Baltimore City State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby has garnered nationwide attention following her decision to file charges against the six police officers involved in Freddie Gray’s death. And now she is being called on to give the same attention to other police-involved killings that previously went dismissed.
At a City Hall hearing on Tuesday, Baltimore City Councilman Warren Branch said he would like Mosby to reexamine the deaths of Maurice Donald Johnson, Anthony Anderson and Tyrone West.
“I’m asking on behalf of the families if she would reopen these three cases and reinvestigate these three cases,” said Branch.
On May 19, 2012, Marcella Holloman called the police to report her son, 31-year-old Maurice Donald Johnson (who suffered from bipolar disorder), was experiencing an episode of anger. Johnson had a history of mental illness, which, according to his mother, was registered in the police database, so the officers should have been aware of his condition. Holloman said she expected the officers to call an ambulance and wait outside, but instead they came into the house. After reaching for an officer’s gun, Johnson was shot by a 22-year-old cop who had been on the force for less than two years. Ultimately, the shooting was deemed justified.
In September of that same year, Anthony Anderson, 46, died during an arrest for making a drug deal. Undercover officers identified themselves but Anderson kept walking. One officer saw Anderson put a small bag (assumed to be drugs) in his mouth, and the officers chased him. When police caught up to him a struggle ensued, leaving Anderson with eight broken ribs, lung bruises and spleen lacerations which, according to the autopsy, ultimately killed him. No charges were filed.
The following July, Tyrone West, 44, was driving with a friend when they were pulled over by undercover officers. After stepping out of the vehicle, West pushed one of the officers, and a fight ensued. West died, according to medical records, as a result of a heart condition exacerbated by the fight as well as the summer heat. An independent review of the incident found several mistakes the officers on the scene made, including failure to call for backup, pat down West and his passenger and call their dispatcher with their location and reason for stopping. West was on parole and, according to the report, had a “long history of resisting authority, violence, and drug sales”; had these basic policies been followed, the officers would have been better equipped to handle the situation. None of the officers were charged with a crime.
All three men died while Mosby’s predecessor, Gregg Bernstein, was in office. Family members of some of the victims have expressed their disappointment with how Bernstein handled the cases.
“Basically Mr. Bernstein just took the word of the police department,” said A. Dwight Pettit, the attorney representing Tyrone West’s family. “I think that anybody reasonably looking at those facts would have to conclude that a crime was being committed.”
This is where Mosby comes into play, according to Branch.
“We might get the same results that Greg Bernstein got,” he said, but he thinks it will be beneficial to “just [have] a fresh set of eyes take a look at it.”
Baltimore’s Interim Police Commissioner Kevin Davis supports the reopening of these investigations.
“You have my word that we will move heaven and earth to get to the bottom of the circumstances that led up to that loss of life,” Davis said.
Branch’s request is easier said than done, however. Up until Mosby’s actions in the Freddie Gray case, the city almost never saw action taken against officer-involved shootings. Out of 67 deaths that occurred at the hands of an officer in the city since 2006, charges were filed twice. One officer was acquitted, and another was convicted and sentenced to 15 years in a separate shooting.
“It’s very difficult to get verdicts against the police,” said Pettit. “People do not want to believe before the advent of cameras and cellphones that the police would do that type of malicious conduct.”
But in more and more instances, videos from cell phones and even dash cams in police vehicles are making these cases hard to ignore. Yet even with cases that have video evidence, charges are not always filed such as in the deaths of Eric Garner and Tamir Rice. Since Mosby decided to prosecute in Gray’s death, Branch is hoping she has set the precedent for other cases both past and future.
“Many people were impressed with the actions the state’s attorney took in the Freddie Gray case,” he said in his statement.
Mosby’s office did not immediately respond to Branch’s request.