City police are sued for $40 million

The Baltimore Sun

The family of a 7-year-old boy who was arrested this year while sitting on a dirt bike filed a lawsuit yesterday against the Baltimore Police Department.

Gerard Mungo Jr.'s arrest March 13 drew an apology from Mayor Sheila Dixon. Leonard D. Hamm, the police commissioner at the time, called it "inconsistent" with his policing strategy. Their comments are included in the lawsuit.

Dirt bikes are illegal in Baltimore. The lawsuit alleges the bike was turned off and parked in front of a house in the 2100 block of E. Federal St. when an officer "maliciously and unreasonably grabbed Gerard by his shirt collar and dragged him off the bike."

The scene turned chaotic, the lawsuit alleges, with officers yelling; the mother, Lakisa Dinkins, demanding that they leave the house; and the fearful boy running up to his room. Gerard was handcuffed and taken to the Eastern District police station. He was not charged with any crime.

About 10 days later, in the wake of local media attention, officers burst into the home of a Dinkins relative and held a gun to her 14-year-old son's head, the lawsuit alleges. Dinkins, 31, was arrested and held at the Central Booking and Intake Facility for several hours before being released without charges.

The Police Department said the house was raided as part of a drug investigation; the lawsuit alleges retaliation for the publicity from the dirt bike arrest.

The 19-page lawsuit, which uses forms of the word malicious more than two dozen times, asks for $40 million in compensatory and punitive damages.

Sterling Clifford, a spokesman for the mayor and Police Department, said he would not comment on pending litigation.

A. Dwight Pettit, an attorney for Gerard's family, said the boy should not have to grow up fearing police officers.

"This is why we have difficulties with crime," Pettit said. "This is why the citizens of Baltimore are failing to cooperate. The police are perceived more as an occupation force than helping the community."

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