Bernstein hits airwaves, defends Anthony Anderson decision

Bernstein hits airwaves, defends Anthony Anderson decision
Baltimore State's Attorney Gregg Bernstein announces that no charges will be filed against the officers in the death of Anthony Anderson. (Baltimore Sun photo by Kim Hairston)

Baltimore State's Attorney Gregg L. Bernstein on Monday reached out to the black community by answering call-in questions on WOLB's Larry Young Morning Show about his controversial decision to not prosecute the three Baltimore police officers involved in the death of East Baltimore resident Anthony Anderson.

On Thursday, Bernstein said his office had determined that Detective Todd A. Strohman used appropriate action when he tackled Anderson during a September drug arrest that resulted in broken ribs and a lacerated spleen, which killed the 46-year-old man.


Officers said Anderson was attempting to swallow drugs while walking away from them, which caused Strohman to use a "bear hug" to take him to the ground and preserve evidence.
The decision not to prosecute has angered Anderson's family, who believe police used excessive force in detaining Anderson who posed police no threat.

On the airwaves, Bernstein elaborated on his decision.

* On why he believed no crime was committed when the medical examiner had labeled Anderson's death a "homicide," Bernstein said homicide was just a legal term that meant death caused by another individual.

"There is no question Mr. Anderson's death was the result of a homicide," he said. "His death was from the actions of another individual, that person being Detective Strohman." But that doesn't mean it was a crime, he said.

* Bernstein said his office has willingly and thoroughly cooperated with the Civil Rights Division of the U.S. Department of Justice, which has launched its own investigation. He said he has sat down with federal officials and shared video and audio testimony and "every scrap of paper that we have."

* When asked who determined Anderson to have had an enlarged spleen, a medical condition that aided in his death, Bernstein said his office did not come to that conclusion independently. He said interviews with the medical examiner revealed that information.

* He agreed with a caller that the war on drugs "was not working" when someone asked why Anderson needed to be arrested in the first place. But Bernstein stressed his role in this case was to decide if police overstepped their bounds in trying to detain him.

* Another caller suggested that Anderson didn't need to be stopped from ingesting drugs -- police could have ordered his stomach pumped later to retrieve the evidence. In hindsight, Bernstein acknowledged, there may have been better methods to have dealt with the arrest.

But Bernstein said he had to analyze the "split second" decision officers made. Anderson was walking away from their orders, he said. Police didn't know if he had a weapon on him (he was later found not to be carrying a weapon).

Baltimore police training guidelines allow for the use of force when someone isn't complying with police orders and may be trying to destroy evidence, Bernstein said.

"What our investigation revealed was the force that was used was reasonable under the circumstances," he responded to the caller. "In this case the evidence doesn't show what you say was a beat down. It was one throw to the ground."