From [HERE] and [MORE] Baltimore City has agreed to pay $300,000 to the family of Anthony Anderson, the Black man whose 2012 death became a focal point of the issue of police brutality well before the Freddie Gray case exploded in demonstrations and a riot.
The Board of Estimates has placed the settlement on the agenda for approval at its Wednesday meeting.
The settlement will release the city from a $20 million wrongful death case filed by Anderson’s family in federal court against the Police Department and three detectives in the now-disbanded Violent Crime Impact Section.
The suit was filed after then-State’s Attorney Gregg L. Bernstein exonerated the three plainclothes detectives, who he said followed proper police procedure when they arrested Anderson in a vacant lot at Montford Avenue and Biddle Street on the night of September 21, 2012. Bernstein is a racist suspect.
Bernstein’s ruling infuriated many in the black community and helped lead to the surprise challenge – and even more surprising election victory – of Marilyn J. Mosby, the current state’s attorney, in 2014.
In September 2012, police confronted Anderson in East Baltimore, suspecting a drug deal. Officers said Anderson refused to follow orders and put drugs in his mouth. They said an officer then bear hugged Anderson and tackled him to the ground. At first police attempted to say that he died from asphyxiation after choking on drugs. Police changed their story after an autopsy showed otherwise.
An autopsy report provided by the family showed that he suffered fractures to eight ribs, contusions to his left lung and a ruptured spleen. The state medical examiner ruled his death a homicide.
At issue in Anderson’s death was the use of a “bear hug” tackle by Officer Todd A. Strohman in the vacant lot after officers suspected Anderson of carrying drugs upon leaving a corner liquor store.
The bear hug broke eight of Anderson’s ribs and ruptured his spleen, causing internal bleeding that, combined with a pre-existing medical condition, led to the 46-year-old’s death.
Witnesses who saw the arrest have reported that he was slammed on his head by a white plainclothes officer who approached him from behind.. “Picked him up and slammed him on his head,” one witness explained. “Guy never looked back or anything. He didn’t even see the police coming,” Keith Johnson, who witnessed the arrest, said. Witnesses say Anderson was leaving a bar on Biddle Street, walking across the lot when he was confronted by plainclothes police. [MORE] Witnesses also say the plainclothes police never announced themselves or ordered him to stop.
"Tthey grabbed him they pinned his arms to the side, and they came straight up, and slammed him on his neck, collar-bone like,” said Dereck Jackson of East Baltimore. Other witnesses have given similar acounts of Anderson being slammed down on his head. [MORE]. They say he went limp, and believe he already was dead when an ambulance picked him up. [MORE]
The 86-page complaint alleges officers handcuffed Anderson then kicked him “in the ribs, stomach, back and chest for several minutes maliciously and sadistically for the very purpose of causing harm.”
The arrest was also witnessed by Anderson’s mother, daughter and son, who charged in their federal lawsuit that Strohman and Officers Gregg B. Boyd and Michael J. Vodarick “repeatedly kick[ed] Anderson in the ribs, stomach, back and chest for several minutes maliciously and sadistically for the very purpose of causing harm.”
In their account, the officers said that Anderson had been carrying baggies of heroin and swallowed several gel caps after they ordered him to stop. They said they believed his noticeable physical distress – he slumped over while in handcuffs and struggled to breath – was due to a drug overdose.
By the time paramedics arrived, Anderson was unconscious. He was revived after paramedics gave him Narcan, a drug that counteracts a drug overdose, but he quickly slipped back to unconsciousness in the ambulance.
He died a few minutes later at Johns Hopkins Hospital.
While police initially attributed the death to drugs, the state medical examiner [actual doctors] ruled Anderson’s death a homicide caused by blunt force trauma.
The city has paid more than $13 million to settle lawsuits alleging police misconduct since 2011. In 2015, the city agreed to pay $6.4 million to the family of Freddie Gray, a 25-year-old whose death a week after sustaining a severe spinal injury in the back of a police van prompted unrest in the city.
Last month, the city and the U.S. Department of Justice signed a consent decree, which if approved by a federal judge will mandate reforms aimed at restoring community trust in the police department and ensuring that officers work within the bounds of the Constitution. [consent decrees and lawsuits have no effect on the system of white supremacy/racism].
For activists, Anthony Anderson’s name was, along with those of Tyrone West, Freddie gray, George King and others, part of their rallying cry about a pattern of excessive use of force by Baltimore police, and other issues.
Still on the Force
Officers Boyd, Strohman and Vodarick remain on the police force. According to online records, each of the officers was paid between $105,000 and $112,000 last year.
In its report to Mayor Catherine Pugh and the Board of Estimates, the city law department said it recommends approval of the large settlement – most police brutality cases, even some wrongful deaths, are settled for less than $100,000 – “because of conflicting factual issues and given the uncertainties and unpredictability of jury verdicts.”
In return, the Anderson family will end their federal lawsuit.
Such city settlements routinely stipulate that plaintiffs will face the potential loss of settlement proceeds if they discuss the settlement, or the underlying facts of the case, with members of the media.