Family to Receive $110K to Settle False Imprisonment Lawsuit Involving City Police

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Baltimore officials today approved yet another settlement tied to an incident involving city police officers, signing off on a $110,000 payout to a family who said they were falsely arrested and imprisoned.

The related incident happened in September 2013, when Ivan Pratt, Sr. and Carlynn Smith were driving on Hanover Street with their child and Pratt’s brother in the back. Pratt and Smith were trying to switch lanes when another car blocked them from doing so, according to Board of Estimates documentation. The other car’s occupants then harassed them by tailing them and throwing items out the window – hard enough to break their windshield.

They didn’t stop – Pratt and Smith said the other car’s occupants then got out, threatened them and attacked their car. They said they were victims of racial hostility and road rage, according to officials.

Seeing a police car nearby, Pratt and Smith tried to flag the officers down and pulled over to a gas station. The police actually didn’t notice them, but they did see the alleged harassers and pulled them over to sort things out.

But Pratt and Smith approached during the stop, and the groups started yelling at each other. Two police officers, Sgts. Terrence McGowan and Mark Moore, had apparently heard from the other car’s occupants that Pratt and Smith initiated the altercation.

As this morning Board of Estimates agenda put it, “it seemed that Defendant Sergeants McGowan and Moore were not interested in hearing [Pratt and Smith’s] version.” Another police officer, Alejandro Pena arrived as backup, and Pratt, Smith and Pratt’s brother were all arrested.

Pratt was charged with felony first-degree assault and jailed for five days. Smith’s car was towed, and officials said she was hospitalized because she’s diabetic and experienced an alarming spike in her blood sugar. A family member also had to come retrieve Smith’s son. Pratt was later skipped over for promotions at work due to the felony charge on his record, according to Board of Estimates documents.

Smith and Pratt sued the city, including all three officers, seeking $75,000 for a laundry list of allegations including false arrest, false imprisonment, malicious prosecution, negligence, improper supervision, negligent hiring and retention, invasion of privacy and battery. After four years, both parties have agreed on a larger-than-originally-requested settlement of $110,000 if the pair dropped their suit.

The sum approved today adds to a pile of payouts for police incidents approved this summer. In August, the city signed off on $1.12 million in settlements for victims of police violence, including a hefty $600,000 for the family of the late Tyrone West, and $400,000 for Shaun Mouzon who was shot multiple times by officers during a 2013 traffic stop.

The board also approved a $50,000 settlement in August for the estate of Kolvin Truss, who was assaulted by an officer on a CitiWatch camera in 2014. (He died three years later of unrelated causes.)

All of this, of course, will be funded by dollars from taxpayers, who are already helping to pay the salaries of the officers who entangled themselves in these lawsuits.

Ethan McLeod
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