Two more people came forward Friday and said Baltimore police gave them “rough rides,” purposefully tossing them around in the back of a transport van, causing them injuries.
The men, Jacob Master Jr. of Baltimore and Patrick Hoey of Seattle, were put in the back of a police van in June 2012 as the result of a noise complaint, according to their lawyers at the Norman Law Firm in Dagsboro, Del.
Neither man was strapped into the van, and during the ride they were “violently tossed around the interior of the police van” as an officer drove “maniacally” to a police station, according to a statement from the firm. “As a result, each man sustained injuries.”
The men came forward on the day officials announced that they would charge six officers in the death of Freddie Gray, who suffered a severed spine while in policy custody April 12.
Video taken by a bystander shows a mostly limp, handcuffed Gray being loaded into a van. Police have said he was walking and talking when he entered a police van but was unconscious and in distress at the end of a 45-minute ride.
On Friday, State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby said Gray suffered a “severe and critical neck injury” as a result of being handcuffed, shackled and not seat-belted in the van. Other sources familiar with the case said Gray suffered a severe head injury in the van.
At least five other people or their families have alleged they were harmed in the back of a police van since 1997, with several winning judgments or settling with police. Three were paralyzed by the ride, according to a recent review by The Baltimore Sun.
In one case, a 43-year-old plumber arrested for public urination was handcuffed and put in a van in good health but emerged a quadriplegic. He told his doctor he was not buckled into his seat and after a sharp turn he was “violently thrown around the back of the vehicle as [police officers] drove in an aggressive fashion,” according to a lawsuit.
The man died two weeks later of pneumonia caused by his paralysis, and his family initially won a $7.4 million award after a jury agreed three officers were negligent. It was reduced to $219,000 by Maryland’s Court of Special Appeals because state law caps such payouts.
In another case, Christine Abbott, 27, is suing city officers in federal court, alleging she got such a ride in 2012. Abbott was hosting a party at her Hampden home when two officers arrived to follow up on a noise complaint. According to her lawsuit in U.S. District Court, the officers began to argue with a guest for not putting out a cigarette while they spoke to him, and when Abbott tried to calm both sides, the officers threw her to the ground. According to the suit, officers cuffed Abbott’s hands behind her back, threw her into a police van, left her unbuckled and “maniacally drove” her to the Northern District police station, “tossing [her] around the interior of the police van.”
A former city police officer testified five years ago, in a case that resulted in a death, that rough rides were an “unsanctioned technique” in which police vans are driven to cause “injury or pain” to unbuckled, handcuffed detainees.
Police did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the new allegations, but officials have in the past denied that officers drove recklessly, sometimes claiming those in custody thrashed around or were belligerent.
Police officials acknowledge that Gray was not buckled into the wagon, as is now department policy.
The law firm did not specify the injuries that Hoey and Master allegedly sustained. There is no record in the online state court database of their arrests.
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