On Thursday, the Maryland wrongful death lawsuit trial against Baltimore police officers Michael Riser and Sendy Ferdinand began. The relatives of Dondi Johnson, Sr., are suing the cops for $100 million. They claim that the two men, and possibly other officers, were negligent and committed Baltimore police brutality, including battery, assault, fraud, concealment and conspiracy.
Johnson, Sr. was arrested on November 23, 2005 for allegedly urinating in public. He was handcuffed and placed in the back of a police van. However, no one fastened the 43-year-old’s seat belt. Over the course of the drive, his spine became dislocated and fractured, which caused him to become a quadriplegic. He died on December 7, 2005.
The plaintiffs are alleging that the defendants acted maliciously when they didn’t secure Johnson with a seat belt and then drove aggressively so that he would get hurt.
Officer Nicole Leake, who was driving the van, denies that she was driving recklessly. She testified that with certain suspects whose behavior can become unpredictable, seat belts are not used. Also, although the Baltimore police department handbook states that each arrestee should be secured with a safety belt, the decision regarding whether to use one should be made on a case-by-case basis.
The plaintiffs are also claiming that the cops misrepresented the incident when filing their police report. In their Baltimore wrongful death complaint, which they submitted in 2007, Johnson’s relatives accuse the officers of “kicking and beating” him and doing so with malice.
This is not the first time Baltimore cops have allegedly used police violence when dealing with a suspect. 39-year-old Jeffrey Alston broke his neck and became paralyzed after he was arrested on suspicion of drunk driving when he was caught speeding. He accused police officers of throwing him head first into the back of a police van. A jury awarded him $39 million, but he eventually settled with the city of Baltimore for $6 million.
In March 2005, Albert Mosley filed a Baltimore police brutality case against Officer Bryan Kershaw. Mosley accused Kershaw of throwing him face first against a holding cell’s concrete wall. He sustained serious spinal cord injuries and neck injuries. Because Mosley became permanently paralyzed, he had to get round-the-clock care.
Man Sues Officer For $40M In Alleged Brutality Case, WBALTV, March 30, 2010
Wrongful-death suit against Baltimore police opens, The Baltimore Sun, March 26, 2010
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