For Immediate Release
Baltimore Man Pleads Guilty to Attempting to Rob Undercover ATF Special Agents at Gunpoint
Agents Were Part of an Undercover Operation to Purchase Heroin from a Known Drug Dealer
Baltimore, Maryland –Menard Hazelwood, age 29, of Baltimore, pleaded guilty today to assault of a federal officer and brandishing a firearm in the course of 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 guilty plea was 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.
“This case demonstrates how drug trafficking can lead to violence. The defendants thought they were robbing drug customers. Unfortunately, this occurs all too often in Baltimore. These 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,” said United States Attorney Robert K. Hur. “We are grateful for their service and sacrifice.”
“ATF focuses our efforts in Baltimore on drug trafficking crews that use firearms to maintain and expand their turf. ATF agents risk their personal safety each time they infiltrate a criminal organization, yet they do this because they know the importance of their mission to protect the community from these violent criminals,” said ATF Baltimore Special Agent in Charge Cekada. “We are grateful every day that our dedicated Special Agents were unharmed and have been able to fully resume their duties as law enforcement officers.”
According to his plea agreement, on May 26, 2017, during an ATF undercover operation, Hazelwood and a co-defendant attempted to rob two ATF undercover Special Agents (UCs). A confidential informant (CI) made arrangements to purchase $2,000 worth of heroin. The UCs had driven the CI to pick up the heroin dealer, with one UC driving and the other UC in the front passenger seat. They picked up the dealer and drove to a location in West Baltimore to meet with the dealer’s supplier. When they arrived at the location, the dealer got out of the car and told the CI and the UCs to wait. Hazelwood and his co-defendant immediately walked up to the vehicle. The co-defendant asked the UCs for a light. Hazelwood took advantage of the distraction and pointed a gun at the UC in the passenger seat, while the co-defendant pointed a silver revolver at the other UC. Hazelwood and his co-defendant demanded money. The UCs told Hazelwood and his co-defendant, 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 saw Hazelwood and his co-defendant pointing handguns at the UCs in the vehicle, and ordered them to put their hands up. Hazelwood’s co-defendant fled, and the responding ATF Special Agents fired their service weapons, striking the co-defendant. 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 Hazelwood’s co-defendant during the robbery, but did not recover the gun used by Hazelwood. Hazelwood admitted that he participated in the robbery, but that he did not know that the undercover Special Agents were federal agents at the time of the robbery.
Hazelwood, and the government have agreed that if the Court accepts the plea agreement, Hazelwood will be sentenced to between seven and 15 years in prison. U.S. District Judge George L. Russell, III has scheduled sentencing for March 29, 2019 at 2:00 p.m.
Hazelwood’s co-defendant, Donte Smith, age 33, of Baltimore, is scheduled for a rearraignment on Friday, October 19, 2018 at 2:00 p.m.
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 is prosecuting the case.