The Baltimore City Board of Estimates is scheduled to consider a $90,000 settlement Wednesday with a man who witnessed a robbery and was forcibly taken into custody and later charged with assault when he refused to go to the police station to give a formal statement.
Donovan Hand spoke with officers the evening of May 7, 2015, about a reported robbery in Mount Vernon, according to a memorandum about the case prepared for the city spending panel. Hand told the officers he heard a commotion and witnessed three individuals running from the area, one of whom threatened him with a knife.
According to the complaint, Hand claims the officers had a suspect in custody, but he told them the man was not one of the alleged assailants. The officers disregarded Hand’s statement but Hand continued to insist the man was innocent.
“The officers further stated that even if Mr. Hand was correct, the individual had likely done something illegal anyway,” the complaint alleges. The man was eventually released.
Det. Denise Gore arrived and insisted Hand come to the station for a statement as a material witness but Hand refused, saying he had to work early the next morning, according to the memorandum. He offered to go to the station later the next day, and a verbal and physical altercation followed.
Hand alleged in his complaint that he was slammed against a police car, broke free and ran toward his home but was tackled by several officers, one of whom punched him in the nose. He was transported to the district, interviewed and released; weeks later, Hand was charged with assaulting one of the officers and arrested. The charges were later dropped.
The memorandum notes police are permitted to detain a witness to a serious crime for questions but acknowledges “the precise circumstances of this matter are subject to serious dispute.”
Hand filed suit in Baltimore City Circuit Court in January 2017 against the officers involved. The parties reached a settlement April 5 and the Baltimore Law Department recommended the settlement because it is in the best interest of the city, according to the memorandum.
Hand was represented by Jason Downs of Downs Collins P.A. in Baltimore. Downs declined to comment on the settlement Monday. City Solicitor Andre Davis did not respond to a request for comment Monday.
The case is Donovan Hand v. Sergeant Stephen Wilson et al., 24C17000413.