Baltimore police officer convicted of assault, misconduct in office for beating teenager

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Photo by Elvert Barnes, via Flickr

A Baltimore police officer faces up to a decade behind bars after being convicted today of second-degree assault and misconduct in office for a 2016 beating of a teenager outside City Hall.

Officer Carlos Rivera-Martinez had been charged with beating Melvin Townes, then 16, with his Taser after chasing him from The Block to the front lawn of City Hall.

Rivera-Martinez, who’s worked for BPD since 2010 according to city salary records, had responded to the 400 block of Baltimore Street around 2 a.m. on July 5, 2016. He reported that Townes was yelling at officers and refusing to abide orders to leave, and then ran after the officer threatened to arrest him for disorderly conduct and failing to obey an officer.

Townes’ account differed. He reportedly told a jury in April that he had been walking home in the early morning and stopped on Baltimore Street when he saw someone being arrested. He hadn’t threatened or yelled at Rivera-Martinez, he said, but began running when the cop started following him.

Rivera-Martinez caught up with the teenager on a gravel path in front of City Hall and, according to prosecutors citing closed-circuit TV footage, tackled him and beat him several times on his head with a Taser. Rivera-Martinez didn’t report in his incident statement that Townes had stopped, turned around, knelt and surrendered to the officer, but CCTV footage indicated that was the case.

Townes was reportedly left with a swollen eye, cuts on his face and a fractured leg.

Rivera-Martinez was charged with felony assault in July 2018, according to court records, following a two-year internal review by BPD.

His attorney, Chaz Ball, did not immediately respond to a request for comment Tuesday.

Police spokesman Matt Jablow said via email that Rivera-Martinez had been suspended with pay since his indictment, and “he is now facing dismissal” following his conviction.

In announcing the conviction Tuesday, State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby said in a statement the she’s “pleased a jury has held him accountable for his actions.”

“Police officers are trained to use violence as a last resort to deescalate incidents,” she said. “This defendant abused his power and victimized this young person after he complied with the officers.”

The city’s police union said in a lengthy statement Tuesday night that it’s “appalled” by the verdict, and that jurors’ decision was influenced by scheduling issues noted by the judge.

At a press conference Tuesday, Ex Officio Mayor Bernard C. “Jack” Young declined to comment on the police union’s comment, but told a reporter, “I think the courts should hold everyone accountable. That’s everyone.”

Rivera-Martinez is due to be sentenced Aug. 9.

This story has been updated.

Ethan McLeod
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