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Crime

Family of man killed after confronting squeegee workers with baseball bat to sue Baltimore and city officials, lawyers say

The family of a man shot dead after confronting a group of squeegee workers with a baseball bat in downtown Baltimore last month will sue the city for millions of dollars, claiming officials neglected to enforce laws that would’ve prevented the fatal encounter, attorneys for the family announced Friday.

Timothy Reynolds, 48, of Hampden, would not have been killed if officials had addressed complaints of motorists allegedly being harassed by squeegee workers earlier the day he was killed, July 7, at the intersection of Light and Conway streets, the family’s lawyers said.

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Before he was shot, Reynolds drove through the bustling intersection, parked and walked back toward the group of window washers waving a baseball bat. Dashboard camera footage capturing part of the fatal encounter showed back-and-forth aggressions between Reynolds and the squeegee workers before one teenager pulled out a handgun and shot Reynolds five times.

A 15-year-old, who was 14 the day of the fatal shooting, was indicted on one count of first-degree murder earlier this month. His attorneys say the boy acted in self-defense and maintains his innocence.

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A forensics team gathered evidence at the scene of the fatal shooting of Timothy Reynolds after he confronted squeegee workers with a baseball bat at the intersection of Conway and Light streets on July 7. (Karl Merton Ferron/The Baltimore Sun via AP)

Lawyers for Reynolds’ family have not filed a complaint in court yet, but notified the city of their intention to do so, the Snyder Law Group LLC said in a news release. The law requires attorneys to notify government agencies of their intention to sue within a year of an incident, but the notification does not require them to follow through with a lawsuit.

The complaint will target the mayor’s office, the police department and the state’s attorney’s office, as well as Mayor Brandon Scott, Police Commissioner Michael Harrison and State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby, according to the news release.

Scott Snyder, one of the family’s attorneys, told The Baltimore Sun that the firm will wait to see the city’s response before deciding whether or how to proceed with a federal lawsuit. He denounced city officials for Reynolds’ death, describing it as a “foreseeable” and “preventable” tragedy.

“These issues have been taking place for years and no one has done anything about it,” Snyder said. “In fact, it appears the city, the mayor, the commissioner, everybody involved, has turned a blind eye. Everyone who has common sense knew something bad was going to come out of this one day and unfortunately Mr. Reynolds suffered the consequences and he’s no longer with us.”

A police department spokeswoman said the department does not comment on pending litigation. A spokeswoman for Mosby did not respond to a request for comment.

Mayor’s office spokesman James Bentley said the city is aware of the lawsuit notification and “will respond in the appropriate legal forum.”

Reynolds’ family recall the Johns Hopkins University-trained engineer as a loving husband, son and father of three. Relatives said he had a charming personality and worked hard to support his family.

The family of the teen charged in his death said he was a good boy who enjoyed reading.

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Warren Brown, one of the attorneys representing the teen charged with murder, told The Sun on Friday that the defense has moved to have the case remanded to juvenile court, where sentences emphasize rehabilitation rather than punishment. He said Baltimore Circuit Judge Yvette M. Bryant ordered the state Department of Juvenile Services on Aug. 11 to do an investigation and prepare a report about the teen within 30 days.

Brown said it’s not right to judge “this kid’s actions as if he were an adult — he’s not. He was 14 years old at the time.”

The high-profile homicide reinvigorated a decades-old debate about how the city should deal with young people washing windshields at busy downtown intersections. The killing spurred conversations about how the city would respond this time. The vision of Scott, a Democrat serving his first term as mayor, could be at odds with that of Ivan Bates, who won the Democratic nomination to be the city’s next top prosecutor.

Lawyers for the family indicated they notified that the city they intend to raise a claim of gross negligence.

“City officials can’t stand by and allow this illegal activity to continue anymore‚” Michael Snyder, one of the family’s lawyers, said in a statement. “Choosing not to enforce laws, make arrests and prosecute offenders, who knowingly put the public at risk, is beyond negligence, it’s gross negligence.”

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In order to successfully argue that, the plaintiffs must establish that the city acted with “reckless indifference to the safety of other people,” attorney A. Dwight Petit, who practices civil and criminal law and is not involved in the case, told The Sun.

“That’s a very hard standard to meet,” Petit said.

Petit said the family stands a better chance to make a claim of negligence because of some of the circumstances surrounding the fatal shooting.

Police received an increasing number of 911 calls about altercations with squeegee workers at the corner of Light and Conway streets in the month leading up to the deadly confrontation. Hours before Reynolds was gunned down officers arrested an 18-year-old at that intersection after he allegedly displayed a handgun at a motorist who said he didn’t want his windshield cleaned. It turned out to be a BB gun.

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After arresting the 18-year-old, police filed destruction of property charges against him for two earlier altercations with motorists at that intersection.

Officials “were on notice that this was a possibility and that the young people might have weapons or BB guns or real guns. So the city had knowledge of that and continued to debate whether they were going to clear the corners or not and could be construed by a jury to be administrative negligence because they knew it was a danger and didn’t do anything to evade it,” Petit said.

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Petit said the potential litigation raises a unique circumstance where the civil case could be influenced by what happens in criminal court. The criminal proceedings may reveal important facts, like who instigated the confrontation to begin with: Was it the group of young men washing windows, or the motorist who eventually swung a bat at them?

If it turns out to be the latter, Petit said, the city may have a strong argument in court or in a settlement because of the “contributory negligence” defense.

“If any way a jury finds that by first getting out of the car with the bat and being the aggressor contributed to your injuries or death, then that’s a complete bar to any type of compensatory recovery,” Petit said.

Though Brown, the attorney representing the teen charged with murder, is not involved in the civil case, he weighed in on its prospects: The argument, if accepted, would open the door for people to sue anytime a law is not enforced in Baltimore.

“If they’re successful,” Brown said, “the city will go broke.”


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