Agents Were Part of an Undercover Operation to Purchase Heroin from a Known Drug Dealer
Baltimore, Maryland – U.S. District Judge George L. Russell, III today sentenced Menard Hazelwood, age 29, and Donte Smith, age 34, both of Baltimore, to 13 years in federal prison and 12 years in federal prison, respectively, each followed by three years of supervised release, for assaulting a federal officer and brandishing a firearm during a crime of violence, in connection with the May 26, 2017, assault on two undercover Special Agents with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF).
The sentence were announced by United States Attorney for the District of Maryland Robert K. Hur and Special Agent in Charge Rob Cekada of the ATF Baltimore Field Division.
“These brave agents, like all law enforcement officers, put their lives on the line every day to identify and disrupt the drug dealers that bring violence to our streets. We are grateful that they were able to return home safely,” said United States Attorney Robert K. Hur. “These defendants thought they were robbing drug customers, which happens all often in Baltimore. Hopefully the sentences imposed today send a message to those who would commit violence that gun crime will lead to federal time, which has no parole – ever.”
“We are glad to see justice served today and are grateful that our dedicated Special Agents were unharmed,” said ATF Baltimore Special Agent in Charge Rob Cekada. “ATF’s top priority in Baltimore is to identify and target the criminal organizations responsible for gun violence. Special Agents risk their personal safety each time they work undercover during an investigation, yet they do this because they know the importance of their mission to protect the community from these violent criminals.”
According to Smith and Hazelwood’s plea agreements, on May 26, 2017, during an ATF undercover operation, Smith and Hazelwood attempted to rob two ATF undercover Special Agents (UCs), who were working with a confidential informant (CI) to purchase $2,000 worth of heroin from a known heroin dealer. The UCs and the CI had picked up the heroin dealer, with one UC driving and the other UC in the front passenger seat, then drove to a location in West Baltimore to meet with the dealer’s supplier. The dealer got out of the car and told the CI and the UCs to wait; Smith and Hazelwood immediately walked up to the vehicle. Smith asked the UCs for a light and Hazelwood took advantage of the distraction and pointed a gun at the UC in the passenger seat. Smith then pointed a silver revolver at the other UC. Smith and Hazelwood demanded money. The UCs told Smith and Hazelwood, who continued to hold them at gunpoint, that there was cash in the vehicle. The UCs then gave the distress signal to the covert ATF team that was monitoring the operation. As the covert team arrived on the scene, the agents ordered Smith and Hazelwood to put their hands up. Smith fled, and the responding ATF Special Agents fired their service weapons, striking Smith. Hazelwood also broke away and ran to a nearby car, but was not able to get into the car. Special Agents arrested him at the scene.
Agents recovered the .44-caliber revolver brandished by Smith during the robbery, but did not recover the gun used by Hazelwood. Smith and Hazelwood admitted that they each participated in the robbery, but did not know that the undercover Special Agents were federal agents at the time of the robbery.
This case is part of Project Safe Neighborhoods (PSN), a program bringing together all levels of law enforcement and the communities they serve to reduce violent crime and make our neighborhoods safer for everyone. Attorney General Jeff Sessions reinvigorated PSN in 2017 as part of the Department’s renewed focus on targeting violent criminals, directing all U.S. Attorney’s Offices to work in partnership with federal, state, local, and tribal law enforcement and the local community to develop effective, locally based strategies to reduce violent crime.
United States Attorney Robert K. Hur commended the ATF for its work in the investigation. Mr. Hur thanked Assistant U.S. Attorney Patricia C. McLane, who prosecuted the case.
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