Couple, alleging police brutality, file federal suit seeking $29 million

September 22, 1994|By Howard Libit | Howard Libit,Sun Staff Writer

A Pittsburgh research psychologist and his wife have filed a $29 million federal lawsuit against the Howard County Police Department and two of its officers, charging that the man was beaten and permanently injured during an arrest three years ago.

The lawsuit alleges that John Dyer, 32, a former Columbia resident, was "repeatedly struck on his neck, head, back, shoulders and arms" by the officers with their fists and nightsticks when they removed him from his Littlebird Path home after an argument with his wife.

Officers Darin Chambers and Andrea Quinto, both of whom joined the force in July 1990, then handcuffed Mr. Dyer, dragged him down the stairs of his home and forced him onto the rear floor of the police car, according to the lawsuit, which was filed Aug. 5 in U.S. District Court in Baltimore.

Mr. Dyer, who at the time was working for the Department of Defense Nuclear Agency, initially was charged with assaulting the two officers, but the case was never pursued, according to court records.

The county denied all of the brutality allegations in papers submitted Sept. 14, arguing, among other things, that the charges and injuries listed in the lawsuit are far more serious than those made by Mr. Dyer in a complaint he filed the day after the incident.

"Mr. Dyer, who was facing criminal charges when he complained in 1991, had plenty of incentive to make the allegations against the officers as complete (and as strong) as possible; and he arrived at the police stations with counsel and with his pre-prepared typed statement in hand," the county said.

"No doubt the new allegations make a much stronger complaint for civil rights violations and civil damages (as well as a more shocking story for press reports), but there is simply no basis to believe that such important details as intentional beatings would not have been asserted at the time they occurred, if they had occurred."

Police Chief James N. Robey refused to discuss the lawsuit. A Police Department spokesman said the two officers have been advised not to talk about the case.

"Unfortunately, the nature of police work often puts us in situations where citizens disagree with our actions," Chief Robey said in a statement read by a spokesman. "The fact that we were sued does not mean that we acted in any way improperly."

The events that led to Mr. Dyer's arrest began after 8 p.m. on Aug. 13, 1991, when Mr. Dyer and his wife Mary Anne got into an argument. Mrs. Dyer called 911 at 9:21 p.m. and reported being assaulted by her husband, according to police dispatch records.

When the two officers arrived at the house, Mr. Dyer tried to telephone his lawyer, the lawsuit says. The officers ordered Mr. Dyer to leave, and at that point the confrontation became violent, it says.

As a result of the arrest and beating, the lawsuit says, Mr. Dyer suffered numerous injuries, including a separated shoulder and a torn rotator cuff.

Mr. Dyer and his wife live in Pittsburgh with three children, said their attorney, David Bulitt.

The county's response, however, includes an affidavit apparently refuting the allegations from Howard County police Lt. Terry Schlossnagle, who at the time of the incident was a sergeant in the police internal affairs division.

The lawsuit is at least the third recent allegation of brutality against the department.

In July, a month before the case was to go to trial, the county settled for an undisclosed amount a $6.5 million federal lawsuit alleging that police beat twin brothers while breaking up a party in a Jessup motel in 1990.

In another case, Joseph Malouf, the attorney for an Alexandria, Va., family, said yesterday that he intends to file a federal lawsuit against the department in the death of Jose Inez Melendez, 24. The suit will be filed as soon as some legal matters are settled concerning the estate of Mr. Melendez, who died Christmas Day in police custody after allegedly being beaten, the attorney said.

Mr. Bulitt said the other allegations had nothing to do with the decision to file the lawsuit on behalf of Mr. Dyer but added that he is investigating the other claims to determine whether to use them to strengthen his case.

Baltimore Sun Articles
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.