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Court: Police officer didn’t use excessive force in breaking up Maryland bar fight

On Behalf of | Feb 24, 2020 | assault |

A Maryland man was unsuccessful recently in his attempt to hold a state trooper responsible for the alleged use of excessive force in handling allegedly disorderly conduct at a Cecil County bar. The Court of Special Appeals ruled that the trooper did not use excessive force when he executed a “takedown maneuver” to break up the disorderly behavior.

At the saloon

The court’s ruling started with an altercation at a Cecil County restaurant/bar, the Nauti-Goose Saloon, in the early morning hours of Aug. 24, 2013. King anchored his 27-foot sailboat a short distance from the bar, taking a dinghy the remaining distance to the restaurant. While inside the bar, the friends “drank alcohol and dispersed to different locations in the bar,” according to the court’s opinion.

Around midnight, “King was visibly intoxicated and was dancing barefoot on the dance floor,” the court said in the opinion. One of King’s friends threw a beer bottle off the deck of the bar and into the river while another grabbed two empty beer bottles from the tables and tossed them into a storm drain. Hearing breaking glass, a bouncer asked King’s friends to leave and then the bouncer started acting aggressively, one of King’s friends said in a deposition. A Maryland state trooper was also working at the bar. The bouncers asked the men to leave but they refused because there were waiting for King to leave the restaurant.

Around this time, King was on the deck of the bar and was told by a bouncer that he needed to leave. He resisted as he was escorted down the stairs. King walked to the parking lot where his friends were arguing with the bouncers. The trooper testified that he had been told that bar’s security employees were dealing with several men acting in a “disorderly manner,” so he approached King and asked him to leave the bar.

After King allegedly said he was going to stab the trooper, the officer executed a takedown maneuver on King, causing the man to hit his head on the pavement. The trooper testified that the statement combined with his aggressive behavior and apparent intoxicated state caused concern that King had a concealed knife or sharp weapon and would harm the trooper or the other people at the scene. After the trooper executed the takedown maneuver, King was unconscious and bleeding from his ears. The trooper requested emergency medical services.

A blood test revealed that King had a blood alcohol concentration of 267 mg/L, with an estimate that his alcohol concentration at the time of the event was .25 percent.

King was charged with four misdemeanors – assault in the second degree, trespass on private property, disorderly conduct, failure to obey a reasonable and lawful order and resisting arrest. He entered a plea of not guilty on an agreed statement of facts to the charge of disorderly conduct. The state agreed to nolle pros – not to pursue — the remaining counts. The court then imposed probation before judgment (PBJ), requiring King to attend an alcohol treatment program as a condition of probation.

Excessive use of force

King filed a civil suit in the Circuit Court for Cecil County, alleging excessive force, negligent hiring, etc. against several defendants, including the trooper and the restaurant/bar. As part of his case, King obtained an affidavit from a former deputy chief of police testifying that the trooper had used excessive force when he did the takedown maneuver, explaining that a reasonable law enforcement officer would not take an intoxicated suspect to the ground under those circumstances.

The circuit court ruled for the defendants on summary judgment, finding the officer’s conduct to be reasonable based upon the threat. King appealed. King argued on appeal, among other things, that the trooper could have used alternative measures. The Court of Special Appeals said it presumed that the trial court judge knew the law and followed it and after reviewing the court’s ruling, it could not conclude that the trial court improperly applied the law.

A Baltimore bar fight lawyer can help you with your bar fight charge. Your Ocean City bar fight attorney can go over the facts of your case to help determine how best to fight the disorderly conduct accusations. The consultation is free. The attorneys at The Law Offices of Thomas J. Maronick have experience with bar fight defense throughout Maryland, including Glen Burnie, Ocean City, Easton, Silver Spring, Bel Air and Catonsville. You can contact Thomas Maronick on his cellphone at 410-881-4022, the law office at 410-881-4022 or via the website for a free consultation.



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