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Crime & Justiceby Mark Reutter9:16 pmAug 10, 20150

City set to pay $280,000 to settle three police brutality cases

The Board of Estimates has paid more than $900,000 to settle civil lawsuits against Baltimore police officers over the last year

Above: Janice Thompthin, in 2012, describing how a Baltimore policeman shot at her disabled son David Yim through the windshield of a police cruiser.

The Board of Estimates will pay three city residents $280,000 to drop their lawsuits against seven police officers involved in alleged assaults, battery or false imprisonment.

The cases, placed on the board’s agenda for its Wednesday meeting, add to what the city has already paid to settle nearly a dozen other cases in the last year.

The awards amount to more than $900,000 based on The Brew’s review of board records. They come out of a general settlement fund rather than from the police department’s budget.

The cases approved by the board constitute only a portion of the total cash doled out yearly to settle allegations of excessive force by police.

Only settlements above $25,000 are part of the Board of Estimates approval process. Settlements under that amount are not part of the public record.

Shot through the Windshield

The latest group of settlements include a $150,000 award to David Yim, a mentally disabled man who was wounded by Officer Fred Murray III in April 2012 after Yim was seen carrying a butcher’s knife on Riggs Avenue near his home in West Baltimore.

We wrote about the Yim case in 2012, with remarks by his mother.

According to this week’s summary of the case by the city law department (plaintiffs and their lawyers are prohibited as part of the settlement from speaking to the media), the following events took place:

Murray ordered Yim to drop the knife. When the 39-year-old reportedly failed to do so and “started to advance slowly toward the patrol vehicle,” Murray shot at him through the car’s windshield and struck him in the abdomen.

Yim staggered to the porch of a nearly house, dropped his knife and was taken to a hospital for treatment.

Yim sought $600,000 in damages. The case was settled earlier this month for $150,000 “because of the factual issues involved and objective injuries suffered by the plaintiff,” according to the law department’s summary.

Strip Searched

Three officers and one sergeant were named in another 2012 lawsuit settled for $60,000 that will go before the board on Wednesday.

Kevin Gray was driving on the 4500 block of Harford Road in November 2012 when he was pulled over by Officers Jai Etwaroo and Ronnie Waters for having a covered license plate.

Etwaroo said he recognized Gray from a previous incident involving a suspected controlled substance. His car was searched by the officers, and Etwaroo then “escorted the plaintiff to the side of the road, near a shed, and conducted an invasive search of the plaintiff’s body.”

The searches recovered nothing from the plaintiff or his car, but resulted in  a lawsuit against the two officers, as well as Sgt. Mark A. Rutkowski and Officer Benjamin L. Frieman, alleging battery, false arrest, false imprisonment and violation of the Maryland Declaration of Rights.

Battered by a Baton

In a third case, Duncan Smith accused Officers Jose Boscana and James L. Brooks of roughing him up at the Taste Lounge in far South Baltimore in October 2011.

Boscana contended that a belligerent Smith struck him on the arm at closing time, and Brooks hit him with his baton “to prevent him from striking Boscana again.”

In his lawsuit filed in Baltimore Circuit Court, Smith told a different story, saying he was repeatedly struck in the head by Brooks without provocation and wound up at MedStar Harbor Hospital.

The city has agreed to pay Smith $70,000 in return for a dismissal of his lawsuit because of the “conflicting factual issues” and “given the uncertainties and unpredictability of jury verdicts,” according to the law department’s summary.

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