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Prosecutor probes Baltimore detective's account of punching

Two men say an off duty Baltimore police detective, Michael McSpadden, handcuffed and assaulted them in a Baltimore garage in June 2012. One said McSpadden, who was moonlighting in uniform, punched him in the face.

Baltimore police Detective Michael McSpadden is being investigated by the city prosecutor's office after The Baltimore Sun publicized a video that conflicted with his account of a 2012 arrest in which he punched a man.

State's Attorney Gregg L. Bernstein's office confirmed the "ongoing investigation" this week, but a spokesman declined to comment further. McSpadden, who has been suspended from duty, declined to comment.

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The city settled a lawsuit in July for $62,000 stemming from McSpadden's 2012 arrest of Bolaji Obe at the Water Street parking garage. It was the fifth lawsuit against McSpadden since he joined the force in 1993.

In such settlements, neither the officer nor the city acknowledges wrongdoing.

McSpadden wrote in charging documents that he struck Obe after he "assumed an aggressive stance, clenched his fist and postured his body like he was going to attack." McSpadden said he hit Obe, who "fell to the ground and was handcuffed without further incident."

The security camera video, however, shows that McSpadden handcuffed Obe, who was sitting on a stool in the parking garage's office. McSpadden left and re-entered the office, moving to a spot outside the camera's view. Obe can then be seen falling off the stool to the ground outside the office.

With his arms clearly handcuffed behind his back, Obe lay motionless until McSpadden wiped something off his face. The officer lifted Obe off the ground and leaned him against a wall.

Obe was later cleared of criminal charges.

Police leaders say they didn't know the video existed until The Sun presented it to them Oct. 3. That day, they said McSpadden was suspended.

An investigation by the prosecutor's office does not necessarily mean that criminal charges will follow.

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City lawyers did not understand the full extent of McSpadden's string of lawsuits until this July — after The Sun started asking questions about the officer. The Law Department was unaware that McSpadden was battling two lawsuits at the same time arising from incidents in 2012. And City Hall leaders learned about the officer's multiple lawsuits just two days before the Board of Estimates agreed to settle Obe's lawsuit.

The total cost to taxpayers for settlements in McSpadden's five lawsuits: more than $624,000.

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