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Odenton man sues Anne Arundel police claiming detective knelt on his neck

Daniel Jarrells, pictured on the ground, sued Anne Arundel County, its police department and three detectives for a February 2019 encounter in Gambrills. The lawsuit claims the detectives pulled him over for no reason and eventually threw him to the ground and knelt on his neck.
Daniel Jarrells, pictured on the ground, sued Anne Arundel County, its police department and three detectives for a February 2019 encounter in Gambrills. The lawsuit claims the detectives pulled him over for no reason and eventually threw him to the ground and knelt on his neck. (Courtesy Photo)

An Odenton man has sued Anne Arundel County, its police department and three detectives, claiming the officers pulled him over in February 2019 and arrested him without reason and then one knelt on his neck despite his yelling that he couldn’t breathe.

The lawsuit claims that Daniel Jarrells, and his friend, both of whom are Black, were driving to his mother’s house in Gambrills when they were followed and pulled over for no apparent reason by white detectives driving an unmarked vehicle. The incident escalated and, eventually, the officers threw Jarrells to the ground, with one pinning his knee to Jarrells’ neck, the complaint claims.

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Bystanders captured parts of the arrest on video and one video shows a detective take Jarrells, now 27, to the ground and kneel on his neck area.

“It’s a shocking video. It is brutal. It is violent,” said Nicholas Bernard, one of the lawyers representing Jarrells. “Seeing a police officer behave that way is completely unacceptable ... absolutely unconscionable.”

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The lawsuit names detectives Joshua Shapiro, Daniel Reynolds, who the complaint claims kneeled on Jarrells’ neck, and Brian Ranck. The department declined to answer questions about the officers.

No internal affairs complaint was filed following the incident, said Sgt. Jacklyn Davis, police department spokesperson. She declined to comment further, citing the pending case.

Prosecutors dropped the charges against Jarrells. Tia Lewis, a spokeswoman for the State’s Attorney’s Office, said a judge denied prosecutor’s request for a delay after a police witness couldn’t make it to court and also that police arrested Jarrells improperly.

“Additionally, the police report indicated that Jarrells was placed under arrest for fleeing and eluding,” Lewis said. “The prosecutor further determined that this was not an arrestable offense in this situation because the officers were not in uniform or in a marked police vehicle.”

Jarrells seeks more than $75,000 in damages, for the county to cover his attorney’s fees and for the police department to formally bar its officers from restraining the neck of a person they’re arresting.

County Executive Steuart Pittman said he was disturbed by reading the lawsuit.

“Since that time I’ve been on the phone, asking questions and getting information,” Pittman said. “I was disturbed by what I read in this complaint, and I’m not done asking questions. This investigation will be transparent and justice will be served.”

Officers’ account of the encounter, told through police reports and charging documents, differs from that described in the lawsuit.

Police wrote in a report that they pulled Jarrells over because the two-door BMW had a Lyft sticker, which they described as suspicious because the ride-sharing company requires four-door vehicles. In another report, a detective wrote that the owner of the car, which Jarrells said he was borrowing from a friend, had been arrested recently for drug possession with intent to distribute and possession of a gun.

The lawsuit claims inconsistencies in the detectives’ reasoning for pulling Jarrells over, and that they never told Jarrells what he was being arrested for.

Detectives wrote that Jarrells was later served two outstanding arrest warrants, though it’s unclear from court records what those warrants were for.

Officers initiated a traffic stop with lights and sirens, but Jarrells tried to “elude” them for a quarter-mile before stopping, police wrote in the report and charging documents for Jarrells. They also said that Jarrells friend, Lamar Redfield, had been opening the passenger’s door while the car was moving as if getting ready to run.

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Detectives approached with their guns drawn, according to police and the lawsuit.

One video depicts detectives approaching the vehicle with weapons drawn and handcuffing Jarrells and Redfield. A detective says to Jarrells “get out of the car or I’m going to Tase you,” right after he holstered his taser. Jarrells called out toward a house in the 2600 block of April Dawn Way, the video shows.

Police wrote that they detained Redfield in handcuffs and arrested Jarrells for fleeing and eluding. Police put Jarrells in the front seat of a patrol car but said they heard a commotion shortly thereafter.

They claimed he was trying to kick through the window and windshield of the police car, though the lawsuit claims there were no signs of damage. Detectives wrote they opened the door and pulled Jarrells out of the car, at which point he tried to escape.

But another video shows detectives take Jarrells from the front seat of a police car and put him on the ground. As one detective appears to kneel on Jarrells’ neck area, another twists his legs behind his back and kneels on them.

The detective who knelt on Jarrells wrote that he pressed against Jarrells’ shoulder, another fact the lawsuit disputes.

Jarrells and one detective exchanged expletives, the second video shows. Jarrells yells at the detective for what he described as slamming his head into the ground while in handcuffs. As the officer has him pinned, Jarrells shouts “I can’t even breathe,” the approximately one-minute long video shows.

“The officers’ violent and dangerous actions toward Daniel were not justified by any police or public safety necessity,” the lawsuit claims.

Jarrells sustained cuts to his face after being thrown to the ground and pinned by his neck, the lawsuit claims.

Detectives called Jarrells’ injuries “self-inflicted” and blamed them on his “thrashing around on the pavement.”

Police wrote that they took Jarrells to the station in a “caged car” and that from there they escorted him, his hands and feet cuffed, in the back of an ambulance to be treated at Baltimore Washington Medical Center. They said the Jarrells was yelling at fire department personnel who were there to treat him.

Meanwhile, police had the car searched by a drug-sniffing dog. Police said they found cartridges of THC, the main component of marijuana. The lawsuit claims it was actually CBD, or hemp oil, which contains small percentage of THC and is not considered an illegal drug, according to the Drug Enforcement Administration.

Jarrells was charged with misdemeanor counts of disorderly conduct, resisting or interfering with arrest and simple drug possession, court records show. All of the charges were dropped by prosecutors.

His attorney in the criminal case, John Robinson, told The Capital that prosecutors dropped the charges after he showed them the video.

“It was a pretty atrocious video,” Robinson said, adding that the charging document “reads like a nice work of fiction when you watch the videotape.”

Though the arrest occurred over a year ago, the lawsuit was filed just months after George Floyd, a Black man, was killed by a white Minneapolis police officer. The officer pressed his knee against Floyd’s neck for almost nine minutes, ignoring Floyd’s pleas that he couldn’t breathe.

Bernard said Jarrells brought them the case last fall and called the timing of filing the suit a coincidence.

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Anne Arundel Police Chief Timothy Altomare denounced the conduct of the officers involved in Floyd’s death and the department released a FAQ about its use of force policies. Officials said the department does not teach its officers to use neck restraints, which is considered by the department as deadly force, and that all use of force incidents are reviewed.

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“It’s clearly not just one officer,” Bernard said. “It’s all the officers involved that failed to meet the standard that the chief said was in place.”

The complaint claims the incident wasn’t reviewed by police as outlined in the recently released fact sheet. The department’s use of force policy “is silent on neck restraints or strikes to the neck,” the complaint claims.

Attorneys from the Joseph Greenwald & Laake firm representing Jarrells further accused the officers, police department and county government of excessive force, assault, battery, false imprisonment, false arrest, and violation of his constitutional rights.

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