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Jury rejects claim in case of 7-year-old arrested for dirt-bike violation

A Howard County Circuit Court jury rejected a civil lawsuit against six Baltimore police officers brought by the mother of a 9-year-old boy arrested for illegally riding a dirt bike and who was later handcuffed to a bench at police headquarters.

Judge Diane Leasure sent the case to the jury Thursday morning after determining that two of the officers acted unlawfully in arresting the boy because they didn't witness the incident. Nonetheless, Lakisha Dinkins' suit for more than $700,000 in compensatory damages was soundly denied. The jury said the family did not deserve any money.

"I feel good," David Fields, an attorney for the officers, said Thursday night. "By awarding no damages, the jury is saying that the actions the police took were appropriate."

Dinkins is mother of Gerard Mungo Jr., and was seeking damages from the officers involved in the boy's arrest on Nov. 13 and her own arrest at her sister's home 11 days later.

Dinkins claimed that the two incidents left her son, now 9, and his 17-year-old brother, Devon Johnson, with emotional and psychiatric problems that required professional help. She had claimed her arrest was in retaliation for filing a claim against police after the boy's arrest.

Attorneys for the three officers involved in the boy's arrest -- and three others who later arrested his mother during what they say was a drug investigation -- contended that the 33-year-old Baltimore woman was not interested in the welfare of her children but in getting compensated for her son's treatment.

"What's driving this case is Lakisha Dinkins -- it's her desire to obtain money and only money," said David Owens, an attorney representing the officers.

Police said that one of the officers, Charles Grimes, saw the boy sitting on the bike with the motor idling. Grimes said he put his foot behind the wheel and told the boy to get off, which he did without incident. Grimes then notified another officer, Donald Hayes, to take the bike to be impounded. Dinkins later called Grimes' supervisor, Sgt. William Colburn, to say she was going to file a complaint.

Hayes testified that Colburn told him that if the mother filed a complaint, Hayes should "lock [the boy] up." An attorney for the officers, David Owens, said Thursday that Colburn issued the order after checking with a city prosecutor and being told it was legal to arrest a 7-year-old. After taking the boy away in a police cruiser, police handcuffed him to a bench at Eastern District headquarters.

A little more than a week after the incident, undercover police officers observed what they believed to be a drug deal taking place in front of a home in a neighborhood known to police for its heroin trade. One of the individuals involved ran into a house belonging to his mother, who is Dinkins' sister. Dinkins was there and hindered in the investigation, police said. She was arrested, though no charges were filed.

Dinkins' sister told one of her attorneys that Dinkins asked her to lie on her behalf. She declined to testify and filed an assault charge against Dinkins three days before this trial began.

Dinkins' attorney, Allan B. Rabineaux, criticized the closing arguments made by the officers' lawyers and said the boy has been emotionally scarred "for the rest of his life."

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