Articles Posted in Police Brutality

A federal jury in Baltimore returned a verdict in late January in favor of former Sheriff’s Deputy Rudy Torres, finding that he was not liable in the 2007 death of 20 year-old Jarrel Gray. While responding to a report of a fight, Torres used his electric stun gun on Gray twice. Gray died while waiting for an ambulance at the scene.

In the early morning of November 18, 2007, multiple people in a neighborhood just south of Frederick called police to report a fight. Torres responded to the call. One witness said he heard someone say “Get on the ground” and then heard a “pop noise” he recognized as a stun gun. Another witness at trial said that Gray was complying with Torres’ instructions when he used the stun gun the first time. A witness testified that he heard Gray say that his hands were on the ground.

After the first shock from the stun gun, Gray reportedly fell to the ground and did not move. He reportedly had his hands on the ground in front of him. Torres used the stun gun on Gray a second time, which Gray’s family’s attorney called “sadistic.” All parties agree that Gray was already dead by the time the ambulance arrived. The medical examiner reported that Gray died from “sudden death associated with restraint and alcohol intoxication.” According to Baltimore’s CBS affiliate WJZ, the medical examiner did not specifically identify the stun gun as the cause of death, but the stun gun was the only means of restraint included in the report.

Gray’s parents sued Torres, the Sheriff’s Department, and Frederick County for wrongful death. They alleged that Torres used excessive and unnecessary force. The suit demanded $145 million in damages.

A trial occurred in January that only addressed the Grays’ claims against Torres. Another trial against the sheriff’s office and the county may proceed at a later date. Torres argued that the use of force was reasonable and necessary under the circumstances. He testified that Gray had his hands in his pants and was behaving erratically, although other witnesses reportedly contradicted that account. Torres said that the second use of the stun gun was necessary because Gray refused to show his hands.

A “law enforcement expert” retained by Torres’ defense team testified that Torres was reasonable in viewing Gray as a threat both times he used the stun gun. The expert reportedly told jurors that Gray’s lack of response after the first shock could have been an act.

The jury returned a verdict in favor of Torres on January 25, 2012. According to CBS News, the jury concluded that although Torres assaulted Gray, his use of the stun gun was a reasonable use of force to defend himself or others. Because they concluded that Torres used a reasonable amount of force, he was shielded from liability.

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Police went to the Greenbelt, Maryland home of Lynda Sheppard on the morning of May 26, 2010 with an arrest warrant for her son, Michael Mang. Sheppard had a protection order against her 41 year-old son and had requested a warrant for his arrest, saying he had threatened and assaulted her. Police arrested Mang, and hours later he was dead.

Police allegedly entered Sheppard’s house that morning, woke Mang, and then hit him and tasered him. Mang reportedly suffered bruising, a broken nose, and a broken rib.

Police took Mang to the hospital, where he was reportedly alert and cooperative. After several hours, though, Mang began to complain of chest pains and allegedly requested a cardiac examination. Instead, the hospital allegedly released him to police. He was reportedly held at the hospital from 5:37 a.m. to 9:20 a.m., when police took custody of him and took him to the police station. They found him lying unconscious in the station’s processing area at about 9:55 a.m. and returned him to the hospital. He was reportedly pronounced dead at the hospital at around 10:46 a.m.

An investigation by the medical examiner found evidence of alcohol consumption, but no drugs. They also found marks on his lower back that resembled taser marks. The medical examiner concluded that Mang died of natural causes stemming from a heart condition. He reportedly had a coronary blockage that raised suspicion of a heart attack.

Sheppard filed a federal lawsuit in July 2011 against the city of Greenbelt, alleging that the arresting officers caused Mang’s death by using unnecessary and unreasonable force in arresting him. The petition detailed Mang’s injuries and the timeline of events leading up to his death. She demanded $10 million in damages.

The city denied any connection between Mang’s injuries and his death. An internal police investigation concluded that the arresting officers used appropriate force against Mang because he fought back. The city’s attorney told the Greenbelt Patch that Mang’s injuries could simply have been the result of fighting with police.

Sheppard dismissed the lawsuit without prejudice on February 15, 2012. “Without prejudice” means that she can re-file the claim within the original statute of limitations. The Greenbelt police chief described the suit as frivolous and said that the internal investigation vindicated the city’s defense to the suit, that Mang’s injuries at the hands of police did not cause his death.

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A Pennsylvania state legislator from Philadelphia, Jewell Williams, has received an award of $50,000 from a jury in a lawsuit over injuries he sustained in 2009 when police unlawfully detained him. He claimed that “excessively tight handcuffs” caused nerve damage to his wrist and thumb. He further claimed that police violated his constitutional rights by detaining him after he questioned police officers about stopping two elderly men. A spokesperson for Williams said the jury agreed with Williams’ constitutional claim. An attorney for the City of Philadelphia told the media, however, that Williams had previously rejected a settlement offer of $65,000. Williams, for his part, may prefer the vindication in court to any specific dollar amount.

Williams has served as the Democratic representative for District 197 in Philadelphia since 2001. He previously worked as a Temple University police officer. He was elected sheriff of the city of Philadelphia in November 2011 and will take office shortly. The lawsuit arose from an incident in March 2009, when Williams says he tried to assist two “elderly constituents” during a traffic stop. Williams alleged that he saw police pull over a gray Volvo that police said resembled a car used in a drug buy several blocks away. Williams witnessed the stop from several car lengths back while driving home, and eventually got out of his vehicle to intervene.

Williams says he watched one police officer order the driver, whom Williams described as elderly and frail, out of the vehicle. The officer placed the man’s money on the hood of the car. When the man tried to grab at the money as it blew away, the officer alleged shoved him against the car and cuffed him. The man then complained that the cuffs were too tight, and the officer allegedly threatened something to the effect of taking the man to the hospital. A passenger in the Volvo, also described as elderly, was detained by the other officer. This is when Williams got out of his car and approached the officers.

Two more officers had arrived at the scene at this point. Williams says he identified himself as a state legislator, but that the officers yelled profanity at him when telling him to return to his vehicle. Police cuffed him and pushed him into the back of one of the cruisers, telling him he was under arrest for disorderly conduct. Police did not find any drugs in the Volvo or on either person from the Volvo. Police released Williams and the other two men shortly thereafter.

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Two families have filed a federal lawsuit against the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) over a 2008 immigration raid targeting Annapolis Painting Services. The plaintiffs are alleging police brutality and the violation of their civil rights and they are seeking $2.5 million in damages.

With the help of immigrant advocacy group CASA de Maryland, spouses Pablo Alvarado and Ingrid Munoz and siblings Elizabeth Gallegos-Torres and Natalia Pelaez-Torres have filed their complaint in U.S. District Court in Baltimore. All of the plaintiffs live in Annapolis.

On June 30, 2008, 75 federal agents and dozens of Anne Arundel County cops rounded up workers that they suspected were undocumented. More than a dozen homes, as well as the Annapolis Painting Services offices, were raided.

The family of Emmanuel O. Okutuga wants the Montgomery County Police Department to pay them $10 million for his Maryland wrongful death. The 26-year-old Bowie State University student was fatally shot by police in Silver Spring outside the City Place Mall on February 19.

Officer Christopher Jordan had gone to the mall after reports that Okutuga had assaulted a security guard. Police say that Jordan shot Okutuga twice after the latter refused to drop the ice pick he was wielding.

Okutuga’s family contends that the shooting was unjustified. In their Montgomery County police brutality complaint, they say that witnesses testified that he did not advance on the officer or threaten him or any civilians who were there.

Last year, our Baltimore Maryland accident lawyers reported on the story of Melvin Yates, a Columbia man who filed a $50 million federal lawsuit suing Howard County, Police Chief William McMahon, and three officers for civil rights violations and including police brutality. A federal court dismissed that his case twice—once, says, because Yates’s Maryland injury lawyer did not counter a dismissal motion submitted by Howard County attorneys. The lawsuit was filed again and also dismissed because it was almost identical to the first one and the same complaint cannot be filed twice in federal court.

Now, Yates is trying again. This time, he is filing his Maryland police brutality lawsuit in Howard County Circuit Court.

Yates, who is in his early 20’s, claims that cops beat him at his dad’s memorial party last April. Yates’s dad had died in a Maryland motorcycle accident. Police were called to the party after a fight broke out.

Melvin Yates is suing the government of Howard County, Police Chief William McMahon, and three officers for $50 million. In his federal lawsuit, the 23-year-old is accusing the officers of beating him until he became semiconscious at his father’s memorial party last April.

According to Yates, on April 10 police were called to the memorial party that Yates was holding for his father, who died in a motorcycle crash last year, because a fight broke out. Yates claims he was not involved in the disagreement and that he actually tried to leave the party because he was upset that his guests were disrespecting his father’s memory with their dispute. It was then that a police officer stopped him from leaving, several cops surrounded him, and he was told that he was going to jail.

In his Howard County police brutality complaint, Yates contends that he cooperated with the police officers, who handcuffed him, but that a number of police officers started shoving him against a vehicle, using objects to hit him on the head, and kicking and punching him. The 23-year-old’s allegations are contrary to police claims that he resisted arrest and pushed and grabbed the officers. Their charging documents maintain that they followed police procedure.

An Arnold man who was shot by police during an altercation at his home last July plans to file an Anne Arundel County police brutality lawsuit. Michael A. Housley was acquitted by a jury of the charge that he assaulted police officers and other related charges. He was, however, found guilty of two counts of obstructing a police officer. The 52-year-old defendant plans to seek a new trial.

On July 12, three cops were asked by Anne Arundel Medical Center to go to his home to check on Housley’s wife, Leah Housley, who left the center even though doctors hadn’t discharged her yet. Housley had taken her there because he was worried that had taken too much prescription medication. The couple says that they went home several hours after she was admitted because she was feeling better.

When the police officers arrived at their residence, Housley refused let them in without paperwork and contacted 911. Meantime, Leah told the officers she would come out but that she needed to place the family dog in the bathroom first.

If you’ve been the victim of police brutality or police negligence, there are legal remedies that allow you to seek Maryland personal injury compensation. Many victims of police violence or negligence are too scared to report the incident for fear of repercussion or because they are unaware that what happened to them was wrong. As with other negligent parties that cause injuries or deaths, law enforcement officers can be held liable for their reckless actions.

Recently, the family of Justin Lihvarcik settled its Maryland wrongful death lawsuit accusing Frederick County police of negligence. On June 10, 2009, Lihvarcik, who was 26 at the time, was placed in a holding cell at the Frederick County Adult Detention Center at around 2:30am after he was charged with second-degree assault during a dispute with his girlfriend. At around 5:30am, correctional officers found him hanging from the top bunk. He had used his shoelaces to make a noose.

In her Frederick County wrongful death complaint, Lihvarcik’s mother, Nancy Fether, accused the Frederick County Sheriff’s Office of neglect.

The family of Ryan Meyers is suing Baltimore County police and three cops for Maryland wrongful death. They are seeking $10 million in compensation and alleging negligence and police brutality.

Meyers is bipolar. The 40-year-old died after cops, who arrived at his parents’ home following a 911 call, tasered him. Meyers had been allegedly using a baseball bat to attack people, and his father was injured.

According to the officers, they tasered him because he ignored their order to put down the bat. Meyers went down but then got up and allegedly tried to attack them. They managed to handcuff him and then saw that he was unresponsive. He went into cardiac arrest and was pronounced dead at the hospital.

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