Baltimore City officials are signing some big checks this month to settle a series of lawsuits involving police dating back to 2013.
The city’s Board of Estimates will vote tomorrow on whether to approve a total of $1.12 million in settlements for four cases, according to an agenda for the meeting.
Some of these cases will sound familiar. One, that of Tyrone West, re-emerged late last month. West died in police custody in July 2013 after a traffic stop in Northeast Baltimore turned violent. Police officers said they found cocaine on West during the stop, and that he tried to run away and punched and kicked officers when they tried to detain him.
City and Morgan State University police officers eventually pepper-sprayed, tackled and hit West with batons before one officer is said to have knelt down on his back while cuffing him. West died in the hospital later that evening. An independent autopsy (separate from the state’s official one) later suggested he died of asphyxiation from restricted breathing.
West’s family sued the city and the State of Maryland. Last month, both of the latter two agreed to settle with West’s family out of court. The state paid out $400,000, while the city paid $600,000. The latter chunk of change is on the agenda for tomorrow.
The next-most expensive of the four cases is that of Shaun Mouzon, who police shot multiple times during a traffic stop in January 2013. According to a timeline from the BOE’s agenda, after Mouzon began to drive away from a light while police were trying to pull him over, three of the five officers on the scene shot at him, hitting him in the chest, right arm and left leg.
Mouzon spent five months in the hospital, accruing more than $400,000 in medical bills. He sued the city for $5 million; both parties have agreed on a payout of $400,000.
Third in line is a $70,000 settlement for Harvey Forbes, who sued after officers allegedly forcibly removed him from his car, performed a cavity search on him and searched his home and business as well – all after they pinpointed the wrong guy.
One of the involved officers, Det. Jemell Rayam, was among the seven who were indicted on federal racketeering charges earlier this year. He later admitted he and his colleagues had wrongly pinpointed Forbes while searching for a different person wanted on an arrest warrant.
The last police settlement on the agenda is for $50,000 reserved for Roger Cockrell, who filed suit after officers allegedly hit him with a cruiser, forcibly detained him and kept him at an unspecified police station for hours in February 2015.
In the cases of West, Mouzon and Cockrell, police thought their suspects had guns on them. They didn’t.
In the Justice Department’s yearlong investigation that culminated in last August’s Findings Report, attorneys identified unconstitutional stops and seizures and excessive use of force as major problems instilled in Baltimore’s policing culture. Police are now working to fix those issues and others under court order.
Tomorrow’s pending approval of the above settlements comes days after police came under new fire relating to some controversial sets of body camera footage. Public defenders and defense attorneys recently released videos that show officers appearing to plant drugs on suspects in two separate arrests. Police Commissioner Kevin Davis has maintained the arrests resulted from legitimate discoveries of drug evidence.
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