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BLACK OCTOBER — The killing of a drug-dealing state delegate (Excerpt 2)

Posted By AL Forman On 'Monday, May 21st 2012 @ 12:01 AM' @ 12:01 AM In Top Stories | 10 Comments



Flyer left at scene of grisly 1973 murder of Maryland State Delegate James ‘Turk’ Scott.

  A Voice of Baltimore Feature, an excerpt from

   The Case Files of Homicide Lt. Stephen Tabeling

By Stephen Tabeling and Stephen Janis
It was shortly after midnight, July 1973, in the wee small hours of Friday the 13th. Holton Brown was working the night City Desk of the Baltimore Sun, when the telephone rang and the caller ominously intoned:

“This is Black October.  F**king Turk Scott’s a gone motherf**cker.”

Thinking this was a joke, Brown asked facetiously: “Really, where’d he go?”

“Hell, f**cking Hell.”

Then, laughing slightly, the caller added: “He’s in the f**king parking garage for Sutton Place.

“Left something for him…”

Scott was a newly appointed Maryland State Delegate who had just been indicted for drug dealing but had not yet come to trial. And now, only Holton Brown of the all-night City Desk of The Sun knew he was dead. Murdered. Lying in the Sutton Place parking garage off Howard Street near Bolton Hill.

And if the caller was correct, on his way to Hell.

What the murderer “left” for Delegate Scott were shell casings from the gun used to kill him, and leaflets taking responsibility for the killing from a phantom organization calling itself “Black October.”

And a never-reported broken piece of plastic bearing the name of a Sears automobile battery:

Following is EXCERPT 2 from a soon-to-be-published mini-eBook on Amazon.com, by former Homicide Detective Stephen Tabeling as told to Fox45 Investigative Producer Stephen Janis.   For details on the murder of Del. Turk Scott see EXCERPT 1 of Black October on Voice of Baltimore  (click here) [2]  and  EXCERPT 3  (click here) [3]
People get killed violently for a whole variety of reasons. But in the 1970s, as I’m sure is true today, much of the killing was related to the business of selling illicit narcotics: drug dealers killing drug dealers.

And I had a unique perspective on not just why, but how drug dealing was becoming the most destructive crime pattern in Baltimore.

Because before I was assigned to the city’s homicide unit, I was the only Baltimore City police officer tasked to the city’s first special Narcotics Task Force.

Formed in 1971 by then-State’s Attorney Milton B. Allen, the Task Force was designed to combat the growth of the organized drug business in Baltimore.

Our job was not just to arrest drug dealers, but to accumulate intelligence about the organizational structure of the business as a whole. We were tasked with fleshing out the big picture and identifying the major players.

And during a span of a few short years we did exactly that.


One of the biggest challenges we faced fighting drug dealers in the late 1960s and early 70s was keeping up with the growth of the organizations that had evolved hand in hand along with increases in the trade of drugs like heroin, cocaine and marijuana. As the drug trade expanded, so did the organizations.

But we needed intelligence, a clear and useful picture of who ran the drug business in Baltimore.

To achieve this we collected arrest data from the city’s nine police districts and various narcotics units, and created a telephone tip line to receive information on drug dealers from the general public.

We also set up wiretaps and surveillance; we followed the players who soon emerged as the top organizers of the city’s growing drug trade.

And through this work we were able to assemble a pretty coherent picture of how heroin and cocaine made its way from international locales to the streets and neighborhoods of Baltimore. And what we learned, which has been kept secret for decades, was pretty ugly.

It was ugly because in the 1970s, put simply, the heroin trade was not fronted by underground organizations or petty thugs. No. Thanks to our intelligence-gathering efforts we knew the exact opposite to be true.

The first thing to understand is that Baltimore was a major market for heroin even back then.

We didn’t have estimates, but based on the size of some of the biggest local drug organizations, kilos of dope were being moved into the city on a daily basis. It was quite a bit of product, product that needed to be cut, packaged, and distributed every day.


In the late 1960s and early 70s the drug business in Baltimore began to shape the urban landscape we see today.

The change was not simply in the obvious unsubtle exodus of residents that would begin a long, unending decline in population, nor the wholesale desertion of downtown — a fate the recently deceased Mayor (and later Governor) William Donald Schaefer spent his entire career trying to reverse by building lustrous Inner Harbor pavilions, stadiums at Camden Yards, and other tourist attractions.

The change perceptible on the street level, in the neighborhoods, was from an unseen tide of despair that began to slowly wash over once stable communities in the form of a deviant and destructive business that had taken root in areas where the factories and jobs had left.

It was, in short, the ascent of organized drug dealing, and in particular heroin, that had begun to spread its deadly tendrils throughout the city. With it came the steady erosion that would soon begin to take apart Baltimore’s bedrock of middle class communities piece by piece.

The growing business of distributing opiates gained momentum in the early 1970s and began the inevitable decline that has left us with the urban wasteland we see today.

To be sure, there were plenty of other factors that contributed to the urban decay that has become as legendary as Maryland’s signature crab cakes. Unscrupulous landlords and blockbusting real estate speculators combined with the wholesale withering of the city’s industrial base. And of course the simmering racial tensions between white and black residents that has always defined, in part, the city’s psyche.


But the often destructive business that began its unabated takeover of Charm City was perhaps the strongest symptom of the sickness within. And it was my job as a detective in the Baltimore Police Department to fight it.

Unlike the seemingly more chaotic drug business of the new millennium, the process of dealing heroin in Baltimore City was not only well-organized in the early 1970s, it was also ingrained in the fabric of the community via legitimate business owners, and to be sure, a well-known soon-to-be-gunned-down politician at Sutton Place.

This I learned not only as the lead investigator of the special Narcotics Strike Force, but also as a homicide investigator for the city police department.

Through our work at the Narcotics Task Force, we had identified the command structure of multiple drug organizations in Baltimore City, traffickers that ran their operations from legitimate businesses.

Like the heroin ring at the Penn-Dol Pharmacy on Pennsylvania Avenue, for example. Or the drug gang headed by the owner of the Bear’s Den on the 2800 block of Greenmount.

What was true then, and may well be true now, is that the business of drug dealing existed like a shadow cast over the everyday life of inner city Baltimore. It was like a subcutaneous infection, something that is in plain sight but stealthily hidden at the same time.

Still, it was the Turk Scott case that brought the ever-lurking business of illicit narcotics and its insinuation into the fabric of city life to the fore like never before. It was in a way emblematic of what we had learned in the Narcotics Strike Force:

The drug business was now the city’s business.
AND EXCERPT 3  (click here)



Stephen Tabeling, pictured here, is co-author of soon-to-be- published mini-eBook series on Baltimore homicide, co-writ- ten by Fox45-TV Investigative News Producer Stephen Janis.

and the mini-eBooks:
He was the first detective to win a murder conviction without a body. A cop who investigated the attempted murder of former Mayor William Donald Schaefer. A detective who was on the scene when a sniper shot seven Baltimore police officers in the bloodiest day of violence in the history of the city force.

Put simply, former Lieutenant Stephen Tabeling’s history and the history of the city he served are one and the same.

And now the man who started out walking a beat in Northwest Baltimore but later supervised some of the most consequential criminal investigations in the annals of this city is opening his case files, and his conscience, for all to see.

In a series of mini-eBooks, Tabeling takes readers on a tour through the shadowy back alleys of Baltimore City crime, revealing for the first time details of cases that once made headlines. In straightforward, spare and descriptive prose, Tabeling’s case files offer a frank insider’s take on the task of investigating death, drug dealing, and how violent crime evolved in a city that has since become engulfed in it.

“Understanding the history of crime in this city is important to understanding where we are today,” Tabeling told Voice of Baltimore in discussing the upcoming eBooks, which are co-written by Fox45 Investigative News Producer Stephen Janis. “I think by sharing some of the back story on past crime they will shed some light on the present,” he explained.

In the first “case file,” Tabeling recounts the murder of former Maryland State Delegate James “Turk” Scott, and his investigation into the mysterious vigilante group tied to Scott’s killing, known as “Black October.”


Scott was a politically connected bail bondsman who was indicted for distributing heroin shortly before he was gunned down in a city parking garage. Tabeling led an investigation that brought police to the doorstep of one of the city’s most illustrious families. An investigation that led to the arrest of Sherman Dobson, a then-20-year-old nephew of prominent Baltimore Pastor and Civil Rights Activist Vernon Dobson.

“It was a case that transfixed the city, and I think it influences our criminal justice system to this day,” Tabeling said.

The second case file reveals details behind a lengthy investigation of an illicit gambling operation on Pennsylvania Avenue, and the surprising suspects Tabeling tracked down. He also discusses the near career-ending consequences for him that followed the high profile probe.

Then in upcoming mini-eBooks, Tabeling shares his insights into police training, the law, and what he thinks needs to change.

“These eBooks are not just about cases, I want to share what I learned for the betterment of police today,” Tabeling said.

In the fall, Tabeling and Janis will release a print volume that will include all of the most intriguing cases from the mini-eBooks. To be, as herein, previewed exclusively by Voice of Baltimore.

Article printed from : http://voiceofbaltimore.org

URL to article: http://voiceofbaltimore.org/archives/4910

URLs in this post:

[1] Image: http://voiceofbaltimore.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/04/BlackOctober-note.jpg

[2] For details on the murder of Del. Turk Scott see EXCERPT 1 of Black October on Voice of Baltimore  (click here): http://voiceofbaltimore.org/archives/4280

[3] EXCERPT 3  (click here): http://voiceofbaltimore.org/archives/5796

[4] Image: http://voiceofbaltimore.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/04/TabelingStephen.jpg

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