The Baltimore County Police Department is facing a lawsuit over a 2019 vehicle chase that led to the death of a 20-year-old carjacking suspect when an officer ran over the man with a cruiser.
The lawsuit, which was recently transferred into federal court in Baltimore, claims that police used excessive force against Dion L. Taylor, who was pronounced dead at the scene of the crash.
The suit seeks over $1 million in damages for Taylor’s estate.
The vehicle chase began in Baltimore County when police received a call for an armed carjacking on Jan. 6, 2019, according to a subsequent investigation into Taylor’s death. Police officers quickly identified the vehicle reported to be stolen and chased it when the driver refused to pull over for a traffic stop.
The chase continued into Baltimore city, at times reaching speeds of up to 85 mph, before the driver of the stolen vehicle and two passengers bailed out and attempted to flee.
One of the police cruisers failed to stop in time and struck the stolen vehicle, according to the investigation. Taylor, who was seated in the back passenger seat of the vehicle, stumbled as he tried to exit the vehicle. He popped up in front of a police cruiser, according to the investigation, and within seconds the officer had struck and run over Taylor.
The officer stopped his cruiser and found Taylor trapped under the vehicle’s front end. When medical crews arrived about 10 minutes later, they declared Taylor dead.
The Baltimore City State’s Attorney’s Office declined to prosecute the officer who struck Taylor. In a declination letter, the office found that the officer “did not intend to cause harm” and did not drive his vehicle in a grossly or criminally negligent manner.
The letter also concluded that the pursuit of the stolen vehicle “should have been terminated” because of the risk to the public, but also found that the officers’ actions were not unreasonable, in part because one of the passengers threw a gun out of the vehicle during the chase.
The officer who struck Taylor declined to provide a statement to the Baltimore Police Department’s Accident Investigation Unit, according to the declination letter.
A spokesperson for the Baltimore County Police Department referred questions to the declination letter.
The lawsuit portrays the events differently.
The complaint alleges that one officer intentionally rammed the stolen vehicle and another then “unlawfully used his police cruiser as a weapon” and struck Taylor. The lawsuit also claims that the involved officers agreed to fabricate a story about what had happened in order to justify the use of force.
The eight-count complaint raises claims of excessive force, a pattern or practice of constitutional violations, negligence, and civil conspiracy. It was originally filed in Baltimore City Circuit Court but removed to U.S. District Court in Baltimore earlier this month.
Attorney Tiffani Collins, who is representing Taylor’s estate, did not return a phone message seeking comment on the lawsuit.