Moving quickly to quell resident concerns about police actions during the arrest of four at Gilmor Homes on Wednesday, a top Baltimore police commander walked the housing project and assigned investigators to look into the case.
Residents of the West Baltimore development said city police acted aggressively when arresting people who had flocked to intervene in a struggle between a man and officers. Some said an officer used a Taser on a woman holding a young child.
Deputy Commissioner Jerry Rodriguez said he personally viewed city surveillance camera footage of the incident and disputed the witness accounts, saying the woman had handed off the child before she was struck with the Taser. Still, he said, the agency wanted to fully investigate the case and reassure residents.
"I've seen a tape where another lady … took the baby before that particular encounter. We have that on tape," Rodriguez said. "Just because the baby was not in her hands — I'm not saying that mitigates everything or that we're not looking at it. We're looking at it very seriously."
After the incident, Rodriguez said, he walked through the area with the major of the Western District and the head of internal affairs. He said police would like to see civilian footage taken from alternative angles.
"While they were unhappy with the incident, they were very grateful and pleased that we were there and were willing to take their statements," Rodriguez said.
Rodriguez said the department is committed to investigating allegations of police misconduct. The department's Force Investigation Team, which investigates controversial or serious uses of force, was assigned to investigate the case.
The arrests drew officers from all over the area. Residents, some of whom recorded video and took pictures with their cellphones, said a man had been stopped by police near the 1600 block of Presbury St. and there was an altercation, causing others to approach the scene.
A cellphone video showed a man with two officers on top of him, including one who appears to have his knee in the man's back as they handcuff him. That tape does not show what precipitated the struggle.
Kevin Lawson, who said he is the vice president of the Gilmor Homes neighborhood association, said the man being arrested was upset because police "slammed his phone to the ground."
Lawson was among those who said police hit the woman with a Taser while she was holding the child. "They ain't have no business doing that while she had a baby in her hands," Lawson said.
Another resident showed cellphone photos of the woman holding a young child on her hip. The witness said the photos were taken moments before the Taser incident occurred. A cellphone video of the Taser strike does not clearly show what transpired.
Police said they could not release surveillance footage.
Police said the first man was stopped after police believed they saw a drug transaction. The other three arrestees were being interviewed and had not been charged as of Wednesday evening, Rodriguez said.