A veteran Baltimore police officer was sentenced Wednesday to five years in prison for an off-duty act of road rage in which he drew his gun on a man who threw tea on his new car.
Officer Michael Gentil pulled over, pointed his gun at the pedestrian and ordered him facedown on the pavement. He was convicted at trial of assault and using a gun in a crime of violence.
“That he was a police officer makes this worse,” Baltimore Circuit Judge Robert Taylor said. “When that badge is used as a shield and that gun is used to bully ... that makes things worse.”
Taylor said he was bound by state laws that mandate at least five years in prison for those convicted of using a gun in a crime of violence.
“This was something done in anger. In that characteristic, it’s like lots of crimes that appear before this court,” the judge said.
Gentil resigned this month after 24 years on the city police force. He has found work as a security guard in the county.
The victim, Kevon Miller, 34, faced the officer again Wednesday in Baltimore Circuit Court.
“That day, I was terrified. To have a gun pointed in my face, to have to lay down on the ground,” Miller told the judge, “I was terrified, shaking.”
Last January, Miller said, he was stepping out to cross Edison Highway in East Baltimore when he was nearly hit by a civilian car. Prosecutors said the driver failed to yield to the pedestrian.
Gentil’s defense attorney said Miller threw a cup of tea on the officer’s new car. Outside the courtroom, Miller said he was startled and threw the tea by accident. Then the officer pulled over, got out and drew his gun.
In the brief interview outside the courtroom, Miller said the officer was shouting at him and calling him “stupid.”
Gentil asked the judge for leniency, noting his 24 years of service and listing his many awards and citations. A career patrol officer, Gentil told the judge that he avoided a desk job because he could do more good as a first responder. He will appeal his conviction; the judge granted him house arrest pending the appeal.
When he spoke, Gentil wiped his eyes with tissues.
“I should have just driven on,” he said. “I wish I could have that moment back.”