By Justin George, The Baltimore Sun
7:44 AM PDT, March 18, 2013
When De'ontae Smith was fatally stabbed and two friends were injured three blocks from the route of the Ravens' Super Bowl victory parade, police initially said the celebration was unrelated to the violence. As it turned out, the teen had cut school to cheer on the team.
Officials have since said they didn't know enough at the time to conclusively link the events.
The Baltimore Sun wanted to know: How were various city agencies talking about the stabbing in the minutes and hours after it took place? Were their behind-the-scenes discussions any different than their public pronouncements?
In a public records request, The Sun requested all written correspondence between the mayor's office, police and fire officials on Feb. 5. On March 8, the city sent back 89 pages of mostly emails traded between the offices.
They show a few brief exchanges between emergency responders and Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake's public relations team, though the city acknowledged that there may be other documents that it did not disclose.
Exempted from review by law, Baltimore assistant solicitor Mark J. Dimenna said, was any communication that contained "confidential opinions, deliberations, advice or recommendations" that might help city officials make decisions.
At 2:28 p.m. Feb. 5, mayor's spokesman Ryan O'Doherty asked police spokesman Anthony Guglielmi and Baltimore City Fire Department spokesman Chief Kevin Cartwright to "coordinate all incident communications" through Baltimore police's "JIC," or joint information center.
The joint information center, as defined by the Fire Department, is a clearinghouse where the city's various public information officers or spokespeople coordinate their messages to the public and media during emergencies.
It's clear that city spokespeople and police were talking to each other. O'Doherty was present with Guglielmi during the initial news conference just after the stabbing.
In subsequent emails the Sun reviewed, Baltimore police spokesman Detective Jeremy Silbert sent O'Doherty and Guglielmi news stories that began appearing online immediately after the stabbing was reported. In one of those emails, Silbert wrote of a Sun story, "This article is not correct. It says large crowds gathered downtown at the time of the stabbing for the parade. In fact, the parade had been over for awhile."
Using images from the scene and interviews with people who were nearby, The Sun reported that many who had attended the parade and subsequent celebration at M&T Bank Stadium were streaming through downtown at the time of the stabbing. The Sun's initial reports did not say the stabbing was related to the parade; once city officials made that link, The Sun reported it.
Baltimore police and the city have strongly denied any effort to play down Smith's death or distance the murder from the parade.
Cartwright reiterated that point Friday.
"I never got any specific direction or message as far as what our public affairs folks had to say to address any specific incident," he said.
Copyright © 2013, The Baltimore Sun