City settles suit by kin of man who died after arrest Police were accused of using excessive force to detain him

September 20, 1997|By Michael Dresser | Michael Dresser,SUN STAFF

Baltimore has settled a civil suit brought by relatives of a South Baltimore man who died in 1994 of injuries he received while being arrested by two city police officers.

Survivors of George T. Hite, 31, sued the city in 1995, charging that the officers used excessive force in arresting him in June 1994, Hite struck his head in a fall during the arrest. He died two months later of complications from the head injury and pneumonia.

The case had been expected to go to a jury Thursday after a trial of more than two weeks, said Thomas Cordaro, the Washington attorney who represented Hite's parents. However, the city and the parents settled the suit Wednesday.

The terms of the settlement were not disclosed. In the original lawsuit, which also named two city police officers and two paramedics as defendants, the plaintiffs had asked for $14 million in damages on each of 13 counts, including negligence on the part of ambulance attendants and violations of Hite's constitutional rights.

"The case is resolved, and I have a sense of closure about the case," said Hite's mother, Gloria Hite of Martinsburg, W.Va. Neither she nor her attorney would comment about the details.

Lawyers for the city could not be reached to comment.

Hite's death resulted from an incident in which Southern District Officers Jae W. Yim and Stanley C. Reaves stopped a bicyclist for questioning in the 200 block of S. Fulton St. Hite, who witnesses said was drinking beer on the front steps of his house in that block, apparently objected in profane terms to the way the officers were treating the suspect.

A report by the Police Department's Internal Investigation Division said the officers warned Hite to be quiet, then moved to arrest him on suspicion of disorderly conduct and public intoxication when he kept shouting.

According to the report, Hite tried to avoid being handcuffed. During the struggle, he fell to the ground and injured his head.

The internal investigation -- launched after Hite's parents filed a complaint with the department that the officers had used excessive force -- concluded that after Hite was in handcuffs, Yim kicked Hite's legs out from under him, causing the fall.

In October 1994, a Baltimore grand jury declined to indict the officers, but the internal investigation upheld the complaint of excessive force against Yim and accused Reaves of making a false statement and slashing the bicyclist's tire.

The commanding officers of the Northern and Southern districts both referred Yim and Reaves to a trial board for possible termination.

Yim has resigned from the force, according to police union officials. Reaves, who is challenging the findings of the investigation, remains on desk duty, awaiting trial board action.

Pub Date: 9/20/97

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