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Baltimore officials approve $110K payment to settle suit alleging false arrest

Baltimore officials approved a $110,000 payment Wednesday to settle allegations made by two people who said police arrested them after they sought help following a "road rage" incident.

The payment, approved by the Board of Estimates, settles a lawsuit brought by Ivan Pratt Sr. and Carlynn Smith against the Baltimore Police Department, including Sgt. Terrence McGowan, Sgt. Mark Moore and Officer Alejandro Pena. Pratt and Smith alleged false arrest and false imprisonment.

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The allegations stem from Sept. 8, 2013, when the plaintiffs were driving on Hanover Street in Baltimore. Their minor child and Pratt's brother were in the back seat.

While they were driving, another car on the road prevented them from changing lanes, cut them off, and its occupants began throwing objects out of the window, breaking the windshield on Smith's vehicle, according to documents submitted to the Board of Estimates.

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The occupants of the other car got out, threatened violence and struck the car, the plaintiffs said.

The plaintiffs believed they were victims of a road rage incident and racial hostility. They spotted a police vehicle and tried to get help.

But the occupants of the other vehicle were already talking to police, and the two sides began yelling at each other. Each side blamed the other for causing the incident, according to the city.

Officers called for backup, and police arrested Pratt, Smith and Pratt's brother. Smith's car was towed. She had to be taken to the hospital after being arrested because she is diabetic and suffered a dangerous rise in her blood sugar, city officials said.

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Pratt was in jail for five days facing charges of first-degree assault. He said he was passed over for promotions at his job as a result of the felony charge.

Charges against Pratt and Smith were later dismissed.

New city solicitor Andre Davis, a former federal appeals court judge, said Wednesday that city officials decided to settle the lawsuit after conducting a "thorough investigation."

Davis said a "total success in de-escalation would have resulted in no arrest." But he added: "In this instance, the officers seem to have done the best they could do, given the circumstances."

Davis said he believes city officials have been "very reasonable" in handling allegations against police officers. But he said he expects to see fewer incidents of misconduct, as reforms overseen by the Department of Justice are implemented.

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