Suspect says police struck him in face

The Baltimore Sun

A man charged with shooting a gun into the air early New Year's Day claims that he was struck by police with a flashlight and suffered facial fractures that have not received adequate medical attention.

Police say Ronald L. Seawright, 22, was observed firing several shots into the air before entering a party in the Park Heights area just after midnight Jan. 1. Police recovered a gun from under a couch at the party and arrested Seawright after a "brief struggle," according to charging documents.

A police booking photo shows Seawright's left eye swollen shut and a bandage over his left cheek.

Defense attorney Margaret Mead said Seawright might have "mouthed off" after police are said to have instructed him to sit down in an area where someone had vomited. But she said her client, who is 5 feet 5 and weighs 139 pounds, was not armed and did not require such force to be subdued. She said he had been struck repeatedly in the face.

"When police officers are charged with a duty to protect the community, that includes someone who they perceive may have committed a crime," said Mead. "They are supposed to protect everybody. Nobody deserves to be beaten with a flashlight."

Police did not answer questions about the specific allegations but confirmed there is an active internal investigation. The investigators have not interviewed Seawright, who refused to speak to them without a lawyer present. "The ball is in his court," police spokesman Anthony Guglielmi said.

Seawright - who pleaded guilty in 2004 to a handgun violation in a case in which he was charged with attempted murder, according to court records - was charged that morning with seven counts, including assaulting a law enforcement officer and several handgun-related charges.

Last week, he was indicted in Baltimore Circuit Court on three gun charges. He is being held without bond because of his past firearm conviction.

According to police charging documents, officers saw a man in a dark green jacket with fur around the hood open the back door of a Queensberry Avenue home after midnight Jan. 1. Before he entered, officers saw him raise his right hand and fire five shots into the air.

Officers investigated and found numerous people in the home. A detective identified Seawright as the suspect, although he was not wearing the fur-trimmed jacket or even a shirt. When an officer attempted to search Seawright, a "brief struggle ensued," according to the charging documents.

Police searched the home and found a .380 handgun underneath a couch. Shell casings recovered outside matched the gun, the records show.

Seawright's mother, Harriet Davis, said that 30 to 40 people were at the party when police arrived and that her son was dancing with his girlfriend. Davis, relaying information from her son, said officers started questioning him because they believed his tattoos indicated that he was involved in a gang.

Seawright was initially taken to Sinai Hospital, and medical records provided to The Baltimore Sun show he suffered injuries to both eyes, contusions and facial fractures. He was discharged after an hour and instructed to go to the University of Maryland's oral-maxillofacial clinic the next week, the records show.

He was taken to Central Booking and has received no treatment other than Tylenol, Mead said.

Roland Brown, a laywer who is representing Seawright in a possible civil complaint, said that because his client was not in possession of the gun and his identity as the shooter was in question, police should have tested his hands for gunshot residue.

"The proof would be in the GSR test," Brown said. "They put these bogus charges on him not to pursue justice, but to cover themselves."

Prosecutors declined to discuss the pending case.

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