Attorneys ask court to force Baltimore police to release details in shooting of boy with BB gun

Attorneys ask court to force the hand of Baltimore police as they prepare lawsuit alleging excessive force

Attorneys building a case against Baltimore police are asking a court to force the department to name all the officers involved in the shooting last year of a boy carrying a BB gun and the arrest of his mother.

The attorneys are seeking a court order for badge numbers and police reports from the April 2016 shooting of Dedric Colvin, 14, in East Baltimore. They intend to sue the department for "excessive force, illegal arrest, false imprisonment, deprivation of liberty and property, false arrest, assault, battery," they wrote in a complaint filed last week in Baltimore Circuit Court.

State law bars the attorneys from suing an unnamed officer.

On April 27, Colvin was walking to neighborhood basketball courts near East Baltimore and Aisquith streets to show friends a BB gun he found in an alley behind his house, his attorneys wrote. Two plainclothes officers began running toward Dedric. The boy ran and the officers yelled for him to stop.

"Dedric informed them the gun was 'just a toy' and 'not real' and threw the BB gun to the ground," his attorneys wrote. "As Dedric, who was unarmed, proceeded to kneel to the ground with his hands in the air, one of the officers fired two shots at him, striking him twice."

Dedric, an eighth-grader at City Springs Middle School at the time, was shot once in the shoulder and once in the calf. He was hospitalized for several days.

Baltimore Police Commissioner Kevin Davis defended the officers, saying police can't afford to hesitate and determine if a gun is real. After the shooting, the department held a news conference and displayed a Beretta semiautomatic pistol and identical-looking BB gun side by side.

Davis said one witnesses reported that Dedric was still holding the BB gun when he stopped and turned toward officers. The witness, Davis said, described the boy as raising the gun.

In December, the Baltimore City Council — citing Dedric's case — banned toy or replica guns that resemble working handguns and rifles. Gun-rights advocates opposed the bill, which set fines of $250 for carrying replica guns.

The shooting of Dedric recalled the death of Tamir Rice, the 12-year-old Cleveland boy who was fatally shot by a police officer in November 2014 after he brandished a toy gun in a public park. The city of Cleveland agreed to pay $6 million to settle a federal lawsuit brought by Rice's family.

Police identified the officer who shot Dedric as Thomas Smith, a 12-year veteran. Smith and another officer, a six-year veteran who was not named, were leaving police headquarters when they saw the boy walking with the BB gun.

Dedric's mother, Volanda Young, found her son shot in the street. Davis has said Young was acting belligerent, and his officers made a judgment call during a tense situation. Neither the mother nor her son will be charged, Davis has said.

Attorneys for the family want the names and badge numbers of officers who detained Young and any other officers involved in the shooting of Dedric. The law firm representing the family, Murphy, Falcon & Murphy, won a $6.4 million settlement for the family of Freddie Gray, the 25-year-old man who died in April 2015 after sustaining a severe spinal injury in police custody.

The attorneys wrote that their requests for records of Dedric's shooting have been refused by police amid an ongoing investigation.

The investigation into the shooting remains open. Police routinely withhold such evidence and records until investigations conclude. But the attorneys risk surpassing the statute of limitations for any legal action if they continue to wait, they told the court.

tprudente@baltsun.com

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