A man died while in police custody after a struggle with officers during a traffic stop Thursday night in Northeast Baltimore, officials said.
Deputy Commissioner Jerry Rodriguez said officers had pulled over a car for a traffic violation and suspected there were drugs inside. The man resisted police and was brought under control but went into “medical distress,” Rodriguez said. He died at a local hospital.
The department's professional standards unit, which oversees police conduct, will be investigating, and police encouraged witnesses to come forward with statements and video. The information will be shared with the Baltimore state's attorney's office, according to Rodriguez.
“Like you, like the community, we have more questions than answers. ... We will get the answers,” Rodriguez said. He declined to comment further.
The incident occurred about 8 p.m. in the area of the 1300 block of Kitmore Road in the New Northwood neighborhood.
Shawanda Wilson, who lives nearby, said she saw the man put his hands up outside the car when two officers sprayed him with what appeared to be Mace or pepper spray and struck him. The man, who appeared to be in his 30s, ran a short distance to an alley, where officers caught up with him and started beating him with batons in his head and back, Wilson said.
The man ended up on the other side of the street, Wilson said, and numerous other officers, some from Morgan State University, arrived and began to beat the man.
At some point, the officers backed away and a policeman could be seen performing CPR on the man, Wilson said. She said he was bleeding from his mouth, and she called the beating “excessive.”
It was “really bad,” she said. “To the point where I got upset.”
Ayesha Rucker, a friend of Wilson's, said she saw the incident as well. She said it started when both plainclothes officers arresting the man began punching him at the same time as he stood waiting to be arrested. He was then sprayed with Mace or pepper spray, Rucker said.
The man screamed for help several times as he was beaten and sprayed, and he tried to escape, Rucker said. When about 10 officers arrived for backup, she said, they “tackled” the man. An officer kicked the man in the face, she said.
“Even if he was dirty, he did not resist arrest,” said Rucker, who said she was upset about the incident.
Detective Angela Carter-Watson, a police spokesman, declined to comment about witnesses’ accounts that the man was beaten by officers. She confirmed that officers from Morgan State University responded to the scene.
In September 2012, 46-year-old Anthony Anderson died after being thrown to the ground by officers during a drug arrest in East Baltimore. The state medical examiner ruled the cause of death was homicide, but prosecutors declined to pursue charges after determining that the officers did not use excessive force and followed police procedure.