The U.S. Department of Justice has cleared Annapolis police officersof charges they used excessive force when arresting four people during a disturbance in the Bywater community last year.

Justice Department spokeswoman Obern Rainey said the department's Civil Rights Division has closed its 10-month investigation into the case.

"They have determined the matter does not constitute a prosecutable offense, which means no action will be taken," Rainey said.

Police spokesman Officer Dermott Hickey said the decision vindicates thedepartment.

"We're pleased that the Justice Department agreed that our officers took appropriate action and reacted to the situation in a professional manner," Hickey said.

The incident happened on March 14 in Bywater Mutual Homes, near the scene of a non-fatal shooting earlier that evening. A small crowd was gathered near Earmon Wallace's car. Police said the car's radio was blaring.

Wallace and police differed dramatically on what happened next.

Wallace said he reached into the car to grab his keys, but officers pushed him back along with the rest of the crowd. Wallace said an officer struck him anda fight broke out.

Police, however, said the crowd surged and began punching the officers.

Wallace ran into the home of his godmother, Hope Yvonne Hunter. Police followed him and found him hiding in acloset, refusing to come out. Police said they fought with Wallace before they could arrest him.

They also arrested Hunter and her sons, William and Ian, on charges of obstructing justice. Police said that Hunter tried to pull Wallace free from custody and that her two sons had to be subdued.

Hope Hunter said she was unaware that Wallace was in her apartment until, she said, at least 20 officers ran intothe apartment after him. She said she followed them into a bedroom, where officers had pulled Wallace out of a closet and put a gun to his head.

William Hunter said officers continued to hit Wallace after he was unconscious. He said an officer struck him in the head, too.Both men said they required stitches.

Three officers were taken to the hospital for injuries they suffered during the melee.

The Hunters were all found innocent of resisting arrest and hindering police officers.

Wallace was convicted of two counts of assault and battery and one count of resisting arrest, and received a 1 1/2-year suspended sentence, two years' probation and 100 hours community service.

The Hunters requested the Justice Department investigation afterthe police department's Internal Affairs Division dismissed their complaint.

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