Three city officers ordered to pay $7.4 million in wrongful-death suit

April 08, 2010|By Jessica Anderson

Three Baltimore police officers were ordered to pay $7.4 million to the family of a man who was arrested after urinating on a public street and died two weeks later in the hospital from injuries he suffered riding in a police van.

Dondi Johnson Sr., 43, was arrested in November 2005 by officers Sendy Ferdinand and Michael Riser and transported in a police van by Officer Nicole Leake.

Johnson complained about pain while in the van, and officers took him to Sinai Hospital, where he died two weeks later of a fractured spine, according to the wrongful-death lawsuit filed by his family, which sought $100 million.

The suit alleged that Leake drove recklessly and failed to properly place Johnson in a seat belt, causing his injuries.

The jury found Tuesday that Ferdinand and Riser acted negligently by detaining Johnson, handcuffing him and requesting that he be taken to Central Booking and Intake Center, instead of giving him a citation, said Johnson's family's lawyer, Kerry Staton. The jury found that Leake acted with gross negligence.

The city was not named in the suit, but City Solicitor George Nilson said it provided the officers' lawyers and that if they were held liable, the city would decide whether to pay through city funds or force the officers to pay. He said the city is considering an appeal.

Police spokesman Anthony Guglielmi said the officers were still on the force and no action had been taken against them.

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