3 settlements totaling $220,000 OK’d
Baltimore board’s move ends lawsuits alleging police misconduct
Baltimore’s spending board approved three settlements Wednesday involving Baltimore Police, including $60,000 to be paid to a man who was arrested by the city’s rogue Gun Trace Task Force.
The Board of Estimates unanimously approved the three settlements, which total $220,000.
The $60,000 settlement will be awarded to Derrick Anderson, who sued the city over an encounter with Gun Trace Task Force members Evodio Hendrix, Wayne Jenkins, Marcus Taylor and Maurice Ward.
The officers were patrolling an area of Baltimore in May 2016 when they heard multiple shots fired, Deputy Solicitor Ebony Thompson said during the meeting. The officers canvassed the area and saw Anderson running and holding his waistband. She said the officers stopped Anderson and recovered a handgun from him.
Anderson was arrested and subsequently charged with several firearm violations, Thompson said. He pleaded guilty to possession of a firearm and served 14 months in prison.
After revelations that the task force routinely violated people’s rights and stole drugs and money using the authority of their badge, the state’s attorney’s office moved to vacate Anderson’s charge. Anderson filed a notice saying he intended to sue the city, claiming false imprisonment and fabricated charges.
Thompson said Wednesday there was “no evidence one way or another that a firearm was actually planted, but in the interest of fairness the charges were vacated.”
Thompson called the settlement “very favorable” considering Anderson initially demanded $175,000 and spent time in jail.
City Council President Nick Mosby, one of five members of the board, said the incident underscores the importance of trying to rebuild trust between city residents and police.
“There were incidents of the Gun Trace Task Force where we know for a fact guns were planted,” he said. “That’s why it opened the city up for concerns.”
More than a dozen officers involved with the task force were charged and convicted, and hundreds of criminal cases brought by the officers were dropped or vacated. The city has paid more than $10 million to settle lawsuits related to actions of the task force.
Thompson said three active cases against the city involving the rogue unit remain, but only one represents a “serious financial threat.” Four additional claims are unfiled but within the time frame for filing a lawsuit, she said.
The Board of Estimates also approved a $130,000 settlement with Jamal Wilson, who alleged numerous claims of misconduct under federal and state law.
Wilson was the passenger in a vehicle stopped by Baltimore Police Officer Donald Gaff in September 2016. According to prosecutors in a subsequent criminal case, Gaff ordered Wilson out of the vehicle and then pushed and hit him when he failed to produce his identification.
Wilson was taken to a hospital with injuries immediately after the incident, which Thompson described as a busted lip and broken jaw. He was charged with resisting arrest.
After officials reviewed Gaff ’s body camera footage, the charges against Wilson were dismissed. Gaff was subsequently charged with second-degree assault and misconduct in office. The officer was convicted of both charges at trial and received one year of probation. The assault charge was overturned on appeal.
Wilson sued Gaff, making claims of assault, false arrest, false imprisonment and violations of the Maryland Declaration of Rights. He also claimed that his 4th and 14th amendment rights under the U.S. Constitution were violated. Wilson argued he lost his job at a restaurant as a result of his arrest and was unable to find work for three years, Thompson told the board.
In January 2015, Gaff fatally shot a man who was wielding a knife at a child’s birthday party. Police said a man was carrying a knife at the party and threatening to stab people. After being asked to drop the knife, police said, Gaff shot him once in the upper chest, killing him.
Gaff faced an administrative board trial following the 2016 incident and was terminated, Thompson
Mosby questioned whether Gaff remains eligible for a pension. The answer was yes.
The board also approved a $30,000 settlement with Eric Baylor stemming from a crash in September 2016.
Baylor and another plaintiff, Leonard Ferguson, were riding motorcycles near the intersection of Belair Road and Parkside Drive around 11 p.m. when Baltimore Police Officer Timothy George drove into the intersection and collided with them. George was responding to a call of shots fired at the time.
The two men were ejected from their bikes and hit a bus stop, Thompson said. Baylor was treated for multiple rib fractures and an abdominal wall injury.
The pair sued the city, arguing George did not have lights or sirens on at the time of the crash, Thompson said. No video of the incident was recovered to indicate whether he did, she said.
“Ultimately we think that a jury will find that the officer was negligent,” Thompson said.
Ferguson has not finalized a settlement with the city, court records show.