A Baltimore police officer was convicted Tuesday of second-degree assault and misconduct in office for tackling a teenager and beating him with his Taser near City Hall in July 2016, prosecutors said.
A Baltimore City Circuit Court jury found Officer Carlos Rivera-Martinez guilty of hitting Melvin Townes, then 16, repeatedly in the face and head with his Taser after chasing him on North Gay Street at about 2 a.m. July 5, 2016 — despite the teen stopping, turning around, kneeling and putting his hands in the air.
“Police officers are trained to use violence as a last resort to deescalate incidents,” State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby said in a statement. “This defendant abused his power and victimized this young person after he complied with the officers. I am pleased a jury has held him accountable for his actions, and he will have to face the consequences for his behavior.”
The incident, captured on closed-circuit television footage, occurred after the strip clubs on The Block in the 400 block of Baltimore St. let out and officers sought to clear the area. The teenager told the jury he had been passing through and stopped when he saw police arresting someone, prompting an argument and a foot chase that ended in the assault.
The 32-year-old officer had been suspended without pay from the Police Department amid a nearly two-year review since being charged. An upcoming trial board hearing, which has not yet been scheduled, will determine his future with the department.
“He is now facing dismissal,” police spokesman Matt Jablow said in a statement.
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Mike Mancuso, president of the Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 3, which represents rank-and-file officers, condemned the verdict in a statement.
“We are appalled by this action and see it as even more evidence that, despite our best efforts, we continue to work in an environment that is in increasingly anti-police, enforced by a judicial system that feels compelled to strike out at our good work,” Mancuso said in a statement. “As a result, Baltimore has become a murderous city that is recognized, nationally, not for our efforts to improve, but rather for our continued fall into the abyss of anarchy and lawlessness.”
Mancuso urged members to “continue to do the work that is required of you,” though he cautioned Martinez’s conviction — despite his “obvious innocence” — “could well happen to each of us.”
“Those who sit in judgment of us believe that murderers can be changed with hugs and prayers. They refuse to see that police work and the use of force can be ugly, but necessary, at times,” he said in a statement. “This, however, does not mean that the involved officer has done anything wrong.”
Chaz R. Ball, the attorney who represented Rivera-Martinez, did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the verdict.
Rivera-Martinez faces a maximum of 10 years in prison for second-degree assault. Misconduct in office does not carry a statutory sentence. He is scheduled to be sentenced August 9.