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Family files wrongful death suit in Montgomery Co. stun gun death

Police officer and stun gun (Thinkstock)

Police officer and stun gun (Thinkstock)

The family of a Montgomery County man who died after police deployed stun guns to subdue him filed suit in federal court Thursday, alleging the officers acted improperly as part of a larger pattern of misuse of the weapon within the department.

Anthony Howard Sr. was dancing barefoot on top of a vehicle in Laytonsville while neighbors watched and laughed in April 2013 when police arrived on scene, according to the complaint, filed in U.S. District Court.

The plaintiffs have since filed a notice of voluntary dismissal of the case Friday, one day after filing suit. Howard’s estate is represented by Jason Down of Murphy, Falcon & Murphy P.A. in Baltimore. Downs did not respond to a request for comment Friday.

Officers sprayed pepper spray toward Howard several times, and the 51-year-old man backed away from officers but never attempted to flee or posed any danger to the officers or bystanders, according to the complaint. As officers continued to approach Howard, two of them used their stun guns for a combined 37 seconds, more than twice the recommended maximum time. When the officers checked Howard for a pulse, they could not locate one.

The lawsuit cites at least three other incidents where county police used stun guns on individuals who allegedly posed no threat to them and died afterward. Howard’s family alleges Montgomery County should have been aware of a pattern of excessive force involving use of stun guns by its police officers but “took no steps to better train or supervise the members of the MCPD, including [the defendants].”

An independent review of stun gun incidents in Montgomery County released in August found police do not overuse the weapon.

A spokesman for Montgomery County did not return a call seeking comment Friday.

The lawsuit alleges a pattern and practice, failure to train and supervise and excessive force by Montgomery County Police as well as wrongful death, survival action and assault and battery. The plaintiffs seek $50 million in damages for each claim.

The case is Robin Howard et al. v. Montgomery County, Maryland, 8:16-cv-03442-PWG.

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