Collateral Damage The FBI wasn't after alleged small-time D.C. heroin dealer Bernie Hammond. But thanks to the War on Drugs, they found him, so they locked him up.

Bernie Hammond had been selling heroin since he was 11, but that didn’t mean he didn’t have rules. One rule: Don’t sell drugs to pregnant women. Another: Stay away from arguments on the street. But now, in August 2012, he was about to break one of the guidelines that had kept him out of prison for so many years: He bought a gun.

Hammond’s return tour in the D.C. drug trade was not going well. What had started that April as a way to pay for his lung medication and daughter’s physical therapy degree—with enough left over, hopefully, for his fashion-school tuition—had turned sour. The FBI almost grabbed him at one aborted deal in the District, which had also left potential buyers convinced he was a snitch.

It only cost him $50 and a gram of heroin to trade to a crack addict for the flimsy Saturday Night Special, but Hammond intended to make it count. He spray-painted the 9-millimeter gun tan to confuse would-be attackers for a split second, an idea he got from an old copy of Soldier of Fortune, and hid it in his house on Baltimore’s Brentwood Avenue. And that’s exactly where Baltimore police would find it later that month after catching him on the way to a heroin deal.

Suddenly, Hammond was officially part of the War on Drugs, caught in the ongoing back-and-forth between law enforcement and dealers. In September, Hammond claims, FBI agents offered him two choices: testify against an alleged Washington drug dealer and leave his mother in Anacostia to face whatever consequences came from snitching, or stay silent and fight charges that carried 10 years in prison. Instead, he chose neither: He called a reporter.


Hammond’s sitting next to me in an Adams Morgan Starbucks on Nov. 7, logging into the Gmail account we’ll share. He’s suspicious of both his court-appointed attorneys and the FBI handlers who want him to testify, and he thinks someone’s monitoring his email account. So he created a new account for us to share attachments as draft emails—a circuitous process that nevertheless gets me an FBI-created summary of his September interview with federal agents, which he obtained from his lawyer.

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But then, Hammond’s familiar with workarounds—he’s been dealing with them all his life. Now 43, he dropped out of school in seventh grade to start slinging cocaine and pot around his Congress Heights neighborhood. The location was good but too close to his own home; the neighbors could see him selling in Congress Park and tip off his mother. To avoid her scrutiny, he started packing up his drugs each morning and trekking across the Anacostia River to a spot on 9th Street NW.

Still, Hammond didn’t feel removed enough. After three years of dealing, he had saved $2,500—enough to buy an ounce of cocaine from a dealer and leave behind low-level pushing for good. At 14, he became what he still calls himself to this day: a businessman.

Looking at Hammond, it’s easy to see why he’d want to get off the street—and why he was dealing so badly with being pulled into the FBI’s orbit. With his husky build and permanent hangdog face, it’s hard to imagine him lasting long as an enforcer or, less likely still, the kingpin. To make an underground economy career even less viable, he suffers from sarcoidosis, an inflammatory disease that has left him with the lungs of a man twice his age. The disease, which usually starts with shortness of breath, can soon turn into skin lesions and even blindness. Hammond explains it more simply: It’s what comedian Bernie Mac had.

Hammond blames his sarcoidosis on his work in and around insulation as an electrician. In between drug dealing, he picked up the skill as a teenager. He married in his late teens and found himself working both of his trades to support his wife and, eventually, his young daughter. Things turned sour for Hammond around 2001—his wife divorced him, and he was putting more cocaine up his nose than on the street, according to his FBI interview. After he was diagnosed with sarcoidosis when he was 32, a doctor gave him 18 months to live.

Hammond didn’t die, though, and he even stopped dealing for a time after a religious awakening. But in April 2012, he found himself unemployed in Baltimore after another money-making scheme flopped. He was running out of money to pay for his sarcoidosis medication. Hammond’s pride was as much at stake as his health: If he stopped paying for his daughter’s education, his ex-wife would know about his money problems. It was time to return to the only business that had ever reliably paid off for him: drug dealing.

This time, though, he would sell heroin instead of cocaine. Baltimore was steeped in the drug, and heroin that was considered low-quality in Baltimore was still prized in cocaine-heavy D.C. With just an hour-long trip between cities each way, he could flip cheap Baltimore heroin to District dealers who wanted to diversify their merchandise.

At first, Hammond’s return to drug-dealing went well. But he wasn’t making much. One deal for 10 grams, he would later tell the FBI, cost $800. By the time he got the drugs down to Washington, though, he could only sell them for $900—a $100 profit for a sizable risk. He told the FBI he didn’t dilute or “cut” the heroin, reducing its purity while expanding his volume. Still, his Washington customers complained about quality, which suggested that his supplier was tampering with the heroin before Hammond bought it.

Hammond needed to get around the most immediate middle-man, but he didn’t have enough money to pay his supplier for an introduction to someone higher up the distribution chain. He knew who might lend him the money, though: Kenilworth Fats.

In a press release sent out months later, after Fats was arrested by federal agents, the U.S. Attorney’s Office would claim that Fats, 47, ran a drug crew in Northeast Washington’s Kenilworth Gardens public housing complex. Through a friend in North Carolina, Hammond was able to get an interview with Fats in D.C., he would later tell the FBI.

Fats, whose real name is Tony L. Adams, was once a leader in a District drug crew prosecutors called “The Committee.” A 1988 Washington Post story on drug convictions against Fats and other members of the Committee made the front page of the paper. In the story, Fats comes across like white Washington’s fever dream of an ’80s drug boss: chopping up rocks with a razor blade, buying weapons, managing an apartment full of female crack cooks.

(How Fats got his nickname, by the way, is straightforward. As Hammond explained, Kenilworth Fats is fat, and he lives in Kenilworth.)

Decades after his turn in the spotlight, Fats isn’t as fearsome, even if the weight that earned him his nickname is still there. He has high blood pressure, diabetes, high cholesterol, and sleep apnea, according to a request from his lawyer that he receive medical leave from jail. Fats’ condition is so bad, according to his lawyer, that he can’t breathe at night without an air pressure machine.

Hammond himself was amazed that federal agents would ever waste their time with the ailing alleged drug dealer. “I don’t even think Kenilworth Fats is rolling like he used to roll,” he says.

Unfortunately for Hammond, there was a wiretap on Fats’ phone, according to documents filed by prosecutors. With each phone call, Hammond became more entangled in the FBI’s investigation.

Hammond had unwittingly found himself a target of the Safe Streets Task Force, a 20-year-old partnership between the FBI and D.C.’s Metropolitan Police Department. Since its launch in 1992, the partnership had organized a string of busts, from a Congress Heights drug market in 1999 to a violent gang in 2000. And now it was about to get one more.

When Hammond got in touch with Fats, agents had already been surveilling the alleged kingpin for over a year, as part of a larger investigation into the Baltimore-Washington heroin trade. One of Fats’ lieutenants had sold heroin to an undercover officer, while a search of Fats’ basement revealed a backpack filled with cutting supplies, according to an indictment against his crew. Fats has pleaded not guilty to the charges against him. His lawyer didn’t respond to a request for comment on the case.

Wiretaps on Fats’ phone captured all of the mundane responsibilities of running a drug business, according to a motion filed by prosecutors to oppose Fats’ release from jail: going to a GNC fitness supply store to buy powders to cut with the heroin, meeting with suppliers to try out the potency of heroin batches.

In June, according to the FBI, the wiretap on Fats’ phone recorded five conversations between Hammond and Fats. Hammond eventually met Fats and an associate outside the Shrimp Boat on East Capitol Street, according to Hammond’s recollection. Hammond had hoped that his reputation as a no-nonsense “businessman” would convince Fats to lend him the money to buy out his Baltimore supplier. In exchange for the loan, he would sell Fats 25 grams of the heroin at wholesale prices.

The meeting appeared like the kind of mundane drug deal Hammond thrived on: driving to a seafood restaurant, walking from his car to Fats’ truck, getting in, all while Fats’ associate stood guard outside. As he sat in Fats’ car, though, Hammond realized the buyout plan was over before it started. Fats explained that he didn’t have enough to front him the money, Hammond would later tell the FBI. The two forty-something alleged dealers parted without a deal.

Unluckily for Hammond, it wasn’t the last time he would try to make a deal with Kenilworth Fats. On June 29, Hammond paid $1,750 in Baltimore for 25 grams of heroin. He planned to sell them to another Congress Park dealer, but when he got to Washington, he discovered that dealer didn’t have enough money to buy the drugs. After unloading a couple of grams with other dealers, Hammond says, he thought of one man he knew was interested in buying heroin: Fats. The two agreed to meet that day on 60th Street NE, Hammond would later tell the FBI.

Something felt off ahead of the meeting. When Hammond got there, he tossed the heroin in a McDonald’s bag and threw it nearby, waiting for Fats. Suddenly, a group of what looked like white, college-aged men drove by. Hammond, suspicious of what a group of white men would be doing in the neighborhood, called off the trade and walked away from the fast food bag.

Hammond’s quick thinking didn’t earn him credit with Fats, though. Instead, the alleged drug boss kept wanting to meet with him and work things out—a sign, according to Hammond, that Fats suspected he was working with law enforcement.

But Hammond didn’t have long to worry. He was already on the FBI’s radar from the wiretaps, and police snatched him up on Aug. 15. While the charge for intending to distribute 10 grams of heroin might not be much for a first-time offender, there was a twist: his spray-painted gun. With the gun, what could have been a possession with intent to distribute charge suddenly became “using, carrying, and possessing a firearm during a drug trafficking offense”—a more serious, and violent-sounding, crime.

It wasn’t the first time Hammond’s dealing had gotten him in trouble, though he’d never been in so much legal jeopardy: In 2007, he claims that he narrowly evaded hooded assassins waiting for him in Congress Park. So he figured he might be able to skate out of the arrest: take a deal, perhaps avoiding jail time because it was his first offense, and lay low.

But there was a complication: his mother in Anacostia. If Hammond testified against Fats on charges of conspiracy to distribute heroin, he worried that there would be retaliation against her. FBI assurances that his mother could find a new place to live didn’t persuade him.

“‘We’ll move her’,” Hammond told me later, mimicking the agents. “Like she’s a cardboard person.”


The federal law enforcement machine that would roll over Hammond last summer first hit the streets 24 years ago.

Inspired by a plague of drug-inspired killings in the late 1980s, the District’s take-no-prisoners approach to the drug war started to take form in March 1989. That’s when the George H.W. Bush administration’s newly appointed drug czar, William J. Bennett, announced that Washington would be a proving ground for his high-intensity approach to drug enforcement, with federal and local agents organized into a rapidly deployed “strike force” aimed at the city’s drug gangs.

Washington, which was neither a major manufacturing area nor an entry point for drugs, struck some as a waste of federal resources. “This is the Potomac Fever approach,” one federal official told the Washington Post, as if anticipating the day FBI agents would be watching Hammond stuff heroin into a McDonald’s bag.

But Bennett saw the opposite, according to the Post, saying, “By God, something has got to be done.”

The federal approach scored a big hit a month later, when an 18-month investigation culminated in indictments against legendary D.C. drug kingpin Rayful Edmond III. Edmond’s elaborate supply network, which snaked its way from Colombian coca fields through the Los Angeles Crips until finally reaching its terminus in District drug markets, seemed like the perfect justification for federal intervention.

Today, Edmond’s in the witness protection program while in prison, and the city’s murder rate is at a 50-year low, but Bennett’s “something” is still playing out in the city. The drug war in Washington contributes to the estimated 60,000 Washingtonians who have criminal records, with all the complications that creates for getting a job. Many got caught for doing exactly what Hammond did: taking low-level positions in one of the only industries that would have them.

Law enforcement isn’t just going after hard drugs, either. A 2010 study gave Washington the dubious honor of the highest per capita marijuana arrest rate of all American jurisdictions. There’s an ugly racial element to the drug war, too, that doesn’t even take a particularly in-depth analysis to spot: In 2007, black Washingtonians made up 91 percent of marijuana arrests in D.C., as Washington City Paper reported in 2010.

All those arrests require more and more equipment and personnel. The Safe Streets Task Force that eventually surveilled Hammond and Fats is actually made up of three separate task forces, including one devoted solely to drug crimes. And while the wiretapped recordings in Fats’ investigation are extensive, those conversations likely didn’t come into federal hands cheap—a 2011 court report found that wiretapping a phone costs, on average, $71,748.

An avid reader of Malcolm X, Hammond understood that the unfairness of his situation extended beyond his lung medication. After he was arrested and charged, Hammond claimed he’d made a political statement at his detention hearing: “Fellow Americans, look at the new African-American slavery taking place in front of your eyes!”

It’s dramatic, and I haven’t been able to verify that it even actually happened. But it’s not that far from the truth.


We’re driving through Anacostia on Nov. 8, and Hammond’s pointing out the drug corners on Martin Luther King Jr. Avenue SE. Hammond had planned to take me to his mom’s house, where he’s been staying since moving from Baltimore. He was also supposed to introduce me to his friends today, so I could get a sense of whether he’s as “hot” as he claims, but when people think you’re working with law enforcement, introducing them to a white guy with a notebook is a tough proposition.

After his August arrest, Hammond was released without being charged. Instead, according to the FBI’s summary of Hammond’s interview, agents told him to “keep his contact and cooperation with law enforcement a secret.” The FBI also rehearsed evasive responses with Hammond, in case dealers asked him if he was working with law enforcement, according to the summary.

All the pat lines in the FBI’s handbook might not help him, though. In August, he ran into Fats’ cousin at the grocery store. She begged him to get out of D.C.

Ironically, having a reputation as a snitch means that Hammond might as well actually cooperate with law enforcement. “People think you hot,” Hammond says. “And now you gotta be hot if you wanna live.”

Even though it’s late in the afternoon, Hammond’s puffy eyes and baggy sweater make him look like he just rolled out of bed, which is exactly what he did. He’s terrified that the FBI is going to kick in the door of his mom’s house. Anticipating the agents, he’s been staying up at night and sleeping during the day.

At least he has things to think about. He wants to get a fashion degree—the heroin dealing was supposed to pay for that—to start a used-clothing store. He also dreams of creating a solar-powered grill. “My idea’s easy,” he says. “And I think it’d be more practical.”

Hammond’s also a big fan of books, both real and imagined. He peppers his biography with references to Think and Grow Rich, a 1937 self-help manual by Napoleon Hill, and he likes to explain his philosophy about drug-dealing with the title of a book he could write: The Art of Staying in Your Lane.

Just how he’ll stay free and alive enough to write a book and invent cooking appliances is where I come in. As I press him for more details about the mundane details of low-level heroin dealing, Hammond occasionally steers the conversation back to what he thinks I can do for him: namely, introduce him to lawyers. While he’s already had two court-appointed attorneys since his arrest, he thought they were too eager for him to cooperate with the FBI.

I tell him that publishing a story about him might get him some attention, although the chances of a legal nonprofit taking the case of a career drug dealer caught with a gun must be slim. “Put in there that I need help,” he says, gesturing at my notes.

Despite facing the problems of a serious drug dealer—federal agents breathing down his neck, concerns about his mother’s safety—Hammond insists that he’s not a “street guy.” But there’s one moment when his claims to run a bloodless, no-hassle drug business seem hollow. He’s talking about how he’d feel if someone lied about him on the witness stand. “If you get a conviction on somebody that straight-up lied on you, that’s enough to make me wanna kill somebody,” he growls.

Hammond will talk and talk about how he’s managed to avoid prison time for drug-dealing, despite having a prolific career in it: Don’t be flashy, don’t fight robbers. Don’t hang out with murderers, don’t try to kill people yourself. But there’s one question Hammond can’t answer: what it feels like when one of his heroin deals works well, and he’s suddenly $100 richer. He says he’ll need to think about it.

Hammond’s terrified that he’ll be prosecuted on organized crime charges, despite having little involvement with Fats’ alleged crew. With his sarcoidosis, 10 years might as well be a life sentence. At the same time, he’s worried about accepting a deal and leaving his mother behind. Idling his car in the parking lot of his mother’s church in Anacostia, he worries that his testimony would destroy her life. At the same time, though, working for the government is tempting. “If it wasn’t for my mother, man,” he says, his voice trailing off.

Hammond calls me late that night. He’s already started his nightly vigil for the FBI, and he’s been thinking about an answer to my earlier question. After decades of setbacks—the racism he felt as an electrician, his divorce, his lung disease, and his unemployment—he’s figured out why he keeps coming back to drug-dealing: “It’s a feeling of getting even.”


The D.C. Jail’s Video Visitation Room has only been open since July, but by November it’s already decorated with motivational posters, including one with a picture of a bridge that reads “SUCCESS.” Suddenly, Hammond pops onto the screen in front of me.

“I guess they wanted to show me they wasn’t playing,” he says.

He’s only been in jail for four days, but he seems skinnier. The FBI agents he had been waiting for finally came at 5 a.m. Nov. 13. Because Hammond was already up, he was able to keep his mother’s door intact and open it himself to let law enforcement in. Meanwhile, across the city, officers were arresting Fats and three other alleged members of his crew on charges of conspiring to distribute heroin.

“I’m sitting here with a bullseye on my head,” Hammond says. He’s convinced that his codefendants think he’s a snitch and have put a price on his head. He wants me to tell his lawyer to move him to the Correctional Treatment Facility, a privately run jail next to the D.C. Jail. Otherwise, he worries, he could soon find himself on the wrong end of a shank.

Unfortunately for Hammond, the only way he could likely make it to the Correctional Treatment Facility is if he agrees to turn state’s evidence. While the building was initially intended for inmates with medical problems, cooperating with the government could get Hammond enough leverage to get transferred. The benefits for his personal safety are obvious: Unlike the D.C. Jail, the Correctional Treatment Facility only houses low- and medium-security inmates. Still, Hammond seems confident that he would make bail days later.

The reality, though, has played out differently. In a Nov. 21 memorandum, a federal magistrate admitted that Hammond’s background—working as an electrician, living with his mother, and a spotless criminal record up to now—made him unlikely to commit crimes while on bail.

But other factors, including the gun and the three or four bullets that were in it, made him too dangerous. “A firearm was found in his possession,” the magistrate wrote, “dramatically increasing the danger he presents to the community.”

Since that hearing, the motions have dragged on ahead of a trial, whenever that will be. Hammond and his codefendants waived their right to a speedy trial, which should give their lawyers time to sift through the 36,000 phone calls, text messages, voicemails, and GPS alerts recorded by the wiretaps. Mutually agreeing not to press the legal right to a trial within 120 days of the charges being filed benefits the prosecution, too—in a motion supporting the move, prosecutors speculate that the delay could help convince some of the defendants to testify against each other.

Police finally arrested a sixth defendant in February—Jerry Levi Baptiste had managed to evade law enforcement, and thus put off pretrial motions, for an impressive three months. As for Fats, the U.S. Attorney’s Office claims that he could still be managing his alleged Kenilworth drug operation from behind bars.

If jail hasn’t changed Fats, though, it had an almost immediate effect on Hammond. In November, he told me that the prospect of leaving his mother behind doesn’t seem so impossible anymore.

“I don’t think she goin’ understand, but really, Will, I think it’s in my best interest,” he says.

Correction: Due to a reporting error, the article originally misidentified the location of the Shrimp Boat, which is on East Capitol Street.

Our Readers Say

I never feel good for people who are subjected to the strong arm of the law. However, one can't argue that he wasn't asking for it by selling heroin. Additionally, I don't like the circumstances that put him there. But again, he was selling drugs and purchasing illegal firearms.
Fuck Bernie Hammond! He help destroy/wreck lives,by selling heroin.You reap,what you sow.
This is just a guy that likes the easy way out. He had a decent trade, and couldn't handle the monotony of being a working schlubb like the rest of us, he wanted to be a king. Well, you reap what you sow.

Just remember all the babies you killed, all the kids that grew up with parents hooked on heroin just so you could make a $100. Shit, the electrician who shows up at my house gets $100 just for walking through my front door.

Pussy.
Oh please to the top three posters. Rules from ya’ll and rules for us so good ole Joe Kennedy can bootleg liquor illegally and build a politically empire that is still going, but folks get sanctified on with this man. I’ll step off my soap box when they go after the big time folks. Those who own boats and planes that ship the stuff in.
Oh please to yourself. Heroin is much worse that alcohol. I have a hard time feeling any pity for a heroin dealer buying illegal firearms. Have fun rotting in jail and wasting our tax money, loser.
So Reality, let me see if I have this right, someone took a gun and force him to sell drugs and destroy his community. I guess due to this force, he could give a shit about the consequences, even though he knew he was also violating the law. Yes, I get it, its the faults of those rich drug dealers with the big boat and big houses who haven't been caught and while we at it, lets blame the teacher for him dropping out of school or the Mayor or better yet, lets blame him for being stupid, which he accomplish all by himself. One need only to look in the mirror, here in lies the problem.
To the commenter who brought up Joe Kennedy and his illegal activities, no one advocated for him either. His actions are just as wrong as the next mans. However, using his illegal successes and a means of justifying someone else's reprehensible actions only dilutes the entire problem. This man deserves to be in jail. Period. He is a pusher and a criminal. For having a mother who seems to care so deeply about him he certainly hasn't given too much concern for her over the years. On the flip side too, how much concern can a mother really have to allow a child to drop out of school in the 7th grade? And don't give me the old it's a tough world line either - I've been there and there was no way my family would have allowed such actions to occur. In the end, he decided to sell drugs - multiple times. He had an option for careers, education, and all the like. To think he gets an article written about him is disgusting. And aside from all of that he could have easily enlisted as well. I served 17 years after college to protect this great land and went through three tours. There are plenty of desk jobs available for someone of his stature; although it sounds as though he was very able bodied as a youth. The bottom line is this man is a waste of space. I didn't take bullets to protect this kind of terrible, lazy person. Own up to your faults and be a man...take it on the chin. You don't deserve help so don't ask for it. I block it out of my mind that any of my tax dollars goes to support this coward. He is the essence of what is wrong with DC.
NICE PIECE OF WRITING WILLY EARL!
SOUNDS LIKE HAMMOND SHOULD BE STARTING ON THAT BOOK SOONER RATHER THAN LATER???

IT ALL BOILS DOWN TO-DECISIONS. DECISIONS. DECISIONS.
HOWEVER THERE IS SOME TRUTH TO THE NEW SLAVERY THEORY.

HAMMOND IN JAIL.
PO-PO'S NEED HIM.
RUINING HIS STREET CRED.
THIS SOUNDS FAMILIAR???? 48HRS.
Bravo, Will Sommer

It's about time someone finally wrote about the injustices being perpetrated against America's most maligned and ill-treated minority: gun toting drug dealers. Bernie Hammond is a hero who simply wants to provide a way for people to responsibly to escape from the mundane trivialities such as providing stable homes for their children and being productive members of society. If anything he's the victim here. Certainly its not those mooching, selfish kids who want their parents to provide a safe and supportive home instead of giving their parents the freedom to be high all day, nor those crybaby loved ones of people gunned down in the violence of the drug trade. Nope, the real victim is Bernie Hammond, whose only crime was exhibiting the American trait of self-enterprise and entrepreneurship before the racist 'Man' stopped him from helping lift our black communities up with heroin and guns.

I wait with baited breath for the Pulitzer committee's review.
@Really?? and Ward 8. First both were/are illegal. Point. Blank. Period. The problems that the community suffers from go wayyyy beyond one heroin dealer. But do you really get it? No seriously? Any comments to FBI on what they are doing to stop drugs from coming into the country?

See it's easier to beat up on this man. Talk about his choices. All the while choices made on Wall street et al get a shrug. Hell did any of you type a comment when those shenanigans took place. He can't win in this situation.I'll say this he was at least trying to pay for the daughter to attend college and break the cycle...ummm sounds like papa Joe.
Friggin garbage....that's all the City Paper produces these days and this article is no exception. Maybe if Will Sommer's studio apartment was burglarized or he was robbed by a junkie in need of Hammond's heroin, he might feel differently about who the victims are in the heroin business. Friggin clown. I hope Hammond gets shanked in jail and Fats dies of any of his ailments.
Here is another example of rules for ya'll and rules for us. He's has the chance to be free in another year. Oh and take note of how the washpo tries to draw compassion for this dealer.

Drugs are the downfall of a brilliant law student

http://www.washingtonpost.com/local/drugs-are-the-downfall-of-a-brilliant-law-student/2013/01/31/09ad81be-6bc3-11e2-ada0-5ca5fa7ebe79_story.html

All dealers need to be treated the same!
So is there going to be a follow up story? From reading this, I'd think this dude is going to end up dead. It's a crazy idea he had. I could see how this article could have been a tool he could use to show that he wasn't involved with the police, although I don't know how rational the lifetime criminals and drug dealers he was trying to persuade really are. The admission at the end that he was thinking of cooperating pretty much wipes out any chance of him being safe I'd think.
Due to the comments, this must have been linked from some right wing site.
I do believe the war on drugs is a massively wrong-headed affair, but I don't think a heroin dealer with an illegal handgun is the best poster child for a victim of the system.

There are far more young adults who are having similar (and much worse) problems with the criminal justice system just for being caught with marijuana. Some have even died being used as narcs for the police. This holds true whether it is urban people of color, the upper middle class suburbs, or rural honky college towns. The Washington City Paper showed poor judgement in their choice of protagonist for an otherwise worthy argument.

I have yet to lose a friend from the direct physical effects of smoking pot. I have already lost friends to heroin and various pharmaceuticals, all bought from "small time" dealers like Hammond. Forgive me if I don't feel sympathy for him. He ought to know that his drugs can and do kill people from direct use.

Will Sommer erred in particular by allowing his writing to betray an obviously favorable bias toward Hammond very early on in the article.



This mans life and actions are the everyday tales of so many people old and young who have to make choices in an economy where money open doors. Many individuals try to make it living on the edge. Drugs and crime on all levels has been around for centuries. Its the thoughts of the fast bucks thats impressive. The urge to do more and get more, it gets addictive! What makes this situation any different than all the ones inside and outside of the jails and prisons? The ones that has yet to make the news tomorrow! What about the easy assess to drugs on the college campuses of Georgetown, George washington, George Mason and other areas occupied by white residents who go ignored. Especially in the area of Georgetown, its waterfront, canal areas and parks. You wouldn't be shocked to see the people who use and come into DC to purchase drugs from the surrounding areas. Even Law enforcement and local government personnel, for recreational purposes. Feel me! How legal is the drugs medical personnel prescribe that contains street drugs and other chemicals mistakenly killing people, for money, in a short and long span? Are we locking them up and or forcing them to snitch?
@Truelive-Fuck you! Have you ever seen someone,who was ruined their life,through drug use? I hope that,a heroin addict,robs your stupid ass.
Did you all really get through this? Do you really care? I don't pay this much attention to the details of my own life. BORING subject and BORING writing... Excruciating minutiae...
You do what you do, you get what you get. Be a man and accept what comes along with that lifestyle. I'm so sick and tired of all these guys who break the law and then when they get caught want to snitch because you 're afraid of going to jail. Then you got this fake ass Government that is going to allow you to get away with all the stuff that you have been doing and they're going to allow you to keep destroying peoples lives just because you tell on some bottom of the barrel drug dealer really! The so called fake war on drugs was implemented by president Nixon, come on Nixon! I'm talking about a war that has been going on for 40 years and has accomplished nothing but a prison population that is larger than any country in the world. If anyone thinks that they really want to stop the drug trade in this country then you are really naive and or badly misinformed. To stop anything from coming or going you have to first cut the point of entry and exit. Like the previous comment, if you don't stop the big boys from bringing it over here then you are wasting time. They want the drugs over here. It's profitable, just check wall street and the investments into the prison industries. You will be surprise of all the manufactural labor that they are getting for literally pennies an hour. You want to know where a lot of the manufacturing jobs went to, just check the prisons. But CNN and MSNBC are not going to tell you that. Then you got to ask yourself why is the demand for drugs so high in this country. This drug problem in this country is a complex situation that calls for people that are really serious about this problem. Not people that just want to make a profit off of other people misery.
I guess I have a different take than alot of the other commenters, because I never looked at this article as offering insight into the war on drugs. Sure Hammond was a drug dealer, but the whole "fighting crime/drugs" angle was only lightly touched on to me. To me this was just more about Bernie Hammond trying to stay alive. I took this as him trying to use the City Paper to let people know he wasn't a snitch (yet). I also took it as him trying to get some good legal help. I don't really think Mr. Hammond was hoping the readers would be sypathetic to his plight.
I also think Mr. Sommer should have gone with a different title. That whole War on Drugs, caught up in the system angle doesn't really play out very well.
@Lisa, sorry you found it so BORING! Here, try this instead:

http://www.tmz.com/
"Hammond eventually met Fats and an associate outside the Shrimp Boat on Bladensburg Road NE"

Everybody knows Shrimp Boat was on Benning Rd at East Capitol St NE. I'm a white Washingtonian, and even I know this, come on WCP.
This piece was great. It's not sympathetic to drug dealing itself, but rather the realities surrounding the people involved in it. Hammond didn't want to deal, but he had to to support his mother, his child, the dream of going to fashion school.

I'm loving all these law-and-order type white people commenting on this article, though.

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