Court told of harassment by city officers

Man charges abuse, wrongful jailing by police

March 21, 2000|By Caitlin Francke | Caitlin Francke,SUN STAFF

College-educated, employed and law-abiding, Bryan F. Reddick says he never thought that he had reason to fear Baltimore police.

But that was before Aug. 21, 1997, Reddick testified yesterday in Baltimore Circuit Court, when he was pulled over for allegedly not using his turn signal. He said police yanked him from his seat and threw him against the side of his vehicle.

Later, when the then-27-year-old lab worker went to follow up on a complaint he filed against the police, they arrested him on a warrant for someone else and threw him in a jail cell in the Northwestern police station, Reddick told jurors hearing a civil suit against eight city officers.

FOR THE RECORD - An article in yesterday's editions of The Sun incorrectly reported that the family of Larry Hubbard has filed suit against Baltimore police officer Robert Quick. The Sun regrets the errors.

Lawyers for Reddick and his mother, Edna, argue that Reddick was targeted by police because he is black and he was only released when then-Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke, a family friend, intervened.

"Thank God [Edna Reddick] knows Mayor Schmoke," attorney Matthew E. Bennett told jurors. "If the mayor didn't come, who knows what would have happened to him."

The Reddicks are suing Officers Erica Cooper, Victor Rivera, Sean Ruane, Robert Quick, Philip Parker and Anthony Porter, and Sgts. Stephen Davis and Carolyn Fowler.

The suit seeks $20 million in punitive and compensatory damages.

But more than money may be at stake. Part of the officers' defense is that they were detailed to crack down on crime in the northwestern part of the city -- and stopping cars for minor traffic infractions is a good crime-fighting tactic, they said.

"Experts will tell you that one of the ways they receive drugs and guns is through traffic stops," defense lawyer Myron T. Brown told the jurors. "These are not bad officers here."

The officers do not dispute that Reddick was wrongly jailed. It was a foul-up, they say.

Schmoke's arrival at the station had nothing to do with the decision to release Reddick, Brown said.

"It's an honest mistake," said Brown, who represents all eight officers. "The officers discovered the mistake by themselves and went to rectify it."

Of the allegations that Reddick was harassed at the traffic stop, Brown said that officers had to restrain Reddick because he refused to hand over his license and registration and then scuffled with Quick.

In a separate case, Quick is being sued by the family of Larry Hubbard Jr., the man shot in the back of the head by police last year.

Reddick, who lives on Oakmont Avenue in Northwest Baltimore, testified that he and a friend were going out to dinner when they were pulled over after turning left onto Belvedere Avenue. He said Cooper, wearing a police uniform, asked for his license and registration, which he gave to her. But then, Ruane, who was in plain clothes, jumped into the back seat of the car.

"He said `What's up, fellas? You want to tell me anything?' " Reddick testified.

When Reddick asked him to get out of the car, Quick told him that if "I don't shut up, he'll write me as many tickets as he wants to."

Quick then ordered Reddick out of the car. Reddick said he refused because Ruane was still inside.

Quick opened the door and yanked Reddick out, Reddick testified, and he was thrown against the side of the 1984 Jeep Cherokee, owned by his father. Finally, the officers -- some refused to give Reddick their names -- left without giving Reddick a ticket.

Reddick went immediately to the Northwestern police station to file a complaint. Later that day, he called his mother and went back to the station with her to follow up.

All of a sudden, he said, the police handcuffed him, saying that his real name was Eric Brown. His mother screamed as he was led away, telling the officers that they had the wrong man. He was released after about 20 minutes.

"I was humiliated," Reddick testified. "I felt like, `What is going on? Why am I being treated like an animal when I wasn't doing anything wrong?' "

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