The city will pay over $1 million to settle four cases involving interactions between black men and Baltimore police that left one of the men dead, another shot multiple times, a third rammed by a police car and the fourth assaulted.
The Board of Estimates is set at tomorrow’s meeting to approve:
• $600,000 to the family of Tyrone West, who died after a violent confrontation with police.
• $400,000 to Shaun Mouzon, who was shot multiple times by officers who stopped him at a traffic light.
• $70,000 to Harvey Forbes who was forcibly removed from his car and cavity searched by Jemell L. Rayam, a detective who was charged along with six other members of the Gun Trace Task Force for racketeering, false arrests and overtime fraud by the U.S. attorney’s office in March.
• $50,000 to Roger Cockrell, who was run over by a police vehicle following a foot chase.
In three of the four cases, police initiated the encounters, saying they suspected the men were carrying or concealing firearms. In no cases were firearms found by investigators.
The fourth settlement arises from police roughing up a man – and searching his home and business – under a warrant made out to a different name.
A Year Ago: Justice Department Report
Tomorrow’s sack of settlements fits a pattern in which Baltimore has been paying hundreds of thousands of dollars to settle police malfeasance lawsuits in the wake of the U.S. Department of Justice’s investigation of the agency.
Exactly one year ago, the Justice Department issued 163-page report concluding that the Baltimore Police Department “engages in a pattern or practice of excessive force,” particularly against African-Americans.
BPD’s “unwillingness or inability to hold its officers accountable,” according to the report, has led to a crisis of confidence over law enforcement in black neighborhoods, which have seen a sharp spike in gun violence and a record number of homicides in 2017.
In January, Mayor Catherine Pugh entered into a consent decree with the Justice Department calling for police reforms. This week consultants from the department will start reviewing a violence reduction program developed by Police Commissioner Kevin Davis with Pugh’s consent.
Two of the lawsuits to be settled tomorrow by the Board of Estimates, which is headed by Pugh and City Council President Bernard C. “Jack” Young, go back to 2013.
The other two involve incidents dating to just before the police in-custody death of Freddie Gray sparked mass protests and a day of rioting in 2015.
The Brew has previously described the circumstances of Tyrone West death in 2013 and his family’s attempts to seek a reexamination of the case after former State’s Attorney Gregg Bernstein’s ruled that police actions did not contribute to West’s death.
Although Marilyn Mosby, the current state’s attorney, has declined to reopen the criminal investigation, the city will pay $600,000 in exchange for West family’s withdrawal of its civil lawsuit against the officers.
The State of Maryland has additionally agreed to pay the family $400,000 arising from the involvement of a Morgan State University Police officer in West’s collapse and death.
A Revealing Video Tape
Tomorrow’s settlement with Shaun Mouzon will end his lawsuit against four Southwest District officers and one captain.
Officers aimed eight shots at the now 35 year old, who was wounded in the chest, right arm and left leg, following a traffic stop at Edmondson Avenue and Hilton Street on January 28, 2013.
In the arrest report, the officers said they believed Mouzon was concealing a firearm. Originally he was charged with two handgun-related counts that were dropped when investigators found no weapons.
Ex-State’s Attorney Bernstein cleared the officers of wrongdoing, saying they had “acted reasonably in self-defense” when they fired upon Mouzon because he had almost struck them with his car.
But Mouzon’s lawyer, A. Dwight Pettit, released a surveillance video showing, he said, that the officers were not endangered by the car and had started shooting into the vehicle before it slowly pulled away (only to crash a few blocks distant).
According to tomorrow’s settlement summary, Mouzon spent five months in the hospital recovering from his wounds, which have resulted in permanent injuries.
“Plaintiff’s medical bills relating to this incident exceed the $400,000” agreed to in the settlement, according to the city. Pettit puts the medical costs at $500,000.
Looking for the Wrong Guy
The $70,000 going to Harvey Forbes ends his lawsuit against a city detective who wrote out an erroneous search warrant that resulted in his arrest during a traffic stop in North Baltimore on March 12, 2015.
“Plaintiff insists that the searches of his vehicle, home, and place of business were improper because police were looking for a different person,” the settlement summary says.
“Detective Jemell Rayam (Defendant) asserts that proper warrants were obtained based on probable cause, but conceded that he had the suspect’s name wrong. Plaintiff contends that officers forcefully removed him from his vehicle and performed a cavity search of him.”
After joining the police force in 2005, Rayam had been involved in three shootings, one fatal.
In 2009, he shot Shawn C. Cannady in a Northwest alley “in an attempt to stop what he thought to be an attempt” by Cannady to hit Rayam and two other detectives with his car. The car crashed into a nearby house, and the 30-year-old died at Sinai Hospital as a result of the shooting.
In May 2013, Cannady’s family won a $100,000 settlement from the Board of Estimates in return for dropping their lawsuit against Rayam and the city.
Exhibiting Armed Characteristics
In the fourth settlement, Officer Daniel P. Meehan will no longer face a lawsuit from a man he struck with a police car.
Meehan said he was pursuing Roger Cockrell on February 17, 2015 because he had ignored his command to stop and “was exhibiting characteristics of an armed person.”
Although no weapon was found, Cockrell said he was roughed up by the officer and falsely arrested. Charges were subsequently dropped.
All of the officers involved in the lawsuits were represented by private attorneys in addition to the city law department.
In the case of Meehan, for example, the listed attorney is ex-City Solicitor Thurman W. Zollicoffer Jr., who headed the city law department under former mayor Martin O’Malley.