Alex Constantine - May 13, 2013
BALTIMORE (Courthouse News) - Baltimore police beat up a woman and smashed her camera for filming them beating up a man, telling her: "You want to film something bitch? Film this!" the woman claims in court.
Makia Smith sued the Baltimore Police Department, Police Commissioner Anthony Batts and police Officers Nathan Church, William Pilkerton, Jr., Nathan Ulmer and Kenneth Campbell in Federal Court.
Smith claims she was stuck in stand-still rush hour traffic in northern Baltimore when she saw the defendant officers beating up and arresting a young man. She says pulled out her camera, stood on her car's door sill and filmed the beating.
"Officer Church saw plaintiff filming the beating and ran at her," the complaint states. "He scared her and she sat back in her vehicle. As he ran at her, he yelled, 'You want to film something bitch? Film this!'
"Officer Church reached into plaintiff's car and grabbed her telephone-camera out of her hand, threw it to the ground and destroyed it by smashing it with his foot. Officer Church pulled plaintiff out of her car by her hair and beat her. Officers Pilkerton, Ulmer, and Campbell then ran to plaintiff's car and joined Officer Church in beating plaintiff and arrested her using excessive force. At all times described herein, plaintiff's two year old daughter witnessed her mother's beating and arrest by the Officers, as did others."
Smith claims the cops taunted her and threatened to take her daughter away. She says they refused to call her mother to her toddler.
"The officers, despite the pleas of plaintiff, refused to call plaintiff's mother. Instead, the officers tormented plaintiff by telling her that her daughter would be taken from her and sent to Social Services. Seeing plaintiff's distressful reaction to these tormenting threats, they continued," the complaint states.
Smith says she was arrested and taken to jail on bogus charges that she assaulted Church and resisted arrest.
She claims Church failed to appear for her trial - twice, and prosecutors dropped the charges, but she had to hire a lawyer and spend more money recovering her impounded car.
She claims Baltimore police have a history of illegally seizing and destroying recording devices. She seeks $1.5 million in compensatory and punitive damages for civil rights violations, conversion and infliction of emotional distress.
She is represented by Christopher Lyon, with Astrachan Gunst Thomas.
Police departments around the country have been accused of similar responses to citizens filming them abusing other people.