City officials on Wednesday approved a $300,000 settlement in a wrongful death lawsuit brought by the family of Anthony Anderson, who died after he was tackled by a police officer in 2012.
Officers stopped Anderson, 46, on Sept. 21, 2012, in a vacant lot where they said he failed to respond to commands, prompting one officer to use a "bear hug" maneuver, according to a description of the incident presented to the Board of Estimates.
Anderson died shortly after arriving at a hospital.
"Hopefully, with the way we have been trying to reform, that moving down the line you don't see these" in-custody deaths and resulting settlements, said City Councilman Brandon M. Scott, chair of the public safety committee.
Since Anderson's death in 2012, police departments across the country have come under greater scrutiny because of several highly-publicized in-custody deaths, which have prompted calls for policing reforms.
The city has paid more than $13 million to settle lawsuits alleging police misconduct since 2011. In 2015, the city agreed to pay $6.4 million to the family of Freddie Gray, a 25-year-old whose death a week after sustaining a severe spinal injury in the back of a police van prompted unrest in the city.
Last month, the city and the U.S. Department of Justice signed a consent decree, which if approved by a federal judge will mandate reforms aimed at restoring community trust in the police department and ensuring that officers work within the bounds of the Constitution.
J. Wyndal Gordon, the attorney for the Anderson family, said he hopes such reforms will lead to fewer cases of alleged police brutality.
"I'm hopeful the reforms will make the police department better... but also I am realizing the reforms are the first part," Gordon said. "We also have to reign in behavior."
Officers can't protect a community they fear, he said. Police must familiarize themselves with the community, rather then be quick to pull their guns out.
Gordon said Anderson's family continues to struggle with his death, and that the settlement will help bring them closure.
"Anytime they have to discuss it, it is like reopening an old wound," Gordon said.
Anderson's mother — who brought the suit after her son's death — died in August 2015.
The suit was filed against the Baltimore Police Department, the mayor and city council, along with Officers Todd Strohman, Gregg Boyd, and Michael Vodarick. All three remain employed with the department.
In court filings, Anderson's family claimed the officers' actions caused his death, and that the take-down maneuver they used to subdue him was excessive.
The officers said they stopped Anderson after witnessing a suspected drug transaction, according to police. They said Anderson did not comply with commands, and an officer said he saw Anderson slip a plastic baggie into his mouth.
Strohman took Anderson down to the ground, causing eight broken ribs, lung bruises and the spleen lacerations that killed him, according to an autopsy.
A loose pill and the bag fell out of Anderson's mouth, which were later found to have been four heroin gel capsules.
Then-Baltimore State's Attorney Gregg L. Bernstein's office declined to bring charges in the death, finding that the officers did not use excessive force. All three officers remain with the department, according to an online city salary database.
The settlement protects the city from payouts in federal court, where the amount wouldn't be subject to a state cap that limits how much people injured by police can collect in civil lawsuits. In 2015, legislation was passed increasing the state cap from $200,000 to $400,000. It marked the cap's first increase in nearly 30 years.