Kianga Mwamba, 36, claims she was tasered and arrested by Baltimore Police Department officers in March while filming the arrest of another man on her mobile phone. After she was released, she noticed someone had tampered with her mobile phone – erasing the arrest video. Charges against her were eventually dropped in September, but Mwamba recently served the police department with a lawsuit seeking $7 million.
The lawsuit filed with the Circuit Court for Baltimore City last Thursday said the police "attacked" her, "dragged" her from her vehicle, and "threw her onto the street, handcuffed her, tasered her, called her a 'dumb bitch,' and kept her restrained."
The suit alleges the officers arrested Mwamba to "prevent the disclosure of the video taken of them beating a handcuffed man."
Video of the March 30 melee surfaced online this week. Police erased the 135-second recording from Mwamba’s phone, but it was recovered from her cloud account, according to the lawsuit.
Mwamba was driving home from a family gathering in March. Stopped in traffic, she began filming the nearby arrest of a man who she says was kicked by police. On the video we hear the following:
"You telling me I can't record," the woman says on the video as police tell her to move on.
"I'll park. I'll park. I'll park," the woman is heard saying in her own recording.
All of a sudden an officer says,"Out of the car. Out of the car."
After she is reportedly yanked out of her car, the woman is heard screaming, “He burning me. He burning me.”
Mwamba was arrested on charges of assault for allegedly trying to run over two officers. Charges were dropped, and she suffered cuts and bruises.
At the end of the tape, an officer says, "You a dumb bitch, you know that?"
"What did I do?" she asks.
"You just tried to run over an officer," the officer responds.
While in custody, she gave her phone to an officer to show that in the video she didn't try to run over anyone. The video was allegedly erased from the phone in what her attorney, Joshua Insley, described in a telephone interview as a "cover-up."
The police department said in a statement that the language the officer used was "both offensive and unacceptable."
"The video does not capture enough information to draw definitive conclusions about what transpired before, during, and after the arrest," the department said. "What is clear is that the language used is unacceptable and will not be tolerated."
Meanwhile, the handcuffed man was Cordell Bruce, who faces assault charges on allegations of striking an officer outside a nightclub – charges Bruce denies. The video does not capture him being beaten by police.
The lawsuit comes as the Baltimore Police Department has been undertaking broad reforms due to a pattern of forceful of arrests and complaints. This year, there have been 66 complaints over forceful arrests, compared to 122 in all of 2012. The department has also received 55 notices from lawyers planning to sue police. Those have dropped a third from the number in 2012, the Sun reported.
But the Sun found that some Baltimore officers were involved in multiple lawsuits and there were gaps in monitoring misconduct at the department.
“The police department has asked the U.S. Justice Department to review how the city paid $5.7 million in court judgment and settlements in 102 civil suits alleging police brutality since 2011,” the newspaper reported.
And in other police brutality news........
A police officer from Victoria, Tex., was placed on administrative leave on Friday after he used a stun gun on a 76-year-old driver he had pulled over for driving a car with an expired inspection sticker.
Dashboard camera video shows the officer, Nathanial Robinson, tackling Pete Vasquez to the ground in an attempt to handcuff him. Police said that Robinson, 23, used the a Taser on the man twice.
The incident occurred on Thursday, when Vasquez, who works as a mechanic, was pulled over while driving a dealer car back to the lot at Adam’s Auto Mart. Robinson left his patrol vehicle and pointed out the expired sticker, the dashboard camera shows. He appears to reach for Vasquez’s arm, but the man pulls away.
“I’m putting the handcuffs on. Put your hands on the back of your back,” Vasquez said Robinson told him “And then I turn around, and he pulls that Taser, and he shot me with it. And, you know, it looked like he’s enjoying that.”
According to the audio of a conversation with another officer on the scene, which was included in the dashboard camera footage, Vasquez said: “He came over here and got nasty with me. I’m not going to put up with it, I don’t care who it is. Then he grabbed me an throw me on the pavement there, almost knocked my head on that d— poll, then he started Tasing.”
“I hit my knees and my back… my shoulder and everything else,” Vasquez said.
According to Vasquez, the officer discharged the Taser once to his chest when they fell to the ground, then again in the leg when Robinson demanded that Vasquez stand up.
Several witnesses saw the incident, including Larry Urich, a 62-year-old sales manager at the dealership
“I told the officer, ‘What in the hell are you doing?’ This gentleman is 76 years old,” Urich said, according to the Advocate. “The cop told me to stand back, but I didn’t shut up. I told him he was a [expletive] Nazi Stormtrooper.”
The department has launched an internal investigation into the arrest as well as a criminal investigation. According to the Advocate, Robinson was hired by the police force two years ago after he graduated from the police academy.
Urich said Vasquez tried to explain to Robinson that the car belonged to the dealer and had special dealer’s plates that did not require a current inspection sticker, KPRC reported. The dashcam video clearly shows Vasquez pointing out the car’s license plate to the officer.
Victoria Police Chief J.J. Craig confirmed that while an expired inspection sticker is usually addressed with a citation, cars with dealer tags are exempt.
Craig said he personally apologized to Vasquez, who was not charged with any wrongdoing, according to the Advocate.
“Public trust is extremely important to us,” said Craig, according to the Advocate. “Sometimes that means you have to take a real hard look at some of the actions that occur within the department.”
Vasquez was taken to the hospital, still handcuffed, in a police car.
“There should have been an ambulance called for this elderly gentleman,” Urlich, who followed the police car to the hospital, told the Advocate. “He should not have been handcuffed to go to the emergency room when he had not done anything wrong.”
“It sickens me,” Urich said.
It sickens me too!