Police brutality lawsuits: the Freddie Gray effect

Covering Baltimore trial courts, I’ve written a lot of stories about lawsuits alleging police brutality. They’ve become so routine that, right or wrong, I only report ones with interesting or unusual details, such as the story in Tuesday’s paper involving a grandmother with dementia and her caregiver granddaughter.

Or this: An East Baltimore man Tuesday filed a $20 million lawsuit against police, alleging he was unlawfully arrested and assaulted outside his home last May. Steve E. Morse claims he was cleaning his unloaded air rifle when officers arrived after receiving a call about “someone walking up and down the street with something that appeared to be a shotgun,” according to the complaint.

Morse told the officers he was in his yard and his rifle was unloaded; police told him it was illegal to possess the weapon in the city, the lawsuit states. The officers were leaving Morse’s house with the rifle when one allegedly tackled Morse from behind as Morse was walking away, according to the lawsuit. Morse was detained and charged with possession and second-degree assault, among other counts, all of which were dropped in July.

But what really got my attention from Morse’s lawsuit was this paragraph:

“Defendants [sic] Figueroa and Defendant Trojan then tossed Plaintiff into the police van without seatbelt or other safety equipment and Plaintiff was transported to Central Booking.”

Would this detail have been mentioned prior to Freddie Gray? Or, put another way, will this detail be mentioned in every police brutality lawsuit since Freddie Gray?

I’m sure I’ll find out in the weeks and months to come.

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