore County police officer charged in drug-related robbery attempt

DUNDALK - A 10-year veteran Baltimore County police officer was charged Thursday in connection with a drug-related robbery attempt earlier this week.

Officer Joseph Harden, 31, of Towson was charged with attempted robbery, attempted first-degree burglary, possession of a drug other than marijuana and vandalism less than $1,000.

The charges stem from a Tuesday incident in Dundalk.

Around 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, a man called 911 and reported someone claiming to be a police officer was trying to kick down his door in the 8200 block of Boundary Road, according to a release from Baltimore County Police.

When officers arrived they didn’t find anyone inside the home, but saw an open, rear window with a displaced window screen. Once inside the apartment, officers found baggies filled with what looked like marijuana.

While officers were investigating at the apartment, other officers pulled over a gray Toyota sedan on North Boundary Road for speeding. Harden was behind the wheel and had his badge around his neck, the release states.

Officers realized Harden fit the description of the man witnesses saw trying to break into the apartment.

Investigators spoke with the 911 caller, a self-described drug dealer, and learned that Harden had been an associate of suspected drug dealer Stephen Gomez of Dundalk for the past few months.

The 911 caller said Gomez was one of his customers and Harden allegedly bought oxycodone from Gomez several times within the past few months, according to police.

Gomez told police that he allegedly bought oxycodone for Harden from the 911 caller at the Boundary Road apartment, but within an hour, Harden allegedly asked for more pills, police said.

The two men then went back to the apartment where Harden allegedly tried to force his way inside, according to police. The resident left through the back window out of fear, police said.

Gomez, 25, of the 500 block of 47th Street, was charged with robbery, narcotic distribution, attempted first-degree burglary, possession of a drug other than marijuana, possession of marijuana less than 10 grams, possession of counterfeit drugs with intent to distribute and possession of drug paraphernalia.

Harden was arrested at his home Thursday and admitted to officers that he is addicted to oxycodone, according to police.

He was suspended with pay immediately following the incident Tuesday, which changed to suspension without pay after charges were filed.

Harden was most recently assigned to the Parkville precinct where he had been on modified duty after being injured in a police-involved shooting at Colony Motel on Pulaski Highway in June 2013.

At that time, he was assigned to the Essex precinct and was one of three officers who struggled with a man after that man tried to run over a woman with a motor scooter outside the motel.

During the struggle, the suspect was able to overcome an officer and grabbed her gun while it was in it’s holster. The officer screamed for help and Harden shot and killed the suspect .

The shooting was found justified by the homicide unit, an internal review board and the county state’s attorney.

Department police chief Jim Johnson said in a release that he is, "deeply troubled by this officer's actions."

Johnson went on to say, This department does not tolerate criminal conduct among its members, and this officer will face due process for what he has done. Yet we cannot help but be saddened by another troubling case of prescription medication abuse. This problem is pervasive in our society, and unfortunately no institution is immune to it. We hope that this officer and everyone struggling with addiction seeks and receives treatment."

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