Prince George's man gets $4.1 million in civil suit against that county's police

April 06, 2000|By Caitlin Francke | Caitlin Francke,SUN STAFF

A Baltimore jury has awarded a Prince George's County man $4.1 million after police officers there beat him so badly he lost an eye.

The federal civil jury decided Monday night that three Prince George's County police officers violated Freddie McCollum Jr.'s rights when they followed him home June 28, 1997, because of an alleged traffic violation, then went inside and beat him. The jury decided that McCollum should be given $67,000 in lost wages, $145,000 in future lost wages, and $3.5 million for pain and suffering.

In addition, the jury found that the officers, Robert McDaniel, Michael Hubbard and James Murphy, acted with malice and should pay McCollum about $150,000 each in punitive damages.

"The jury found that the officers brutally beat him," said Michael McGowan, one of McCollum's attorneys. "I am hoping that this sends a sign to anyone who would consider acting in the same manner that these police officers did, that it will be very costly if they do so."

McGowan said officers followed McCollum to his house in Temple Hills because the 53-year-old laborer allegedly did not have a front license plate. McCollum went into the house to get his license for the police, McGowan said, and when he came downstairs, he saw officers surrounding his home with their guns drawn.

Afraid, McCollum fled to the attic. Two of the officers pursued him. One kicked him in the head. The officers then made a hole in the floor and told McCollum to lower himself downstairs, McGowan said. The officers followed.

Once McCollum was on the living room floor, the officers beat him with a baton and unleashed a police dog who bit him more than six times, the lawyer said. McCollum's eye "exploded," his cheek bones were crushed, and his ribs were fractured.

McGowan said the police told jurors in the trial that McCollum's injuries came when he and the officers fell from the attic. The officers did not have any injuries, he said.

McCollum sued the officers and Prince George's County government. Their defense attorney, Laura Gwinn, did not return a phone call seeking comment.

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