Trial begins in man's death

Nephew repeatedly pleaded with police to release sickly uncle, lawyer says

January 27, 2007|By Annie Linskey | Annie Linskey,sun reporter

Homer Long had a weak heart when police arrested him and his nephew in the summer of 2003 during a dispute over a parked car blocking a Baltimore alley.

While shackled in the back of a police wagon and accused of disorderly conduct, Long's heart gave out. Police called for help, but it was too late. He died at Mercy Medical Center and disorderly conduct charges filed against his nephew Shawn Long were never pursued.

Questions about why police arrested the two men and how they were treated while in custody are at the center of a wrongful death lawsuit filed by Shawn Long and his uncle's estate against three Baltimore police officers. A judge dismissed the Police Department from the suit in 2005.

"The case you are about to hear is about the worst cases of abuse you could imagine," the Longs' lawyer, Michael S. Greene, said in his opening statement at the civil trial yesterday. "The case is about what human beings should not do to other human beings."

Greene alleged that Shawn Long was illegally arrested by a police officer and tossed into the back of a police wagon. While the arrest was taking place, Shawn Long sent someone to fetch his uncle Homer Long who had a severe heart condition. When Homer Long came outside, police arrested him as well.

But David Owens, who is representing the officers -- David J. Maynard, Jr., Charles B. Bryant, Jr. and Cheryl J. Williams, who has left the force -- said Shawn Long was behaving belligerently toward a female officer and refused her order to move his car.

Owens said Shawn Long should never have called his uncle out of the house. "He [Shawn Long] was arrested, so what does he do? He drags his uncle out of the house, into the alley, into that situation, knowing that it would make him excited," Owens said.

The attorney argued that when Homer Long came out of the house, he swore at officers and was arrested because he was disrupting the peace.

Greene said Shawn Long repeatedly pleaded with police to release his uncle because of his bad heart. Greene said he kicked the police van to get their attention.

Greene said Shawn Long watched as his uncle's eyes rolled back and he vomited blood in the van. Only then, Greene said, did police stop and call for help.

Owens disputed that Shawn Long made any efforts to alert police about his uncle's heart condition.

The trial is expected to last a week.

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