Pubdate: Wed, 12 Apr 2000
Source: Washington Post (DC)
Copyright: 2000 The Washington Post Company
Contact:  1150 15th Street Northwest, Washington, DC 20071
Feedback: http://washingtonpost.com/wp-srv/edit/letters/letterform.htm
Website: http://www.washingtonpost.com/
Authors: Allan Lengel and Ruben Castaneda, Washington Post Staff Writers
Note: Researchers Bobbye Pratt and Karl Evanzz contributed to this report.

DRUG CASE AIMS AT D.C. OFFICER

A federal probe into a major drug gang is sharpening its focus on D.C. 
police officer Andrew J. McGill Jr. now that the gang's boss has pleaded 
guilty and agreed to cooperate with authorities investigating McGill and 
other D.C. officers.

Erskine "Pee Wee" Hartwell, gang boss, friend and co-defendant of McGill's, 
pleaded guilty Monday in U.S. District Court in Greenbelt to drug 
trafficking and acknowledged roles in several slayings and shootings. Ten 
of 14 defendants have pleaded guilty in the case, and two are fugitives, 
leaving McGill as the only defendant scheduled for trial. He is the only 
D.C. officer indicted in the case, but at least two other current and 
former officers are under investigation.

In a plea agreement statement, Hartwell, 32, said that McGill tipped off 
the gang to impending drug raids and that the officer received "things of 
value" from the dealers. McGill has pleaded not guilty, and his attorney 
seemed unfazed yesterday by the gang leader's accusations.

"It came as no surprise, and we're still preparing for trial," set for May 
2, said William C. Brennan.

McGill, 29, was indicted in January, more than a year after the U.S. Drug 
Enforcement Administration stumbled upon him during its probe of the drug 
ring, authorities said. Among other things, he is accused of leaking 
information to the drug gang, buying drugs and trying to sell them and 
lying to a grand jury.

But the suspicions against him had festered for years, from the weight room 
at his station house to the halls of D.C. Superior Court.

Co-workers say they filed internal reports accusing the D.C. police officer 
of tipping off drug dealers about raids on Forrester Street SW. Some said 
they often saw him hanging out with dealers. Once, an officer said, he 
watched McGill drive the car of a dealer who was being investigated by 
McGill's own unit.

All the while, McGill continued to work--first in a plainclothes unit 
investigating drugs and vice in Southeast and Southwest Washington, and 
then as a uniformed patrol officer in Northeast.

The McGill case is a blemish on a department fighting to upgrade its image. 
It also has prompted questions among some officers: How did McGill remain 
on the job years after colleagues say they filed more than a dozen reports 
accusing him of improper conduct and corruption? And just how vigorously 
did internal affairs pursue the allegations against him in 1997?

"The department had opened an inquiry on the allegations about McGill, but 
beyond that I can't say anything," said Executive Assistant Police Chief 
Terrance W. Gainer. "It's fair for an officer to wonder why McGill was 
permitted to be a policeman, based on what those officers thought they 
knew. But if we could have taken administrative action or criminal action, 
the department would have."

The case could have broader consequences for the department. At least two 
former colleagues of McGill's have come under federal investigation. Victor 
Kelly Jr., 32, an 11-year veteran, resigned from the force before pleading 
guilty last month to lying before a grand jury investigating the drug case 
that ultimately involved McGill. And the uniform of a second officer, who 
is still on the force, was seized during a 1998 raid on a drug dealer's 
apartment on Forrester Street, law enforcement authorities said.

Winston Robinson, commander of the 7th Police District, where McGill worked 
from 1990 to 1997, declined to comment on why McGill remained on the force 
after officers accused him of corruption. Robinson has headed the district 
since the early 1990s and is currently the longest-standing district 
commander in the department.

"There's nothing unusual about an officer being under investigation and 
still working out on the street," he said, speaking generally. "If there's 
a covert operation, you want to keep it covert; you don't want your target 
to be aware."

Brennan, McGill's attorney, suggested that the case against McGill, who 
remains under house detention in Prince George's County, may not be what it 
seems.

"Do you know what all your friends do when they're not with you?" he asked. 
"This could be a classic guilt-by-association case."

McGill was raised in the Forestville area. His father was a prison guard, 
his mother a Metro bus driver. After attending Suitland High School, he 
joined the D.C. police force in 1990, a class that eventually was found to 
be riddled with a disproportionate number of corrupt officers.

Over the years, colleagues saw McGill in different ways, according to 
interviews with about 18 current and former D.C. officers. Many declined to 
have their names used.

Some saw him as outgoing, funny and charming. Others found him to be a 
street-tough officer who openly associated with the suspected drug dealers 
he eventually came to be indicted with. Once, during a dispute in the 
station house, McGill angrily told an officer that he could have him 
"offed," a federal prosecutor noted during a pretrial hearing in January.

Shortly after joining the force, McGill married. He and his wife lived in 
Capitol Heights and had a son. The marriage dissolved in 1997, officers said.

"He was always complaining he didn't have money," said a plainclothes 
officer. "He cried when he had to pay child support. Then he would turn 
around the next week, come in with a new outfit."

In 1996, McGill was transferred from the 7th District vice unit to a 
plainclothes unit that targeted guns and drugs in the same area. By then, 
he had been friends with suspected drug dealer "Pee Wee" Hartwell for at 
least a couple of years, and suspicions had begun to mount, colleagues said.

In 1996 and 1997, patrol and plainclothes officers said they often saw 
McGill hanging out in front of a suspected drug house at 37 Forrester St. 
SW with dealers including Hartwell, whose gang had been the target of raids 
and investigations dating to 1989.

Forrester was a thriving open-air drug market, site of a series of fatal 
shootings. "It wasn't unusual to see [McGill] on Forrester with his 
Pathfinder or Lexus," said a uniformed officer who patrolled the area. "You 
always saw him parked out there."

At first, the uniformed officer said, "I thought he must be a good vice 
officer. He's trying to get to know them." But the frequency of McGill's 
visits with the men led the officer to change his mind. "I kept seeing him. 
I came up with my own opinion. He wasn't the kind of person you would hang 
out with."

In November 1996, Hartwell was convicted in Prince George's County Circuit 
Court of reckless endangerment in connection with a 1995 shooting in 
Clinton. He was sentenced to a year in jail, and McGill visited him, 
according to the U.S. attorney's office.

Even as Hartwell went to jail, suspicions about McGill intensified. Some 
officers in his guns-and-drugs unit suspected that McGill had leaked 
information after they came up empty-handed in raids on Forrester Street.

In February 1997, a plainclothes officer in his unit said, the 
guns-and-drugs squad assembled in the parking lot of Hadley Memorial 
Hospital for a pre-raid meeting. The supervisor announced the target: 37 
Forrester St. McGill grabbed a cell phone and made a call, the officer said.

Already suspecting that McGill might be tipping off the Forrester gang, the 
drugs-and-guns unit had plainclothes officers watching the building. 
Moments after McGill made his call, drug dealers scrambled out of 37 
Forrester, said the officer, who added that several officers filled out 
internal reports about McGill and the incident.

Also in early 1997, a second plainclothes officer in McGill's unit saw 
McGill drive on Forrester in a car owned by a suspected drug dealer the 
unit was targeting. The dealer sat in the passenger seat.

"He was quite bold about it. . . . I was shocked," said the officer, who 
added that he and others submitted reports on that incident to their sergeant.

The same plainclothes officer said McGill repeatedly tried to dissuade the 
unit from raiding Forrester, an allegation contained in the indictment. On 
one occasion in early 1997, the officer said a unit member radioed for 
everyone to head to Forrester to try to arrest open-air drug market dealers.

But McGill got on the air and said: "Let's not go there. We never get 
anything there," the plainclothes officer recalled.

In all, several of his colleagues said they filed more than a dozen 
internal complaints while McGill served on the unit from 1996 to 1997.

Brennan, McGill's attorney, declined to comment. "We'll respond to the 
allegations in court," he said.

Not all officers in the 7th District station, on Alabama Avenue SE, were 
suspicious of McGill. Some described him as a regular guy.

"He seemed like a friendly guy, outgoing, always smiling and laughing," 
said Capt. William A. Smith, who was not a boss of McGill's and was unaware 
of allegations against him at the time. "He was an average officer, no 
more, no less."

In July 1997, all seven of the city's police districts were being 
reconfigured, and the 7th District had to transfer about 16 officers to 
other jurisdictions. McGill was moved to the 5th District in Northeast, 
where he returned to uniform patrol.

When asked if McGill had been transferred because of officers' suspicions, 
Cmdr. Robinson said, "I don't want to comment on that."

McGill patrolled the Fort Lincoln area in Northeast Washington. His 
supervisor, Sgt. James O'Boyle, said some officers didn't trust McGill and 
complained about his work habits. "They considered him to be lazy and 
unproductive," he said, nonetheless adding, "he was . . . very polite, very 
friendly."

It wasn't until late 1998, more than a year after McGill's transfer, that 
he came under the scrutiny of the DEA, which was probing the Hartwell gang.

Laura DiCesar, a DEA spokeswoman, said McGill's use of a cell phone 
prompted investigators' interest. She declined to elaborate. Those familiar 
with the probe say investigators are looking into calls he made before the 
Forrester raids.

On Aug. 18, 1999, McGill was called before a federal grand jury in 
Greenbelt and, according to the indictment, was asked, "And you never 
released any information about 37 Forrester Street to Erskine Hartwell?"

"Never," he replied.

On Jan. 6, he was arrested as he reported to work at the 5th District 
station on Bladensburg Road NE.

Some wondered why McGill wasn't removed sooner.

"If they knew he was a bad officer, why would they have watched him for so 
long?" asked a patrol officer in the 7th District. "If I was running in an 
alley and chasing one of his boys, if he comes in the alley, whose side is 
he going to be on?"

Researchers Bobbye Pratt and Karl Evanzz contributed to this report.
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