Mayor Catherine Pugh and the Board of Estimates will pay $135,000 tomorrow to settle a lawsuit by a man whose beating by five Baltimore police officers was filmed by a bystander and released to the media.
Cellphone video recorded the violent arrest of Jamar Kennedy, then 29, in the early morning hours of September 23, 2014, outside of Melba’s Place, a nightclub on Greenmount Avenue in Waverly.
Kennedy had been removed from the club in a chokehold by “an aggressive bouncer,” according to the settlement summary. Observing the two men’s struggle outside the club, Officer Scott A. Armstrong tasered Kennedy.
The video picks up with the Taser shown knocked to the sidewalk, quickly followed by a female officer grappling with Kennedy on the ground.
Four officers start swinging their batons at Kennedy, who at one point tries to shield himself from the blows with an upraised hand. Police tackle him, force him to the ground and stun him for a second time with a Taser.
Arrested on charges of second-degree assault and resisting arrest, Kennedy was still in jail without bail when the video surfaced.
Then-Police Commissioner Anthony Batts held a news conference to say that he believed the use of force was justified, but the department would conduct an internal investigation.
The investigation cleared the five officers involved in the arrest – Armstrong, Greg M. Edleman, Nicholas G. Lancetta, Sheena I. Newman and Maria Perez. All five officers remain on the force.
Kennedy, meanwhile, filed a $5 million lawsuit in Baltimore Circuit Court claiming assault, battery, false arrest and imprisonment.
At the time of the 2014 incident, police said that Kennedy had punched officers before the video had started and that three of the officers had suffered minor injuries.
They also said that, as Kennedy was being arrested, a female officer retrieved his inhaler and gave it to him. They said this showed that police had “rendered aid” once they had gotten control of the situation.
The settlement summary released yesterday by the Board of Estimates does not allege any punches thrown by the plaintiff.
Regarding the inhaler, the summary sheet said that Kennedy “claims that he suffered an asthma attack as a result of the encounter, together with multiple physical injuries and the expenses of defending subsequent legal proceedings. He attributes his injuries to the unnecessary and excessive force employed by the officers.”
Hearing on Brew’s Lawsuit
Under the “gag order” that is routinely included in such out-of-court police settlements, Kennedy is forbidden to discuss his case with reporters or on social media on pain of not receiving his full settlement money.
On behalf of The Brew and Ashley Overbey, the American Civil Liberties Union of Maryland filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court challenging the city’s right to restrict the speech of victims of police misconduct.
Last month, James K. Bredar, Chief District Judge for Maryland, reinstated The Brew’s portion of the lawsuit, nullifying U.S. District Judge J. Frederick Motz’s earlier dismissal of the lawsuit, as sought by the Police Department and the Mayor and City Council.
The Overbey portion of the suit was reinstated last week by U.S. District Judge Marvin Garbis, who granted a hearing on the claims on November 16.
In a media release, the ACLU’s legal director, Deborah A. Jeon, hailed the judge’s decision as a step toward guaranteeing the First Amendment rights of citizens and the press:
“The challenge to Baltimore City’s gag orders on victims of police misconduct is a groundbreaking case at the intersection of free speech and civil rights. It should be considered in the context of the larger, ongoing struggle across the country to confront systemic police misconduct and demand real police accountability. That is why we believe it matters so much that the case is now being given a full hearing on all claims raised by both plaintiffs, rather than considered piecemeal or given only cursory review.”