Balto. County police sued in death of man after arrest

Woman says officers used excessive force on father

January 01, 2004|By Stephanie Hanes | Stephanie Hanes,SUN STAFF

A Baltimore County woman is suing members of the Baltimore County Police Department for what she said was the wrongful death and unconstitutional treatment of her father, who died soon after being taken into police custody two years ago.

Chereka Day Rainey said in her $260 million lawsuit that police used excessive force to subdue and restrain her father, Albert Covington III, when they arrested him and charged him with burglary early Dec. 14, 2001. She also said police had no reason to arrest Covington, a 54-year-old Hanover resident, and that police have conspired to hide what happened to him.

Officer Shawn Vinson, a Baltimore County police spokesman, said the department has not seen the complaint, which was filed last month in Baltimore County Circuit Court, "so we cannot comment."

In interviews soon after Covington's death, a police spokesman said that about 2:15 a.m. that Dec. 14, a county officer had seen a man throw a wash basin through the glass door of a vacant Woodlawn house and climb inside. They said that at least three officers followed the man into the Poplar Road house after they heard screaming.

At that point, the officers and the man, later identified as Covington, got into a "brief struggle" that was "not particularly violent," police spokesman Bill Toohey told The Sun.

Covington's death certificate listed the cause of death as "cocaine induced excited delirium during restraint."

Police said Covington was handcuffed while officers searched the house. A little while later, police said, officers noticed he was not breathing. Covington was pronounced dead at Northwest Hospital Center in Randallstown, according to documents included in the lawsuit.

The suit claims that Covington's death was brought on by police brutality. It says that police "battered" Covington in the house and then failed to provide prompt medical attention.

Covington "suffered severe and substantial conscious pain and suffering between the time of his injuries inflicted by defendants and the time of his death," the lawsuit says.

The lawsuit lists various counts against Police Department members, including wrongful death, survival action, abuse of process, false arrest, false imprisonment, battery and assault.

Rainey also maintains that police have tried to block her efforts to gather documents that would shed light on her father's death.

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