Baltimore aerial surveillance program leads to murder arrest

Posted at 6:33 PM, Aug 25, 2016
and last updated 2016-08-25 19:27:08-04

While there has been some controversy surrounding an aerial surveillance program Baltimore Police have been using, investigators say it's getting results.

Police say the benefits of the program can be seen through a recent homicide investigation. Investigation began July 11 after shots rang out in the 500 block of Dolphin Street at McCulloh Homes.

Robert McIntosh, 31, suffered multiple gunshot wounds and died later at Maryland Shock Trauma Center in Baltimore.

Even though the shooting happened in full view of two high rises full of people, no one stepped forward to help police.

"They weren't getting much cooperation and it was problematic. This was a case that was literally sitting on the shelf until analysts were able to tell him, 'here's what we have’,” said T.J. Smith, spokesman for the Baltimore City Police Department, "The detective came to me today to tell me if it weren't for this, this would be an open cold case, because he had absolutely nothing to go on."

RELATED: Baltimore Police Commissioner speaks out about controversial aerial surveillance program

What police did have was images taken from a surveillance plane high above the city.

While they can only make out dots for people from that altitude, they can look at a specific area at a specific time and follow the movement of someone running from a scene.

"That then allows you, as an investigator, to go on to ground level and scour that path for evidence and that evidence includes the murder weapon, that evidence includes CCTV footage,” Smith said, “Once you get that, it really helps our detectives get that much closer to solving the case."

In this instance, it helped crack the case and police have arrested 28-year old Deonta Turner of Gwynn Oak and charged him with McIntosh's murder.

While it won't bring back the victim, it may provide justice to his girlfriend, their three sons and the extended family he leaves behind.

In a city where fear can drive witnesses to remain behind closed doors, police say it could be the tool they need to put killers behind bars.

"We had a murder yesterday in Baltimore and the plane is not up,” Smith said, “So, again, we're struggling to find witnesses and to find information related to that."

Download the ABC2 News app for the iPhone, Kindle and Android.