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Fact vs Fiction: We Own This City episode 4 — Did Wayne Jenkins steal from a pharmacy during the Freddie Gray protests?

Jon Bernthal as Wayne Jenkins
Jon Bernthal in We Own This City (Image credit: Paul Schiraldi/HBO)

Episode 4 of We Own This City should have been called the "Wayne Show." Wayne Jenkins (Jon Bernthal) was all over this episode and his list of crimes went from awful to almost unbelievable. So we had to ask what was true in this latest installment of the series and what was written for dramatic effect? 

For instance, was Jenkins involved in a car chase that ended in the fatality of an elderly man? Additionally, did he really take advantage of the Freddie Gray protests to illegally profit off the sale of prescription drugs? Plus, did he inexplicably rob a stripper?

Here’s what we’ve determined was fact and fiction for We Own This City episode 4. Also, check out our previous fact vs fiction pieces for We Own This City episodes 1, 2 and 3.

Was Wayne Jenkins involved in a car chase that ended in a fatal accident?  

Josh Charles and Jon Bernthal as Daniel Hersl and Wayne Jenkins in We Own This City

Josh Charles and Jon Bernthal in We Own This City (Image credit: Paul Schiraldi/HBO)

The fourth episode of We Own This City opens with Sgt. Wayne Jenkins and officer Sean Suiter (Jamie Hector) preparing to search the vehicle of a man named Umar Burley. However, as the officers approach his car, Burley speeds off through the residential neighborhood trying to escape. 

Recklessly zigging and zagging through stop signs, Burley attempts to escape Jenkins and Suiter, but the two closely follow behind him. Unfortunately, Burley ends up crashing into another car, killing its older driver and injuring his wife. 

After the accident occurs, Jenkins, Suiter and the rest of their crew attempt to search Burley’s vehicle for weapons or drugs in an attempt to justify the deadly police chase. They initially don’t find anything in Burley’s car, however after some time goes by, Suiter claims he found drugs hidden underneath a car seat. Burley, vehemently denies the drugs are his. Did this happen in real life? 

Yes, it did. 

According to The Washington Post (opens in new tab), in 2010 Burley was sitting in his vehicle with his friend Brent Matthews when Jenkins, Suiter and another police officer attempted to box his car in as they suspected he was in the middle of a drug transaction. Burley didn’t know they were cops. As Baltimore news station WBALTV (opens in new tab) put it, Burley assumed he was about to be robbed so he drove off. With Jenkins and company following him, Burley attempted to navigate his way through the streets to get away from them, but ultimately he drove into a car, killing 86-year-old Elbert Davis. 

Davis’ family would go on to file a lawsuit against Burley, eventually settling for $1.8 million. Additionally, his family filed a lawsuit against Jenkins and the other two officers involved in the chase for $25 million, alleging their actions led to the chase. 

Whether Jenkins and Suiter planted illegal substances in Burley’s vehicle after the accident occurred, the answer is yes. The same The Washington Post article details that in 2017 federal prosecutors vacated Burley's drug conviction, officially saying the officers planted drugs on him. After serving seven years in prison, Burley filed suit against the city and was awarded an $8 million settlement. 

Did Wayne Jenkins steal from a pharmacy during the Freddie Gray protests?  

Jon Bernthal as Wayne Jenkins in pharmacy

Jon Bernthal in We Own This City (Image credit: Paul Schiraldi/HBO)

In perhaps one of the lowest moments in the episode (and that’s saying a lot), Jenkins hits the streets to "patrol" during the city-wide protest that occurred after the death of Freddie Gray in 2015 while he was in police custody; a famous example questioning the police's use of force, particularly against African Americans. 

During the protest, Jenkins spots two people trying to rob a Rite Aid pharmacy. After telling them to drop the stolen merchandise and leave, he proceeds to take their bags and go back in the store to search for what else he could steal. Later, he goes to his friend Donald Stepp (Seth Hurwitz) and asks him to sell the oxy on the streets. So is this fact or fiction? 

This is true, but the situation was worse according to Donald Stepp.  

In the wake of the death of Freddie Gray, there were protests throughout Baltimore and a number of businesses were damaged as a result. Additionally, there was an increase in violent crime, which former Baltimore Police Commissioner Anthony Batts blamed on the number of looted pharmaceutical drugs on the street, as reported by the local FOX (opens in new tab) news. Batts wasn’t aware that a member of his force was helping to provide the streets with prescription drugs.  

As mentioned in the Baltimore Beat (opens in new tab), Stepp recalls Jenkins stopping by his home on the morning of April 28, 2015, with two large trash bags of pharmacy meds. From that time forward, Stepp testified that he and Jenkins regularly burglarized buildings and estimated he made millions from stolen pharmaceuticals with the help of Jenkins. Jenkins would later admit to selling drugs (opens in new tab) while he was a cop.

Did Wayne Jenkins rob a stripper?  

Jon Bernthal in We Own This City

Jon Bernthal in We Own This City (Image credit: Paul Schiraldi/HBO)

Also in this episode, Jenkins and his motley crew drive to the Belvedere Towers in Baltimore. While they are there, they see suspected drug dealers hanging in the parking lot and Jenkins gets the idea to rob them. He has officer Maurice Ward (Rob Brown) park the police car in a spot that obstructs the complex’s camera view. Once Jenkins sees the camera is blocked, he goes into the dealers’ car and robs them of cash.

After he splits the money between the corrupt cops, they all decided to go to the strip club. While there, Jenkins becomes infatuated with one stripper and takes her to the "back" of the club. Minutes later he hurries out telling his fellow officers it’s time to go. Once they all make it safely to the car, Jenkins informs them he took the stripper’s money. This appeared to be even too much for his fellow officers. Did this sequence of events really happen? 

Not quite. 

The US Department of Justice (opens in new tab) reports Jenkins did go to Belvedere Towers to rob drug dealers, posing as a Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) agent and was taking not only their $20,000 but also roughly 20 pounds of marijuana. Jenkins did then go celebrate his conquest at a strip club before robbing the poor unsuspecting dancer. 

We Own This City airs on HBO and HBO Max platforms on Mondays at 9 pm ET/PT. 

Terrell Smith has a diverse writing background having penned material for a wide array of clients including the federal government and Bravo television personalities.  When he’s not writing as Terrell, he’s writing under his pseudonym Tavion Scott, creating scripts for his audio drama podcasts. Terrell is a huge fan of great storytelling when it comes to television and film. Some of his favorite shows include The CrownWandaVision, Abbot Elementary and Godfather of HarlemAnd a fun fact is he's completely dialed into the TLC 90 Day Fiancé universe.