Lawsuit: Baltimore police drove man to kill himself so he could avoid continued mistreatment
A lawsuit filed in Baltimore Circuit Court this week alleges that a man committed suicide after mistreatment by the Baltimore Police Department.
The family of 35-year-old Jeffrey Blair, an information technology worker, asserts that Blair was “jogging” toward police “with his hands in clear view and empty” when Officer David Austin shot him four times during a traffic stop, The Baltimore Sun reported. A second officer also used a Taser on Blair multiple times.
The family says that officers took Blair from the hospital to central booking half naked and did not inform his attorneys after he was charged. The family also complains that they were not allowed to see Blair in the hospital.
The lawsuit notes that Blair “became extremely distraught at the idea of returning to the hospital as the last time he was admitted, he was not allowed to leave or have visitors and ended up being incarcerated in Baltimore City.”
Blair was treated so badly by police while in the hospital that he refused to return for treatments and committed suicide instead, the lawsuit alleges.
The family accuses defendants of “assault and battery, false arrest and intentional infliction of emotional distress, as well as wrongful death and other violations under the Maryland Declaration of Rights,” according to the Sun.
Officer David Austin, then-police Commissioner Anthony W. Batts, Mayor Stephanie Watts and the City Council are named as defendants in the lawsuit.
“The whole process was inappropriate,” attorney Raphael J. Santini, who is representing the Blair family, told the Sun. “It’s just an upsetting situation, and what we’re looking for is accountability.”
The suit seeks $12 million in punitive damages and $4.4 million in compensatory damages.
The Baltimore Police Department has insisted that the use of force against Blair was justified because his actions were “very menacing and threatening.”
“Running at the officer is the kind of event which, more often than not, creates in the officer a reasonable fear of personal danger, which typically supports or is argued to support the use by an officer of a gun,” City Solicitor George Nilson said.
Watch the video below from WMAR, broadcast Feb. 23, 2015.