The city's spending board has approved a $100,000 settlement to a 65-year-old man who claimed in a civil suit that he was beaten by police officers who mistook his cigarette for a marijuana joint.
The Board of Estimates voted Wednesday to pay the money and end a $5 million lawsuit filed in Baltimore Circuit Court by Lornell Felder.
Felder contended that in April 2009, he was standing in front of his house on Elmley Avenue rolling a tobacco cigarette when two plainclothes police officers jumped out of an unmarked sport utility vehicle and ran toward him.
Felder said in the suit that he had no idea the men were officers, that he tried to run and yelled to his wife, "Call the police." His suit says that the officers tackled him and one said, " 'We are the police,' as they continued to beat Mr. Felder in his head, face and body."
He was hospitalized, handcuffed to the bed and held for several days before being released. Prosecutors did not press charges.
City Solicitor George Nilson said in an email to The Baltimore Sun that "as a result of an honest mistake [Felder] … was accosted by officers in front of his home and he started yelling and resisting when they detained him, and one thing led to another."
Nilson said Felder did not know the men were police officers and that he was not holding marijuana, but "it turned out he was rolling an old fashion cigarette." Nilson described Felder as a "citizen with a totally clean record over many years, a church deacon and a pillar of his community."
The officers named in the lawsuit are Matthew T. Dinunno and Ronnie Waters Jr.
Anthony Guglielmi, a police spokesman, said Dinunno is on active duty, assigned to the Violent Crime Impact Sectio. He said Waters is also on active duty, assigned to the Northeast District.