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Man dies in Baltimore County police custody after officers use Taser

Baltimore Co. Police Chief Melissa Hyatt responds to a question about a man who died after being tased while taken into custody.

An Owings Mills man died while in police custody after officers “deployed” a Taser during an encounter with him, Baltimore County Police said Wednesday morning.

Gamel Antonio Brown, 30, was pronounced dead at a local hospital, where he had gone into cardiac arrest, according to police.

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At 11:18 p.m. Tuesday night, police went to a home in the unit block of Gwynnswood Road in Owings Mills after a call for an injured person and attempted to provide assistance, police said.

At the home, officer encountered Brown, whose demeanor “suddenly changed and he became volatile and extremely combative with the officers,” police said Wednesday. Police then “deployed a Taser,” officials said.

Cpl. Shawn Vinson, a spokesman for the department, said he was unable to confirm Wednesday afternoon whether Brown was hit with the Taser or whether Brown was the person who called 911. Vinson said he could not provide detail about the incident “because it is so early in the investigation at this time.”

A Taser, the only brand of stun gun used by law enforcement officers in Maryland, fires electrified darts that incapacitate suspects long enough for them to be handcuffed.

Baltimore County Chief of Police Melissa Hyatt said during a Wednesday morning press conference that the incident was under investigation and that she did not have more details to provide.

“Of course, with any investigation, and certainly with an in-custody death, we will ensure that the police department will conduct a thorough investigation covering all aspects of the incident,” Hyatt said.

Police did not respond to a question about whether the department would release any footage from officers’ body-worn cameras of the incident.

Baltimore County does not have a written policy that dictates when body-worn camera footage is publicly released. County Executive Johnny Olszewski has called for the department to release such footage “more frequently.”

Sean Naron, an Olszewski spokesman, said the county executive believes footage of the incident should be released after a thorough investigation.

Baltimore County Councilman Izzy Patoka, a Democrat who represents Owings Mills, said he had been briefed Wednesday morning on the incident, but did not know any more details than what had been reported by police.

Patoka called the incident a tragedy for Brown’s family and for Baltimore County.

There were no visible signs of police activity Wednesday afternoon along Gwynnswood Road. One resident of the block, who declined to give her name, said she had not heard anything the night before.

The Owings Mills incident comes less than two weeks after a 76-year-old woman’s arrest in Gwynn Oak was captured on video that showed an officer pulling her out of her house and then a second officer tossing her to the ground.

Hyatt called “unsettling” and the woman, Rena Mellerson, said the arrest has left her in pain. Her family members said they have been unable to sleep and left “scarred.”

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In previous years, Baltimore County police ranked second among Maryland agencies with the highest number of Taser uses. Between 2012 and 2014, the department reported 367 Taser discharges, according to a 2016 investigation by The Baltimore Sun. The Sun found officers statewide used the devices mostly against suspects who posed no immediate threat, and officers didn’t follow safety recommendations from policing organizations and the manufacturer.

County police have faced scrutiny for past use of Tasers.

In 2007, three officers used a Taser 10 times on Ryan Meyers, 40. Police reportedly entered a Middle River home for a domestic violence call, and used the Taser because Meyers refused to drop a baseball bat. Meyers’ family said the Taser still was being used on the mentally ill man after he fell to the ground and stopped resisting arrest. Meyers’ family said he went into cardiac arrest and died due to the Taser use.

In May 2010, county police said Carl D’Andre Johnson got into a rumble with officers after crashing his Toyota pickup truck near a busy highway interchange, and continued fighting after officers used pepper spray and a Taser. Shortly after the Windsor Mill man was jolted a second time, county police said Johnson, 48, lost consciousness and was later pronounced dead at a hospital.

Another incident occurred in December 2015 after three officers twice tried to use a Taser on Jeffrey Gene Evans, 52, before they fatally shot him in his Middle River home. Officers were called because his girlfriend reported Evans had taken a large number of pills.

And in June 2016, an officer responded to a call in Rosedale because witnesses reported Charles Chapman was disrobing on a ramp from U.S. 40 onto Interstate 695. The officer said he used his Taser because Chapman approached him with clenched fist. A supervisor who later reviewed the Taser camera footage said the officer “embellished” Chapman’s actions to justify the Taser use.

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