Drug ring and mistaken identity may be motive behind Baltimore police sergeant shooting

BALTIMORE - Baltimore police Sgt. Keith Mcneill was shot nearly a dozen times while sitting in his truck last March near an auto body shop in Northeast Baltimore.

The gunfire so rapid, so exact, that amount of ammo only made half as many holes in the driver side window -- a seemingly vicious attack that to police seemed as personal as it was confusing.

"We don't know the motive,” Baltimore Police Commissioner Anthony Batts said at the time. “I don't know why you would walk up to someone in a car and shoot them multiple times.  All I can say is that I do thank God that my officer is still alive. I do thank God that his family will not be without a husband or a dad.  At this point and time we will figure out the motive."

Police were able to arrest and charge Gregg Thomas with attempted first and second degree murder.

The 34-year-old turned himself in after Baltimore police made a very public case that he was enemy No. 1. But to find the motive police believe is behind Thomas emptying his weapon on the sergeant, you have to go back three days before the shooting.

It was March 11 when Gregg Thomas's brother Lamont Thomas and Tyrone Bailey were traveling southbound on Interstate 95 and were stopped for going 9 m.p.h. over the speed limit.

The pair said they were on their way back from Atlantic City after they were pulled over in a Ford F-150 right at mile marker 99 in Cecil County.

According to court documents, the trooper who made the stop smelled drugs and searched the vehicle coming across an “aftermarket electronically controlled false compartment.”

When opened, the trooper found almost 9 1/2 pounds of cocaine worth about $425,000.

But it may have been that traffic stop and bust that set off Gregg Thomas.

Baltimore police sources said Thomas was convinced troopers were tipped off about the compartment, making it easy for them to find the almost half-million dollars of product.

The working theory for police is Thomas was looking to approach the shop and owner he thought did the aftermarket install job near Belair Road.

Detectives believe Mcneill was either mistaken for the man Thomas was supposedly looking for or unwittingly provoked Thomas by telling him to leave the business. Mcneill was off-duty at the time of the shooting.

But sources said Thomas's suspected drug operation had already been under electronic surveillance by a Baltimore police task force.

Pulling the trigger on their developing case, officers cracked down on the rest of Thomas's suspected drug ring a month after the shooting.         

The In Focus team was granted exclusive access for the raids that in those early morning hours of April 16, simultaneously hit several homes in east and northeast Baltimore.

It is unclear how many of the targets were picked up that morning but while the state charges against Gregg Thomas for the attempted murder of Sergeant Keith Mcneill continue on Calvert Street, the federal government indicted him, his brother Lamont, Tyrone Bailey and one other.

Unsealed this past Friday, the indictment links the four suspects to charges of a conspiracy to distribute and possess cocaine and possession of illegal firearms.

Thomas pleaded not guilty to the attempted first and second degree murder of Mcneill and according to court records is currently set to stand trial in circuit court later this summer.

Sergeant Mcneill survived the shooting, was eventually discharged by Shock Trauma and is currently undergoing rehabilitation.