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Carroll County Times
Carroll County Crime

Sheriff: Appropriate force used in disorderly conduct incident

Carroll County Sheriff's deputies used pepper spray, a baton, defensive tactics and a Taser to bring in a Hampstead woman and a Pennsylvania man Wednesday evening after responding to a call of disorderly subjects, according to charging documents.

The amount of force used is considered appropriate in the situation, Sheriff Jim DeWees said, adding that while it is unusual to see that many tactics used to gain compliance, the deputies are trained to know when it is acceptable to use different types of force.

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But Sean Michael Gover, who was arrested, wonders why they used that much force to arrest him.

"Obviously, I was resisting, and I'm not going to deny that, probably, but I'm not sure why they used that much force," Gover said.

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Gover, 30, of New Freedom, Pennsylvania, was arrested and charged with three counts of second-degree assault, three counts of intoxicated endangerment, and one count each of resisting arrest, failure to obey a lawful order and disorderly conduct. Tara Marie Creamer, 31, of Hampstead, was arrested and charged with two counts of second-degree assault, two counts of intoxicated endangerment, and one count each of interfering with an arrest and disorderly conduct, according to electronic court records.

Gover was released from the Carroll County Detention Center on $2,500 bond. Creamer was released on her own recognizance.

According to the charging documents, a deputy responded to a report of disorderly subjects in the area of Long Lane and York Street in Manchester. When he arrived, he said he located Gover and Creamer leaning against a wall, and Gover had his pants pulled down past his buttocks. As he approached, Gover pulled his pants up and reached into his pockets for a cigarette. The deputy told Gover to keep his hands out of his pockets, according to the statement of charges.

Gover began arguing with the deputy and put his hands in his pockets two more times, according to the statement. The deputy told Gover he was being detained, but when told to put his hands behind his back, Gover refused. The deputy warned Gover he would use pepper spray, and when Gover continued to resist, the deputy sprayed him, according to the statement.

Creamer stepped in front of Gover, and when she refused to move, the deputy sprayed her as well, according to the statement.

The deputy moved Creamer aside and reached for Gover's hand. Gover moved away, and the deputy ordered Gover to put his hands behind his back. When Gover didn't, the deputy attempted to use his baton to get Gover's hand behind his back, according to the statement.

The deputy used verbal commands to stop resisting during the entire altercation. The deputy also struck Gover's outer thigh four times with the baton, according to the statement.

Gover tried to run away but tripped. When the deputy tried to approach him, Gover kicked at him. The deputy used the baton again before attempting to get control of Gover's left arm, while continuing to use verbal commands. The deputy was kneeling at Gover's side and used knee strikes, according to the statement.

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At that time, Gover tried to grab the deputy's baton. The deputy used "closed-fist strikes" to hit Gover in the head, according to the statement.

The deputy put his baton away and used pressure points to control Gover until backup units arrived. Four additional deputies and a trooper arrived, and the deputy noted in the statement that Gover was actively resisting again.

Another deputy struck Gover on his face, which did not make Gover comply. A different deputy attempted to grab Gover's hand, and Gover allegedly scratched him. At that time, the deputy deployed his Taser, and the deputies were able to handcuff Gover, according to the statement.

Gover was transported to Carroll Hospital. While being loaded into the ambulance, Gover spit in the face of a Maryland State Police trooper who had arrived on the scene to assist, according to the statement.

Creamer was also transported to Carroll Hospital, where police said she kicked an EMT and an officer, according to the statement.

The level of force used is meant to match the situation, said Cpl. Jonathan Light, spokesman with the Sheriff's Office.

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"He was not compliant with their instructions to get his hands out from underneath," Light said.

Light and DeWees said it was unusual to see four different tactics being used to gain compliance, but Light said they were all used because Gover continued to resist.

While Gover said he was intoxicated and was resisting, he said he feels the amount of force used on him was excessive. He said the side of his face is swollen and his eye vessels burst as a result of the encounter with the deputies.

"I feel like I was kind of battered a bit," he said.

Gover said he also is confused as to why the deputy said in his statement that his pants were down because he said they weren't. He and Creamer were trying to walk back from the bar, and he said that he had to try to help Creamer walk. While they might have been a little loud, he doesn't think they were being disorderly.

"I feel like he just wrote that in there so he had a reason to pursue us," Gover said.

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While at the bar, Gover said he had about six or seven beers, in addition to three shots, over a couple hours, but he's had more to drink in the past.

"I'm not saying I wasn't intoxicated, but I was not obliterated," he said.

But even while intoxicated, he said he wasn't resisting. Gover said he complied when police told him to keep his hands out of his pockets.

He said while on the ground he was asking the deputies to stop because he didn't want to fight. Looking back, he questioned why the first deputy didn't just use a Taser on him.

But DeWees said the original deputy has not been equipped with a Taser. While DeWees is working to provide Taser systems to all of his deputies, he said due to budgetary restrictions his entire force is not quite there.

Had the deputy been equipped, he might have used the Taser, DeWees said. Some deputies are leaning toward less baton use because it causes injuries that take longer to heal while people can recover from the effects of a Taser within 30 minutes, he said.

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In the police's use of force continuum, DeWees said the baton and Taser are about the same level, and both are considered non-lethal methods. And while the deputy used several methods of force, DeWees said the deputy was also on his own for several minutes while waiting for other deputies.

The time it takes for other deputies to respond to an incident to help is one of the reasons DeWees wants to equip them with Taser systems.

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Taser systems are only used when a person is actively resisting, Light said.

DeWees said his deputies are well-trained when it comes to using force, which can be seen by the scarcity of incidents where this type of force is seen, he said.

"And I don't want them to use force, but the nature of the job is you do from time to time," DeWees said.

Times reporter Jacob deNobel contributed to this report.

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heather.mongilio@carrollcountytimes.com

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