A Baltimore City Circuit Court jury has awarded $7.4 million in a wrongful death lawsuit brought against three Baltimore police officers.
The lawsuit was filed by the family of Dondi Johnson, Sr. 43, who died from complications from a fractured spine in 2005 after a ride in a police van while not wearing a seatbelt. The family claims that Baltimore Police Officer Nicole Leake drove the van recklessly, and also named officers Sendy Ferdinand and Michael Riser as defendants, saying the officers failed to properly strap Johnson into the van.
Johnson was arrested in November 2005 for public urination and the police officers placed him in handcuffs and put him in the van to be taken to the Central Booking and Intake Center in Baltimore City. During the drive, police officers say they stopped at the Northwest District station to allow Johnson to use the restroom. However, when they opened the van they found Johnson on the floor.
Johnson told the officers that he was in pain and took him to Sinai Hospital. He died two weeks later, suffering from a fractured spine.
The lawsuit by his family sought $100 million from the three police officers, and did not name the city as a defendant. The jury ruled that Ferdinand and Riser were negligent in their arrest and detainment of Johnson, and said that they should have just issued Johnson a citation. The jury found Leake to be grossly negligent in her driving of the van.
The jury awarded the family $7.4 million. It is unclear whether the city will pay the settlement or if it will make the officers pay. There have been no disciplinary actions taken against the three officers, and the city has not decided whether it will appeal the verdict, city officials told the Baltimore Sun.