Lawyer: Teen Injured By Police

He Says Hit-run Could Derail 17-year-old Boxer's Plans To Compete In The 2012 Olympics

August 01, 2009|By Justin Fenton | Justin Fenton,Justin.fenton@baltsun.com

Two months ago, 17-year-old Deon Johnson was among the top-ranked boxers at a junior national championship, he said. But on Friday, he was sitting in a law office in an oversized suit, his right hand and right leg bandaged from injuries suffered in what his attorney says was a police hit-and-run.

Attorney J. Wyndal Gordon said Johnson was sitting on a dirt bike on Pennsylvania Avenue about 9 p.m. Tuesday, talking to friends, when an unmarked police cruiser drove into him and knocked him to the ground. The officers slowed down, then sped off, he said.

Gordon contends that the incident was deliberate and malicious, and said Johnson's injuries will derail his training for the 2012 Olympics in London. He said the family intends to sue the Police Department for damages.

"We're very, very troubled by this, and we're looking for justice and a full investigation into this matter," Gordon said. "It was a totally random act, with no rhyme or reason."

Anthony Guglielmi, the Police Department's chief spokesman, said police are investigating the case, but he would not provide details. He said the three officers have been identified but not suspended as internal investigators probe the incident.

Gordon said youths in the area where the incident occurred are familiar with the officers, who he noted were white, but did not know their identities. Police commonly try to intimidate teenagers on dirt bikes by driving at them, Gordon said, but he had not heard of anyone suffering significant injuries.

Johnson wasn't being sought for questioning, and was not arrested or issued a citation.

"This isn't the first time we've heard of these types incidents taking place," Gordon said. "It's almost like a routine standard or practice by Baltimore city police to run over young people as they're riding motorcycles and dirt bikes on community streets. ... [The police are] using their vehicles as weapons."

Dirt bikes are legal to own but illegal to operate in Baltimore. Young people are often seen speeding through city streets and performing tricks, which police say creates a hazard for the riders and others.

Johnson, who was instructed by Gordon not to discuss specifics of the case, spoke softly about how his injuries will affect his boxing dreams. He is an amateur boxer with the UMAR Boxing Gym on North Avenue - which has a slogan of "No Hooks Before Books," combining academic and athletic achievement - and is training for the 2012 Olympics.

At Friday's news conference, Johnson held a belt that he said he won recently in a match against boxers from Northern Ireland. Behind him, a pair of crutches rested against the wall.

"I'm in pain," Johnson said.

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