Officers Vindicated In Teen Brutality Case

1991: The Year In Review

December 29, 1991|By Michael James

3 After nearly two years of rumor, innuendo and legal wrangling, oneof Howard County's most publicized news stories culminated with a police trial board's vindication of police officers Victor Riemer and Ricky Johnson.

The "Bowie case," as it came to be known, was noteworthy in that county police faced an uproar of criticism -- unjustly so, they argued -- from media-savvy opponents who alleged police brutality at every turn.

Riemer and Johnson were accused of using excessive force against two Columbia men, Carl Jonathan Bowie and his brother, Mickey, duringa party at the Red Roof Inn in Jessup in January 1990.

The Bowies and more than a dozen other teens were present when Riemer and Johnson arrived to break up the underage drinking affair. The Bowies alleged Riemer smashed Mickey Bowie's face into the ground, and that Johnson struck one of the boys in the face with a flashlight.

In May 1990, Carl Bowie was found hanged from an athletic field backstop at Oakland Mills High School. The death was ruled a suicide, but skeptics intimated that Riemer and Johnson were somehow involved in the death.

An independent investigation by the Maryland State Police claimed that was not true. But then-police chief Frederick W. Chaney took constant criticism from the Bowie family and others who said county police weren't adequately investigating the situation.

In the meantime, Mickey Bowie filed a $1.15 million lawsuit in federal court, claiming county police not only covered up police brutality in the Red Roof Inn incident but had covered up numerous other brutality incidents.

A Howard County grand jury cleared Riemer and Johnson of criminalcharges, but Chaney opted to go forward with internal affairs charges against the two men.

After months of preparation, Riemer and Johnson appeared before three county police officers serving on the internal affairs trial board. In a 2-1 decision, the board dismissed the charges against both officers.

During the trial hearings, the officers' attorney, Clarke F. Ahlers of Columbia, frequently attacked thecredibility of Mickey Bowie and his complaint, an argument that seemed to persuade the trial board officers.

The lawsuit is pending in federal court.

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