Towson man sues police officer, chief, saying false charges filed

March 06, 2001|By Dennis O'Brien | Dennis O'Brien,SUN STAFF

A Towson sales representative has filed a $3.6 million suit against the Baltimore County police chief and one of his officers, alleging that the officer falsely charged him with assault and locked him up after a routine traffic stop.

Gerhard H. Ehlerding, 59, of the 1100 block of Hampton Garth, claims that Officer Eric Baummer had him held overnight because he asked Baummer for his superior's name during a traffic stop on Dulaney Valley Road.

The suit, filed in Baltimore County Circuit Court, names Baummer, a 12-year veteran, and Baltimore County Police Chief Terrence B. Sheridan as defendants.

Sheridan and Baummer declined to comment yesterday through a department spokesman. County Attorney Virginia Barnhart also declined to comment.

In court papers, Baummer stated that he stopped Ehlerding on Aug. 5, 1998, for flashing the headlights of his Mercedes to warn other drivers of a speed trap.

Baummer said in a statement of charges filed the day of the arrest that Ehlerding almost ran him over and that he had to jump back "to avoid being struck." He wrote that Ehlerding was unapologetic about nearly hitting him and that he "stopped just past me and stated, `Don't yell at me.'"

Ehlerding, a sales representative for European paper mills, alleges in the lawsuit that he repeatedly asked Baummer to lower his voice because he addressed him so "loudly and rudely."

Baummer initially cited Ehlerding for prohibited use of flashing lights, according to the lawsuit. But when Ehlerding asked for the name and spelling of Baummer's superior, the officer ordered him out of the car, called for backup assistance and claimed that Ehlerding had "tried to run him over," according to the suit.

The suit quotes Baummer as telling Ehlerding, "If you want to play hardball, I can too."

Ehlerding was charged with first-degree assault, which carries a 25-year maximum sentence. The charge was dismissed when Baummer failed to show up at the trial Jan. 20, 1999, in Towson District Court, according to the suit.

The suit seeks $3.6 million in compensatory and punitive damages on counts of negligence, false arrest, false imprisonment, battery, malicious prosecution and various civil rights violations. No trial date has been set.

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