Woman sues Baltimore County police over son's death

The mother of an Essex man who was shot to death two years ago by Baltimore County police officers has filed a multimillion-dollar federal lawsuit against the county government and six members of the force.

Gwendolyn Cann contends that her son, Taevon G. Cann, who was 25 at the time, died as a result of excessive force when officers fired more than 70 bullets at him at a gas station on Feb. 29, 2008.

"The barrage of bullets was so intense that they not only took his life but also destroyed his automobile," says the wrongful-death suit, filed last week in U.S. District Court in Baltimore. The suit contends that as Cann was "succumbing from his wounds, one of the defendants reloaded his weapon and shot Mr. Cann in the back of the head."

Baltimore County police spokesman Cpl. Michael Hill declined to comment. Because the litigation is pending, he wrote in an e-mail, "we are not able to discuss any aspect of the case until the suit has been adjudicated and a decision rendered."

According to the suit, Cann had gone to the BP station at Merritt Boulevard and Dunman Way for gas when two men in civilian clothes "rushed toward his car and pointed handguns at him." The suit claims that Cann, fearing for his life, "put his car in reverse to avoid being shot," and that "suddenly and without warning, a Baltimore County police vehicle rammed him from behind."

At that point, the suit says, the officers "surrounded his automobile and shot him to death," despite Cann having "raised his arms in surrender."

In 2008, police told The Baltimore Sun that detectives had been following Cann's vehicle as part of a criminal investigation. According to police, officers surrounded the car when it turned into the gas station and ordered Cann out of the car.

Cann then put the car in reverse and attempted to hit a uniformed officer, police said. The officer jumped out of the way and Cann's car crashed into the side of a patrol car, knocking an officer trying to get out of the cruiser to the ground. It was then that officers began to shoot at Cann, according to police.

The lawsuit says that officers seized $1,784 from her son's body after he was pronounced dead at the scene and "refused to return it to his mother or his estate." A police sergeant, two detectives, three officers and county government are named as defendants.

Gwendolyn Cann is asking for at least $30 million in punitive and compensatory damages because of the "mental anguish, emotional pain and suffering" she endured from the loss of the "protection, attention, advice, counsel and love of her son."

Taevon Cann had an extensive criminal record. In May 2000, he was convicted of second-degree assault and resisting arrest. In April 2002, he was found guilty of disorderly conduct and of failing to obey a law enforcement officer's request. The following month, Cann was given a year's prison sentence for a handgun violation, while five other weapons and drugs charges were dismissed. In June 2003, Cann was convicted of assaulting a prison employee while incarcerated in Hagerstown.

He also was found guilty of attempting to remove a firearm from a police officer in December 2002.

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