Former Kenosha police officer, who admitted to planting evidence in murder case, reaches plea deal
KENOSHA COUNTY -- A 29-year-old former Kenosha police officer accused of planting evidence in a murder case on Thursday, April 14th reached a plea deal in the case against him.
Baars pleaded guilty to a felony charge of misconduct in office/failing to perform known duty. A misdemeanor charge was dismissed as a result of the plea deal.
Baars was accused of planting a bullet in the backpack of a murder suspect in April 2014.
Baars served as a Kenosha police officer from September 1st, 2011 through January 18th, 2015. He resigned from the Kenosha Police Department in January 2015.
Baars testified in court that he planted an ID and a bullet during the investigation into Anthony Edwards' death, and said he told a detective about what he did in October 2015.
Kenosha Police Chief John Morrissey said he wasn't made aware of this until January 2015.
The complaint filed against Baars details an April 1st, 2014 robbery at "Shenanigans" liquor store on 60th Street in Kenosha. A store employee saw a man rush out of the store, and the employee then noticed a bottle of tequila missing from a shelf in the store. The store employee went outside and confronted a man seated in the front passenger seat of a vehicle being driven by a woman -- and that man reportedly told the driver to take off. The store employee fell into the car, with his feet underneath the car, and he was dragged for approximately 10 feet. Then, the complaint indicates the store employee was pushed out of the car, and the man began hitting and kicking him. The man and another man who had entered the backseat of the vehicle then fled the scene on foot, and the woman driving fled in the vehicle.
The vehicle was stopped near the intersection of 56th Street and 22nd Avenue in Kenosha a short time after the robbery. A Kenosha police officer observed a loaded .22 caliber revolver on the floor board of the vehicle behind the front passenger seat along with three bottles of tequila.
Following the traffic stop, a Kenosha police officer said he and Baars watched surveillance video from inside Shenanigans that showed the two robbery suspects inside the store. The officer and Baars then went to a home on 59th Street and arrested one of the suspects. Also at the home, was Joseph-Jamal Brantley.
The robbery suspect who was arrested, and the woman who was driving the vehicle that night at Shenanigans were charged on April 3rd.
Fourteen days after the robbery at Shenanigans, on April 14th, police were dispatched to the scene of a homicide near 65th and Sheridan. There, police observed a vehicle that had crashed into the front steps or a home on Sheridan Road. Anthony Edwards was in the driver's seat -- unconscious and bleeding profusely. He was pronounced dead at the scene.
Officers tracked two sets of footprints in fresh snow from the homicide scene to an apartment on 59th Street, and two men who matched the descriptions of the suspects in Edwards' homicide -- Joseph-Jamal Brantley and Markese Tibbs were arrested at the home.
The complaint indicates Baars went to the home on 59th Street to assist other officers in arresting Brantley and Tibbs. He filed a report regarding his assistance at the home. That report indicates Baars thought Tibbs looked "very similar" to the second man involved in the robbery of Shenanigans, as Baars had looked at surveillance video from the robbery. A detective said when Tibbs was escorted into the Kenosha Police Department, he "immediately" recognized him as being the second suspect seen in the video showing the robbery at Shenanigans.
Tibbs acknowledged he was at Shenanigans with the man already charged in connection with the robbery, according to the complaint.
Early on the morning of April 15th, police executed a search warrant at the home on 59th Street, where Brantley and Tibbs were arrested. They recovered the following: a .32 caliber revolver, a wallet with Brantley's ID card inside, a case with six Winchester .22 caliber bullets, a boot with a baggie of marijuana inside, a jacket and keys.
A second search warrant was executed at the home on the evening of April 15th. An ID card and a .22 caliber round were located in a blue backpack in a bedroom. These items were found by Baars. Another officer on scene was reportedly "excited" about Baars discovery, but that officer knew the firearm used in the shooting that killed Edwards wasn't a .22 caliber weapon.
The officer whose role it was to photograph, collect and inventory evidence as the second search warrant was executed said she was in a bedroom when Baars called her to a second bedroom -- informing her that he had recovered a bullet and an ID card from the front pouch of a backpack in the bedroom. She photographed the backpack, ID card, and bullet, and collected the items from Baars. The ID card was an Illinois state ID card belonging to Markese Tibbs.
Tibbs was charged in connection with the Shenanigans robbery on April 16th.
On April 22nd, Tibbs and Brantley were charged in connection with the shooting death of Anthony Edwards.
On April 23rd, a third suspect, Brandon Horak was charged in the death of Anthony Edwards.
Brantley's trial in the death of Anthony Edwards took place between February 23rd and March 2nd, 2015.
On March 2nd, Baars testified under oath during Brantley's trial -- less than two months after he resigned from the Kenosha Police Department. A transcript from his testimony indicates Baars admitted to resigning from the Kenosha Police Department as a result misconduct he engaged in while investigating the shooting death of Anthony Edwards.
A transcript of Baars testimony also indicates Baars admitted to falsely reporting that he recovered a .22 caliber bullet and ID card belonging to Markese Tibbs during the execution of a search warrant at the home on 59th Street.
Baars said during his testimony that in October and November, he contacted a detective regarding what he had done in April -- telling the detective he had Tibbs' ID card in his pocket before he arrived to search the home on 59th Street, according to the complaint.
Baars was specifically asked whether he planted Tibbs' ID card at the home on 59th Street, and he said "yes." As for the .22 caliber bullet, a transcript of Baars' testimony indicates he told the court he placed the bullet in his pocket before he came to work, and that he had gotten it from his home.
A jury found Brantley guilty in the death of Anthony Edwards -- on four charges: first degree reckless homicide, armed robbery, first degree recklessly endangering safety, carrying a concealed weapon.
For the homicide conviction, Brantley was sentenced to serve 20 years in prison and 15 years extended supervision.
For the armed robbery conviction, Brantley was sentenced to 10 years probation.
For the first degree recklessly endangering safety charge, Brantley was sentenced to three years in prison and two years extended supervision. That is to be served consecutively.
For the carrying a concealed weapon conviction, Brantley was sentenced to serve one year probation.
In total -- Brantley was ordered to serve 23 years in prison.
Tibbs in February pleaded no contest to a charge of felony murder. In August, he was sentenced to serve 16 years in prison and 15 years extended supervision. Two other charges were dismissed.
Horak pleaded no contest to a felony murder charge. In September, he was sentenced to serve 10 years in prison and five years extended supervision.
Restitution was set at more than $12,000 in this case -- to be paid by all three of those charged in this case.
20-year-old Anthony Edwards was found dead near 65th and Sheridan Road in Kenosha on April 14th, 2014. Police say Edwards was driving a car — and ended up driving the car into a home. Police believe the shooting occurred in the area of 58th Street and 11th Avenue.
A criminal complaint filed in the case against says law enforcement officials spoke with Anthony Edwards’ cousin — who was a passenger in the vehicle Edwards was driving and subsequently crashed into the home. That individual told officials he and Edwards had planned to meet up with two men in the area of 58th Street and 11th Avenue to sell them marijuana.
Edwards’ cousin told officials they arrived in the area — and two men approached the vehicle, and Edwards asked them if they had the money. He told police Tibbs showed them the money, and Edwards then showed them the marijuana. That's when Brantley and Tibbs apparently began arguing — and Edwards’ cousin told officials Brantley reached into the window and struck Edwards in the face — before pulling out a handgun and pressing the gun to the right side of Edwards’ face, saying “Or you can just give me it” — referring to the bag of marijuana.
Brantley is accused of reaching into the vehicle and taking the bag of marijuana from Edwards’ lap. Edwards then put the car into gear and began to accelerate.
Edwards’ cousin told officials they got about five feet before he heard gunshots. Edwards then reported he had been shot in the lung, according to his cousin. Anthony Edwards continued to drive and began to lose consciousness — eventually crashing the vehicle into a home on Sheridan Road.