‘We Own This City’ Episode 1: Recap And Ending Explained: Is It Based On A True Story? Who Was Freddie Gray?


“We Own This City” is a true-crime mini-series that deals with the arrest of eight Baltimore cops who were involved in drug dealing, racketeering, robbery, aiding and abetting, and the possession of firearms. Wayne Jenkins, the leader of the Gun Trace Task Force, played a decisive role in directing his teammates to the dirt path. Jenkins blamed systematic exploitation for his downfall since it was his supervisors who made him believe that taking money that was seized was common practice. Jenkins had previously injured people he took into custody and was also known for giving false statements at court trials. The Baltimore police were infamous for police brutality, and Jenkins was no different. The HBO series is based on Justin Fenton’s book of the same name. “We Own This City” Episode 1 delivers and keeps the audience hooked throughout the 58-minute runtime with Jon Bernthal playing the role of Wayne Jenkins.

‘We Own This City’ Episode 1: Recap – Is It Based On A True Story?

The series is based on true events and follows the notorious Wayne Jenkins. The episode begins with a confident Jenkins lecturing his task force about how to do their job well. When all eyes were on the Baltimore police, Jenkins found ways through which they could control their posts. He reminded them that the police had all the power and that even after whatever they did on the streets, if they could use the law and provide a clean report, nobody could touch them. He was essentially implying that if one could get enough drug dealers and arms traffickers, they had nothing to lose. He was the golden boy of the Baltimore police department with his never-ending list of drug and arms deal busts. Since the focus had always been to make numerous arrests, the Gun Trace Task Force (GTTF) often planted evidence and arrested innocent men. They wanted to show their success, and to do so, they harassed and beat people, falsely locked them, and made cases around them.

After the Freddie Gray murder case in 2015, Baltimore was looked at with scrutiny. Police with several complaints became a subject of interest for the Department of Justice since they were asked to investigate by the Mayor. The DOJ was involved even before the Freddie Gray case, since a lot of the city’s payouts were spent on the victims of police brutality. But after the uprising, the DOJ was asked to thoroughly investigate the situation. Baltimore Police made 300,000 stops on the road, but only 4% resulted in citations or arrests. Black Americans were on the receiving end of hate from most police brutalities. The citizens of Baltimore were fearful of being wrongly charged or even killed, for that matter. After two years of a federal investigation, Wayne Jenkins was arrested.

What Was The Freddie Gray Case?

“We Own This City” Episode 1 has numerous mentions of the Freddie Gray case and how it became the breaking point of the public threshold of tolerating police brutality. Freddie Gray was another victim of the police thrusting their power on citizens without any reason.

When the police spotted what they assumed to be a switchblade knife, which was later found to be a regular knife, they arrested him. The police manhandled him as they pushed him inside the police van. After spending 45 minutes inside the van, Gray’s spinal cord sustained injuries that led him to a coma for seven days, after which he was declared deceased. Witnesses reported that he was beaten by police batons while being thrown inside the van. The media speculated that the police must have used the rough ride method in which the van was driven erratically, and the handcuffed person was not provided with a seat belt. What was all the more shocking was that the police department had revised its seat belt policy to protect those who were arrested, but that was not followed in Gray’s case.

People took to the streets after this 2015 case. Shops were ransacked and destroyed. An emergency had to be declared to bring the city of Baltimore under control. While the government was in a state of panic, the police continued with their flawed methods. Even after two years, Jenkins continued to lecture his task force to be smart instead of necessarily obliging with the regulations.

Who Had Planted A Tracking Device On Anderson’s Car?

“We Own This City” is divided into two timelines, 2015 and 2017. One deals with the aftermath of the Freddie Gray case, and the other with the arrest of Wayne Jenkins. It was after the arrest of a drug dealer in 2015 that interest started to grow in the Gun Trace Task Force and particularly Wayne Jenkins.

In June 2015, two officers, David McDougall and Hawk, recovered another bumblebee bag from an OD victim’s house. After questioning an addict who was a friend of the victim, they learned that the man who sold them the drugs went by the name “Black,” and his real name was Aaron Anderson. The drug was sold at Alamanda. McDougall concluded that the man was selling Antonio Shropshire’s product. The drug that was sold in a bumblebee bag resulted in a total of 6 ODs, and that became the primary concern of the police from Harford County. In 2017, Momodu Gondo, a member of GTTF, started to disclose the relationship that the police had with Antonio Shropshire to the FBI upon his arrest.

McDougall and Hawk started to watch over the Alamanda strip, hoping to find Anderson, and they were successful. They placed a tracking device on his car and left the scene, knowing they would figure out his location later. But they did miss something crucial; after Anderson left in his car, three men with covered faces arrived. They forcefully entered his apartment, where his girlfriend stayed, and stole all the guns, cash, drugs, and even his Rolex watch. The group celebrated their successful robbery. Momodu Gondo was a member of the group. In the morning, they were back to their police duties, which involved stopping cars for no real reason and planting drugs to make the arrest count high.

The police entered Anderson’s apartment to find nothing, but they were successful in arresting Anderson. When Hawk went to retrieve the tracker he had set on Anderson’s car, he found another one present there as well. After entering the details of the device on the computer, they figured that it belonged to John L. Clewell, a police officer who was a part of the Gun Trace Track Force. MacDowell decided to inform the FBI about the tracking device since there was no information regarding the GTTF’s intent to bust Anderson. This was a pivotal decision since it brought the FBI’s attention to the GTTF and its odd ways of functioning in the city of Baltimore.

How Was Wayne Jenkins Arrested?

The Police Commissioner was informed about the activities of the GTTF as they were discovered by the FBI. He informed the Deputy Commissioner that Wayne Jenkins, along with others, was expected to visit the offsite the next morning. Jenkins was told that the IAD (Internal Affairs Division) wanted to see him at Kirk Avenue. The DC added that it was regarding the rear damage of a car that he did not report properly, something that was just protocol.

The next morning, Jenkins arrived at the IAD. He casually strolled in, talking to every police person he met on the way. He even remarked that the IAD would not dare mess with Superman. Just as he was walking up to the meeting room, the FBI grabbed hold of him and arrested him. Jenkins was surprised by the turn of events. The Police Commissioner entered the interrogation room and looked Jenkins in the eyes, and he realized that Jenkins did not feel any shame or regret.

Created by George Pelecanos and David Simon, “We Own This City” takes a close look at the Baltimore city law and order condition. From police brutality to dirty cops, the series does not just deal with the subject but dives deep into the details, making it all the more interesting to watch.

See More: ‘We Own This City’ Episode 2: Recap & Ending, Explained – What Was Shropshire’s Connection With Gondo?

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Srijoni Rudra
Srijoni Rudra
Srijoni has worked as a film researcher on a government-sponsored project and is currently employed as a film studies teacher at a private institute. She holds a Master of Arts degree in Film Studies. Film History and feminist reading of cinema are her areas of interest.

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