Action taken against deputies

Two fired, two suspended in stun gun attack, beating of immigrant at city market

`Violated departmental rules'

Innocent man mistaken for bank robbery suspect

victim still wants apology

February 21, 2003|By Allison Klein | Allison Klein,SUN STAFF

Two Baltimore sheriff's deputies have been fired and two more suspended for their roles in a stun gun attack on a Salvadoran construction worker who was mistaken for a bank robber in September.

Rolando Sanchez, who speaks little English, had gone to Lexington Market for lunch when deputies shot him with their stun guns and yanked his arms behind his back, then left him injured on the ground without calling an ambulance, said his lawyer, J. Stephen Simms. The deputies mistook the 26-year-old man for a robber they had been chasing.

Baltimore Sheriff John W. Anderson determined the disciplinary action Friday, but the dismissals and suspensions were not made public until yesterday.

"The [sheriff's deputies] were dismissed because they violated departmental rules," said Maj. Toby Goodwin, chief of operations for the sheriff's office.

Five deputies were investigated: two were fired, one was suspended for a day, one was suspended for three days and another was cleared of any wrongdoing. The Sheriff's Department declined to name them.

The incident has sparked outrage among Hispanic community leaders. Activist Angelo Solera said yesterday that he was pleased with the outcome of the investigation.

"By getting rid of those two officers, the Sheriff's Department is sending a message that this cannot be tolerated," Solera said. "But no one wins here. The victims lose. The officers lose. Hopefully we can learn from this. We need to prevent this from happening again."

Prosecutors reviewed the incident and decided last month not to file criminal charges against the deputies.

Assistant State's Attorney A. Thomas Krehely, who investigated the beating, said he was not surprised that the deputies didn't all receive the same punishment.

"There wasn't equal culpability in the incident," Krehely said.

Sanchez suffered torn tendons and ligaments in his shoulder and has recurring migraine headaches, his lawyer said. In addition, the construction worker has racked up $9,500 in medical bills and lost $12,000 in wages, Simms said.

The lawyer said he wants the city to pay those expenses, as well as future bills to avoid a lawsuit. And he believes Sanchez deserves an apology from the Sheriff's Department.

"Everyone who is human makes errors in judgment. What we are looking for is for people to admit what they did was wrong and apologize," Simms said.

He said he is advocating what he describes as a "Biblical model" of "reconciliation, restitution and apology."

A spokesman for the Sheriff's Department said his office could not comment on an apology because of possible litigation.

Sanchez did not want the deputies to be fired, Simms said.

"We were never advocating for these guys to be fired," he said. "Firing two guys doesn't get at the problem that seems to be systemic."

Simms said he believes that the deputies should receive further training and that the Lexington Market incident is indicative that "something is not taking" in their training.

Since the beating, Sanchez has mostly been confined to his house, Simms said.

Sanchez, who lives in Wheaton, moved to Houston with his mother eight years ago from San Miguel, El Salvador. He relocated to the Baltimore area five years ago to be near his girlfriend.

Recently, he has become depressed, Simms said.

"It weighs on you when you can't lead your life as you're used to and you have no insurance," Simms said. "Especially when you've been mistreated by people who know they mistreated you."

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