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At trial, teen recounts how Baltimore police officer tackled, beat him with Taser

A Baltimore teen told jurors Tuesday he had stopped running, turned and raised his hands to surrender when the police officer tackled him nearly three years ago.

Then Officer Carlos Rivera-Martinez swung his Taser like a club and smashed Melvin Townes in the face, the teen said.

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“I was compliant,” Townes told the jury. “He rammed into me. … He started striking me.”

Townes testified Tuesday in a criminal assault case against Rivera-Martinez, an eight-year veteran of the Baltimore Police. The 32-year-old officer was also charged with misconduct in office for his arrest of Townes near the War Memorial in July 2016.

His trial began Tuesday in Baltimore Circuit Court with defense attorneys arguing that Townes’ actions — threatening police, resisting arrest — brought on the scuffle.

“He starts to say, ‘I’ll take any one of ya’ll. Ya’ll take off your badges. F--- this. F--- that,” defense attorney Chaz Ball told the jury.

Rivera-Martinez has been suspended without pay. The charges against him stem from a police department review of the arrest that began more than two years ago. When the review was finished, the investigators sent the case to the Baltimore State’s Attorney’s Office. Rivera-Martinez was indicted on charges of first-degree assault and misconduct in office last July. City Councilman Brandon Scott has spoken out about the case, saying two years is too long for authorities to investigate and bring charges.

The encounter began around 2 a.m. when nightclubs let out on The Block. Townes was 16-years-old then, and he told the jury he was passing through on the way home. He stopped when he noticed someone being arrested. Rivera-Martinez told him to keep walking.

“I told him I have a right to observe,” Townes said.

Assistant State’s Attorney Alexander Rodriguez asked him what the officer did next.

“He asked me to leave again,” Townes said.

“Did you yell at the officer?” Rodriguez said.

“No.”

“Did you make any verbal threats?”

“No.”

Townes said he started walking away but noticed the officer following — so he ran. He slipped once, caught his balance and turned to surrender, he said. That’s when the officer allegedly took him to the ground.

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Rivera-Martinez had no cartridges to fire his Taser. Townes continued to resist so the officer hit the teen to subdue him, said Ball, the defense attorney. Ball called this a routine “pain compliance” action.

Townes suffered a swollen eye and cuts on his face. At the hospital, doctors told him his leg was fractured, too.

Defense and prosecutors, however, disagree on whether Townes suffered the fracture at the hands of the officer or when the teen slipped while running.

Testimony is to continue Wednesday.

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