A Baltimore Police officer is criminally charged with failing to act when an an assault suspect he hadn’t secured kicked an unresponsive man in front of the officer, the Baltimore State’s Attorney’s Office announced Friday.
Officer Christopher Nguyen, 25, is charged with reckless endangerment and misconduct in office stemming from an incident on August 12, 2020. Nguyen was responding to an assault call when prosecutors said he “created a substantial risk of death or serious physical injury to the victim,” the office said in a statement.
Prosecutors alleged that Nguyen “failed to secure or properly detain the suspect to protect the victim from any further injury as he investigated the (initial) assault,” according to the criminal information filed against Nguyen.
Nguyen was interviewing Kenneth Somers, 40, who was suspected of assaulting a man who was laying on the sidewalk and unresponsive, according to prosecutors. Somers managed to walk up to the victim, bend over him and say, “Hey, can you see that? Can you see? So you can remember me,” before kicking the man in the head without Nguyen taking any action, according to the document.
Baltimore Police spokeswoman Lindsey Eldridge said in a statement that the department is aware of the charges brought against Nguyen, who joined the department in December 2018.
“Our Public Integrity Bureau is continuing its review of this incident and Officer Nguyen’s police powers have been suspended,” she said.
Nguyen did not have an attorney listed in online court records.
According to city salary records, he earned $66,734 last year.
In a letter posted to social media Friday, Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 3 President Sgt. Mike Mancuso criticized State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby’s office and questioned why the officer was criminally charged..
Mancuso said the department leadership has been increasingly instructing officers to follow “least intrusive policing” policies, while the department undergoes sweeping reforms mandated under a federal consent decree.
“[W]e no longer know what we can and can’t do,” Mancuso wrote, lamenting that officers are both told to take a less intrusive approach while also being proactive with crime. “Mosby cannot decide whether it’s a crime in Baltimore for an officer to use force or for an officer to take a less confrontational approach.”
In a statement, Baltimore State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby praised the prosecutors’ work.
“Our Public Trust and Police Integrity Unit continues to hold law enforcement accountable for their actions just as any other prosecutor in our office does when a criminal act is alleged in the community,” she said.
According to charging documents against Somers, who has been charged with attempted first-degree murder and related offenses, Somers attacked a man he believed had stolen his truck.
Nguyen, and a second officer, arrived at the call for an assault in progress where they found the victim laying on the sidewalk, unresponsive and covered in blood. Another officer began to aid the victim while Nguyen attempted to interview Somers.
Somers told Nguyen that his truck had been stolen four days earlier from Crazy Kenny’s Junk Cars in the Belair-Edison neighborhood. Somers told Nguyen he tracked the vehicle to Kolb Avenue using a tracking device, according to the charging documents.
Somers stepped in front of the truck, and attempted to confront the victim, telling him “Get the [expletive] out of my car,” the document said. The victim refused, and Somers then pulled the man out of the car and began beating him, the document said. Nguyen wrote that he attempted to check on the victim on the sidewalk when Somers followed him and kicked the victim, the charging document said.
A second officer ordered Somers to put his hands behind his head, and threatened to use a Taser on him, but Somers complied, and was handcuffed, the documents said.
The victim was taken to Johns Hopkins Hospital where doctors said he had three stab wounds in his eye, side of his head and forehead. A pocket knife was recovered from the scene, the document said.
A message left for Somers’ attorney was not immediately returned Friday afternoon.