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Traffic Stop Leads to Arrest of Man Who Shot into Townhouse, Three Others and Recovery of Handguns

June 9, 2018

Late Wednesday night, members of the Montgomery County Police 5th District Community Action Team arrested and charged a Gaithersburg resident with firing shots into an occupied townhouse on Demetrias Way in Germantown on earlier that morning.

   Police arrested Joseph E. Pinto, 22, of the 900 block of Clopper Road in Gaithersburg, and three other men, on weapons charges after Pinto allegedly pointed a green laser which attached to a 9 mm handgun at the head of an undercover police officer in Germantown Thursday night.

   Also arrested were two Germantown residents, Jordan Becraft, 20, of the 13300 block of Country Ridge Drive in Germantown, and Lynden S. Lawson, 19, of the 13300 block of Waterside Circle in Germantown. Also arrested was Damarco Morrow, 19, of the 1300 block of Missouri Avenue, Northwest, Washington, D.C. All three were arrested on with weapons and drug possession charges.

   “These arrests are the results of outstanding police work by our DCAT patrol officers and our detectives,” 5th District Commander Capt. Mark Plazinski told Germantown Pulse. “To effect the arrest of a shooter hours after the crime, and get this guy off the streets was important for our community.”

   Joseph Pinto had a busy 24 hours. Police believe it was Pinto who fired multiple shots into a townhouse in the 13500 block of Demetrias Way shortly before 9:45 am on Wednesday morning. MCPD detectives believe that he had been dropped off in the neighborhood and fired multiple shots into the townhouse. One of the rounds went through the upstairs bedroom of the female resident, and another when through the wall and the bed of her young son.

   Detectives believe that Pinto had been shooting into the townhouse in retaliation for a previous disagreement he had with someone who lives in a different unit of the complex. However, Pinto fired into the wrong dwelling, one that was occupied by a family which is unconnected with Pinto or the ongoing dispute. Detectives believe that this incident is not at all related to the home invasion robbery which took place in the 13600 block of Demetrias Way eight days earlier on Tuesday, May 29.

   “Thankfully, the woman who was in that house at the time of the shooting was on the first floor and not in her bedroom, and her son was not in his room, or either one of them could have been killed as this suspect fired rounds indiscriminately into a residence,” said Plazinski.

   Witnesses told police that the shooter then fled the area in a white Toyota Scion driven by another suspect. Investigators recovered multiple 9mm shell casings from the area. Investigators also received photos from a resident who came forward with photos of the shooter and the getaway vehicle. Detectives distributed the vehicle information to all 5th District patrols.

   Later Wednesday night, at approximately 11:15 pm that same evening, 5th District CAT officers observed a white Scion parked at a Sunoco gas station located in the 19700 block of Germantown Road in Germantown.  Officers in unmarked police vehicles began following the car as it left the gas station. Near the intersection of Century Boulevard and Town Commons Drive, the officer driving directly behind the Scion reported to that passenger in the rear seat was pointing a green laser through the rear windshield directly at his face. That laser pointer, officers later found out, was attached to a loaded Springfield Armory semi-automatic 9mm handgun.

   The vehicle then took off and observed driving at approximately 50 mph and on the wrong side of the road, through the residential neighborhood in Germantown Center, eventually running a stop sign at Locbury Drive and Club Hill Drive. DCAT officers in marked and unmarked police vehicles initiated a traffic stop on the Scion at which continued to for three blocks before coming to a stop near the roundabout at Thackery Place.

   Once police got all four occupants out of the vehicle, it was determined that it was Pinto who was sitting in the back seat of the white Scion and pointed that gun with the laser sight at the head of the plainclothes officer. Police located the weapon inside of a bag containing Pinto’s cell phone and keys.

   Police determined that Becraft was the driver of the vehicle, Lawson had been sitting in the front passenger seat, while Morrow and Pinto were in the rear.

   Police found two other weapons in the Scion; a loaded, .45 caliber handgun lying on the rear passenger floorboard area near where Morrow had been sitting and a loaded, .40 caliber handgun under the front passenger seat.

   During a police interview with 5th District detectives, Pinto made statements as to his involvement in the earlier shooting that had occurred on Demetrias Way. The investigation by detectives determined that Pinto was the suspect who had fired multiple shots into the Demetrias Way home. 

   Becraft, Pinto, Morrow, and Lawson were transported to the Central Processing Unit.  Morrow and Lawson were charged with firearm-related offenses as a result of the traffic stop in Germantown.  Pinto was charged with firearm and assault-related offenses related to the traffic stop in Germantown and related to the shooting that had occurred on Demetrias Way. He was further charged with assault-related charges after it was determined that he was the suspect who had pointed the handgun with the laser sight through the rear windshield of the Scion and at the officer.

   Becraft, Lawson, and Morrow are all under 21 years of age and prohibited from possessing a firearm. Pinto is prohibited from possessing a firearm based on a January 2017 conviction for possession of marijuana with intent to distribute and a February 2017 charge of illegal possession of a firearm.

   Morrow and Lawson were both released after posting a $5,000 bond.  Becraft was released after posting a $10,000 bond.

   Pinto is currently being held without bond after three Montgomery County Police officers, including Commander Plazinski, testified to the danger which Pinto posed to the community if he were to be released on bond. “My concern is that this individual fired a handgun into a home while innocent people were inside and later pointed a weapon at a police officer,” Plazinski told Judge Patricia Mitchell at the bond hearing on Rockville. “The fact that he didn’t know he was pointing a loaded gun at a police officer should have no bearing on the extreme recklessness of the action.”

   Assistant State’s Attorney Lauran Turner said told the court that Pinto posed an “extreme danger to the community when asking that he be held without bond. She explained that Pinto was on probation prior to his arrest on Wednesday night and had a long history of criminal activity. She pointed out his prior convictions and two juvenile convictions for burglary and drug possession.  

   Despite his attorney Victor Del Pino pointing out that Pinto has not failed to appear for court proceedings in the past, Judge Mitchell ordered Pinto be held without bond. If convicted on the most serious charge of second-degree assault for aiming the handgun at a police officer, Pinto could face 25 years in prison. He has yet to be on charges that will result from the shots fired into the townhouse on Demetrias Way.

   Detectives credited both the neighborhood resident who came forward with pivotal information about the vehicle and the alertness of DCAT patrol officers in spotting the vehicle at a gas station later that night with the arrest and getting three illegal handguns off the street.

   Ramon Korionoff, a spokesman for the State’s Attorney’s Office, said, “It is early in the process, and we will refrain from talking about this case until his next court date. Suffice it to say that we take threats against law enforcement very seriously.” Pinto is due back in court for a preliminary hearing on these charges on July 6.

 

Captions:

Top: Police have arrested the man they say is responsible for firing multiple rounds into a Demetrias Way townhouse on Wednesday morning. Photo by Germantown Pulse.

Next: Joseph Pinto, of Gaithersburg, is the man police say went to the wrong address and fired multiple rounds from a 9 mm handgun. Photo courtesy MCPD.

Next: The three other men arrested in the white Toyota Scion on Wednesday night in Germantown. Photos courtesy MCPD.

Next: Four bullet holes could be seen in the siding of the townhouse on Demetrias Way. Photo by Germantown Pulse.

Next: One bullet hole in a first-floor window of the townhouse. Photo by Germantown Pulse.

Next: Handguns recovered from the vehicle during a traffic stop in Germantown (note: the handgun pictured at the top has the green laser sight). Photo courtesy MCPD.

Next: Investigators used K-9 units to assist in gathering evidence in the alley between townhouse units. Photo by Germantown Pulse.

 

 

 

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