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Man Charged With Dragging Baltimore Officer Had Nearly 20 Prior Arrests

BALTIMORE (WJZ) -- A man who seriously injured a Baltimore Police sergeant Tuesday night has been arrested nearly 20 times before, and now some are asking why he wasn't already behind bars.

Police say 36-year-old Joseph Black drove off from a traffic stop Tuesday night in Park Heights and dragged a sergeant two blocks. He was transported to Shock Trauma in critical condition Tuesday night, but is out of surgery and in fair condition Wednesday, officials said.

Black was arrested Wednesday in the Upton neighborhood after what was called a "possible barricade situation" by police, in which SWAT teams blocked off roads. He was eventually taken into custody without incident. He is charged with attempted first-degree murder, first- and second-degree assault, and reckless endangerment.

But the suspect has been arrested at least 19 times before, Commissioner Michael Harrison said Wednesday. He had been arrested for violent crimes, including attempted murder and assault weapons charges.   

"When we talk about repeat violent offenders, this is what we are referring to," he said.

Mayor Brandon Scott described him as "an individual who had no business being out, who should still be behind bars."  

WJZ took a look back at Black's extensive criminal history. Records show he pleaded guilty to possessing a firearm in October 2019. Police notes from that day describe it as a "gun battle."  

But his attorney, Bradley MacFee, who represented him for the 2019 case, said Black described the incident as self-defense. "There were people who were threatening him and he just reacted to that," said MacFee. 

Black faced a maximum of 15 years in prison for charges related to the October 2019 crimes but spent less than two years behind bars.  

"He had spent about 19 months detained," said MacFee, "you would never see a deal like this."  

MacFee said the deal was a result of a backlog of cases caused by the pandemic and a lack of prosecutors at the Baltimore City State's Attorney's Office.  

"There really aren't all that many prosecutors left, certainly not in the numbers that are required to be able to accurately and adequately work up these cases and take them to trial," said MacFee.  

But the city's State's Attorney stands by the plea deals.

"Mister Black was defending himself from being shot," said Baltimore State's Attorney Marilyn Mosby. Her office offered him a plea deal for two separate cases.  

The second case, Mosby said, was because they didn't have enough witnesses.

"If we don't have cooperative witnesses or inconsistent witnesses, it's really difficult to prove that case."   

Now Black is behind bars again, a man who officials say has little or no regard for the consequences of crime. Mayor Scott described him as someone who was in and out of prison for years, "who wasn't properly prepared to re-enter our society." 


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