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Baltimore police suspend officer who punched man

The Baltimore police commissioner announced Tuesday that he has suspended an officer with pay after a months-old video was made public showing the officer repeatedly punching a man outside a liquor store before arresting him.

Anthony Batts said Vincent Cosom was placed on leave Monday, the same day Kollin Truss, 32, filed a $5 million lawsuit against the officer alleging assault, battery and other damage in his June 15 arrest.

Batts said he was “shocked, outraged and disgusted” by the footage.

“Nothing I saw on that video is defensible,” Batts said, “and most importantly, it’s unacceptable and will not be tolerated within this organization.”

Messages left at a number for Cosom by The Associated Press weren’t immediately returned.

In a probable cause statement at the time of the arrest, Cosom, a six-year veteran of the department, wrote that Truss had taken a “fighting stance and clenched his fist.” Cosom also wrote that he “got into a physical altercation due to me being in fear of my safety.”

But Truss’s attorneys, Ivan Bates and Tony Garcia, made public city surveillance video that shows another officer restraining Truss while Cosom punches him. Truss had been walking away when the officer began punching him, and did not appear to retaliate.

According to the lawsuit, charges against Truss were dropped on July 16. Deputy State’s Attorney Elizabeth Embry said Tuesday that the case was dismissed after prosecutors reviewed the footage and “determined that it was not consistent with the facts of the case described in the charging documents.”

Embry added that prosecutors opened a criminal investigation “when the office became aware of the video.”

At a news conference, Batts said he saw the video for the first time on Monday and placed Cosom on administrative leave the same day. Batts said the department, however, received a copy of the video from prosecutors and began an internal investigation months ago.

Batts said Cosom, a neighborhood patrol officer, should have been placed on leave as soon as the department became aware of what happened and that the two-month lapse in action was due to a “communication breakdown.”

“I had a middle manager who did not do the thing he should have done,” Batts said. “The officer should have been removed from the field immediately. I should have been notified immediately, and we will address that.”

Batts added that the incident is a “black eye” on the relationship between police and citizens in Baltimore.

Deputy Commissioner Jerry Rodriguez said the other two officers captured on video, including one who held Truss’s arm, will also be investigated, as well as “anyone who either acted with malice or anyone who after seeing this conduct failed to take action.”

Batts said he is in discussions with Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake about the possibility of outfitting police officers with body cameras.

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