For­mer of­fi­cer gets year of home de­ten­tion in as­sault

Duane Wil­liams Jr. struck 14-year-old who was in hand­cuffs at a hos­pi­tal

Baltimore Sun - - NEWS - By Justin Fen­ton jfen­ton@balt­sun.com

Aformer Bal­ti­more po­lice of­fi­cer will be on home de­ten­tion for the next year af­ter he was con­victed Mon­day of as­sault­ing a 14-year-old boy who was hand­cuffed at a North­west Bal­ti­more hos­pi­tal last year.

Two other of­fi­cers re­ceived pro­ba­tion be­fore judg­ment for not re­port­ing the in­ci­dent and deny­ing that it oc­curred when in­ter­viewed by in­ter­nal af­fairs in­ves­ti­ga­tors, prose­cu­tors said.

All three en­tered Al­ford pleas, which al­low a de­fen­dant to main­tain in­no­cence while ac­knowl­edg­ing that the state has enough ev­i­dence to con­vict.

“You have a duty, as a po­lice of­fi­cer, to pro­tect — not to strike peo­ple,” re­tired Cir­cuit Judge Paul E. Alpert told for­mer Of­fi­cer Duane Wil­liams Jr.

Wil­liams was con­victed of sec­ond­de­gree as­sault and mis­con­duct in of­fice.

Po­lice said Wil­liams, who spent more than seven years with the de­part­ment, re­signed in Fe­bru­ary af­ter the charges were filed and he was sus­pended with­out pay. The other of­fi­cers re­main on the force pend­ing in­ter­nal dis­ci­plinary pro­ceed­ings.

The U.S. De­part­ment of Jus­tice cited the in­ci­dent in its re­port on the Bal­ti­more Po­lice De­part­ment. Jus­tice De­part­ment in­ves­ti­ga­tors found that the de­part­ment uses “un­rea­son­able force against ju­ve­niles and ig­nores widely ac­cepted strate­gies for po­lice in­ter­ac­tions with youth.”

Prose­cu­tors said in court that Of­fi­cer Lon­nie White, 33, de­tained the boy for a men­tal health eval­u­a­tion on Jan. 14, 2015, and took him to Si­nai Hos­pi­tal. Wil­liams, 28, and Of­fi­cer Bi­jay Ran­ab­hat, 33, later went to the hos­pi­tal to re­lieve White.

The teen re­ported to a physi­cian that he was struck mul­ti­ple times in the face by Wil­liams while he was hand­cuffed. He suf­fered a rup­tured eardrum and swelling on his face, As­sis­tant State’s At­tor­ney John Mitchell said.

Jus­tice De­part­ment in­ves­ti­ga­tors said the boy had been yelling and kick­ing his legs. One of the of­fi­cers re­port­edly or­dered hos­pi­tal staff to leave the room and slapped or punched the boy in the face re­peat­edly, in­ves­ti­ga­tors said. Nurses also ob­served the of­fi­cers be­ing ver­bally abu­sive and noted the boy’s vis­i­ble in­juries.

The Jus­tice De­part­ment con­cluded that Bal­ti­more of­fi­cers are not pro­vided guid­ance on the “causes and unique qual­i­ties of youth be­hav­ior and com­mu­ni­ca­tion,” and use the same “overly ag­gres­sive tac­tics they use with adults, un­nec­es­sar­ily es­ca­lat­ing en­coun­ters.”

At­tor­neys for the Jus­tice De­part­ment and the city now are work­ing out de­tails of a con­sent de­cree, a set of court-en­force­able re­forms for the de­part­ment.

The boy, now 16, ap­peared in court and told Alpert that he has trou­ble sleep­ing at night and has been di­ag­nosed with post­trau­matic stress dis­or­der.

“They were wrong,” he said. “I couldn’t de­fend my­self.”

When Alpert asked Wil­liams if he agreed that the state could prove that he had struck the teen, Wil­liams replied, “Uh,” paused, and then said “Yes, sir.”

“I know this is an Al­ford plea, but why did you strike [the vic­tim]?” Alpert asked Wil­liams. Wil­liams’ at­tor­ney in­ter­vened. “I’d ad­vise him not to an­swer that,” at­tor­ney Chaz Ball said.

Ball said Wil­liams was a preacher and youth foot­ball coach.

“This is a solo in­ci­dent — or al­le­ga­tion — in his life,” Ball said.

Ball de­scribed the punches as “go­ing too far, like an older brother or par­ent would do to calm some­one.”

Wil­liams was given a 10-year sus­pended prison sen­tence and three years pro­ba­tion, with the first year on a home mon­i­tor­ing an­kle bracelet in­tended to re­strict his move­ment. He was also or­dered to at­tend anger man­age­ment coun­sel­ing.

White and Ran­ab­hat were both given pro­ba­tion be­fore judg­ment, mean­ing their records can be cleared if they com­plete their pro­ba­tions sat­is­fac­to­rily.

Ran­ab­hat had been on the job only 60 days when the in­ci­dent oc­curred, his at­tor­ney said.

Court records show Ran­ab­hat was con­victed in Dis­trict Court in June and given an18-month sus­pended jail sen­tence and 18 months of pro­ba­tion, but ap­pealed the con­vic­tion to the Cir­cuit Court.

White is a Philadel­phia na­tive who moved to Bal­ti­more to join the po­lice in 2005. His at­tor­ney, Elan Rafael, said White was an “out­stand­ing po­lice of­fi­cer.”

“You have a duty to pro­tect and serve,” Alpert said to White. “Part of your duty is when you see mis­con­duct, you have a duty to re­port it.”

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