Man files lawsuit over injuries in city police van $20 million action claims officers used excessive force, were negligent

November 20, 1997|By Ivan Penn | Ivan Penn,SUN STAFF

A Baltimore man who was critically injured in the back of a police van after a traffic stop has filed a $20 million lawsuit against the arresting officer and the city Police Department claiming negligence and use of excessive force.

Jeffrey Adrian Alston, 32, of the 2500 block of N. Hollins St. has been in Sinai Hospital since the incident Nov. 3. Police had arrested Alston on suspicion of drunken driving.

In the lawsuit, filed Friday in Baltimore Circuit Court, Alston alleges that he was beaten and thrown into the back of the police van, causing him to hit his head on an interior wall.

Alston, an asthmatic, had difficulty breathing and asked the officers to get him his pump and inhaler, according to the lawsuit. They refused to do so, the suit says. The officers also did not provide immediate medical assistance for Alston's injuries, the lawsuit says.

"There are two issues here," said Paul R. Levene, Alston's lawyer. "You have an excessive force issue. And did they aggravate or worsen any injuries that he had sustained?"

Levene said Alston is in the intensive care unit at Sinai Hospital. Levene said Alston's mother said Alston is paralyzed from the neck down.

Robert W. Weinhold Jr., spokesman for the Police Department, said the incident has been under internal investigation, and the officers involved are on administrative duty, pending the outcome of the probe.

Weinhold declined to comment further yesterday because of the investigation and the pending litigation.

Earlier, Weinhold said that Northwestern District Officer Arnold McDonald -- the only officer named in the lawsuit -- stopped a BMW in the 4800 block of Reisterstown Road for speeding and took the driver into custody after saying he smelled alcohol on the man's breath.

A van was called to take Alston to the Central District station for a Breathalyzer test.

Two other officers in the van -- the driver and a supervisor -- told investigators that the man freed himself from a seat belt and repeatedly rammed his head against a plastic window that separates officers from prisoners.

After realizing the suspect was injured, the officers said, they took him to Sinai Hospital.

Pub Date: 11/20/97

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