Violent arrest by Baltimore police officer caught on video

The Baltimore Sun

A South Baltimore man filed a lawsuit Monday against a city police officer, accusing the officer of punching him repeatedly during a June arrest — an incident that was captured on video.

Kollin Truss and Officer Vincent E. Cosom argued a few moments before the arrest, but a woman with Truss had separated the pair, and Truss was apparently walking away from police when they decided to make an arrest.

"This attack was completely unprovoked and served no legitimate law enforcement purpose," Truss' attorneys, Ivan J. Bates and Tony N. Garcia, wrote in a complaint filed in Baltimore Circuit Court.

"We are aware of the allegations that have been made," police spokeswoman Lt. Sarah Connolly said in a statement. "The Internal Affairs Division is conducting a thorough investigation and is asking that anyone with any information or evidence pertaining to this incident come forward."

Cosom, a six-year veteran, remains on active duty, Connolly said. The police union and Cosom, who made about $69,000 in the last fiscal year, could not be reached for comment.

Truss' lawyers provided The Baltimore Sun a portion of the video, which was captured by city surveillance cameras, and a reporter reviewed the entire video.

The incident began in the early hours of June 15 outside a liquor store at Greenmount and North avenues, according to the lawsuit. The video has no sound but shows Truss, 32, and Cosom arguing.

In a police report on the incident, Cosom wrote that he twice asked Truss to leave the area. But while heading into the store, Cosom wrote, Truss replied with an expletive and added, "I'll see you when I get outside."

The video shows Truss talking with Cosom and gesturing with a soda cup before Truss' girlfriend, Stephanie Coleman, came between him and the officer. She began walking with Truss across the street, the video shows.

Coleman and Truss crossed to the other side of Greenmount Avenue and were followed by Cosom and two unidentified police officers.

At that point, Cosom wrote in a statement of charges, Truss "pushed the female with open hands three times."

Cosom wrote that he decided to arrest Truss, but when he approached, Truss adopted a fighting stance and clenched a fist. "Me and the male got into a physical altercation due to me being in fear of my safety, and I received a punch to the body," the officer wrote.

The video raises questions about the officer's account. In the footage, Truss had a bag in one hand and Coleman was holding his other arm as they paused near a bus stop. Cosom stepped around a group of bystanders before launching a blow that connected with Truss' upper body, sending him reeling backward, the video shows.

Then Cosom delivered a series of punches, some while another officer held Truss' right arm against the side of the bus stop, the video shows. The blows knocked Truss' cap to the ground.

According to the lawsuit, Central Booking and Intake Center refused to admit Truss for processing until he saw a doctor, so officers took him to Mercy Medical Center for treatment.

Truss — whose criminal record includes convictions for drug offenses and a firearms charge — was charged with assaulting Cosom and Coleman.

Coleman could not be reached for comment.

Truss' attorneys wrote in the lawsuit that the video does not support Cosom's account. Coleman was pushing Truss down the sidewalk, and any action he took to stop her was legally justified, they wrote.

"Truss was in a totally defenseless position, attempting to walk away, when he was beaten by Defendant Officer Cosom," the lawyers wrote.

Prosecutors dropped the charges against Truss after reviewing the video, according to the lawsuit, which seeks $5 million in damages. The city state's attorney's office did not respond to a request for comment.

Truss alleges that he suffered blows to the head and body during the incident and that the arrest led to his missing work and not being offered any more temp jobs from his agency. The lawsuit makes a number of allegations against Cosom, including assault, battery and false arrest.

City police officials say they have been revamping procedures for investigating the use of force by officers, creating an investigative team for such incidents and vowing to be more transparent in the way cases are handled.

The department also has posted a list of those cases online; only one of them is noted as being completed. It deals with an April 4 incident involving a man who ran into a parked car while fleeing from police and was left paralyzed.

The man was being pursued by two officers, and though witnesses alleged that the man was hit by officers, the investigative team said it found no evidence to support that.

Instead, investigators concluded the man tripped and fell, causing his injuries. The two officers, identified only as "Sergeant A" and Detective "B" in the report, as well as two others — identified only as Officers "C" and "D" — were cleared of wrongdoing.

The department lists 27 other open investigations into police use of force. Truss' case is not among them.

iduncan@baltsun.com

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