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‘You have scarred us’: Baltimore County family wants ‘justice’ after arrest of grandmother is caught on video

The family of the 76-year-old woman thrown to the ground by the police during an arrest speaks about the incident.

Cierra Floyd said she “can’t sleep” after Baltimore County Police threw her 76-year-old grandmother to the ground during an arrest. Now she said her family wants justice.

“You have scarred us," Floyd said through tears. "I can’t sleep. I don’t eat. Last night, I cleaned my entire house from top to bottom because I couldn’t sleep.”

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Cellphone video footage shows the Friday arrest of Rena Mellerson at her Gwynn Oak home. The footage, first reported by WBAL-TV, shows an officer in the doorway as he pulls Mellerson out of her house. Seconds later, another officer runs into the frame and tosses Mellerson to the ground with enough force to send her slipper flying into the air.

Mellerson told reporters she’s “in pain,” and she hopes no one else will ever have to experience what she faced.

The family of the 76-year-old woman shown on video being thrown to the ground by police during an arrest Friday speaks about the incident Wednesday. From left, Cierra Floyd, granddaughter; Barbara Mellerson, daughter; Derrick Hamlin, attorney; J. Wyndal Gordon, attorney; and Rena Mellerson, the woman shown being thrown to the ground.
The family of the 76-year-old woman shown on video being thrown to the ground by police during an arrest Friday speaks about the incident Wednesday. From left, Cierra Floyd, granddaughter; Barbara Mellerson, daughter; Derrick Hamlin, attorney; J. Wyndal Gordon, attorney; and Rena Mellerson, the woman shown being thrown to the ground.(Wilborn P. Nobles III/Baltimore Sun)

J. Wyndal Gordon, a Baltimore defense attorney who is representing the family, called the officer’s actions “sadistic” in light of “a highly questionable arrest” and “highly questionable police conduct.”

“We need to let the community know that what happened to Ms. Mellerson, to Ms. Cierra Floyd, and to these children is unacceptable,” Gordon said.

According to charging documents, county police were called Friday to a Windsor Mill neighborhood because of a disturbance involving a child.

Gordon said the woman who called the police is a friend of the family, and Floyd was at the scene because she lives in that area. The child “was assaulting several children" on the bus that was transporting him home, and he continued his behavior once he left the bus. Floyd and the woman tried to stop the child, Gordon said, but the child “assaulted both of them” and tried to damage their vehicles.

An officer, identified in charging documents as Cpl. Brennan, arrived at the scene and found Floyd in an “agitated state.” Brennan wrote in his report he “attempted to empathize" with Floyd but that she swore at him. Court documents show she walked into her home and that Brennan told her she would be arrested for her behavior when she left.

Gordon, however, said Brennan arrived at the scene “in a very rude and aggressive manner." Floyd went inside her home “when it became clear Cpl. Brennan was more interested in insulting and acting in a condescending manner" to provoke a confrontation. After the police left, Gordon said, Floyd drove to Mellerson’s house to pick up her children.

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Charging documents state Brennan used the Maryland Motor Vehicle Administration database to identify Floyd before he went to Mellerson’s home. Mellerson answered the door and the officer asked whether Floyd was there. Mellerson told the officer she was, and the officer said Floyd was under arrest. Brennan wrote that he was in the doorway when he heard Floyd tell Mellerson to close the door.

Brennan ordered Mellerson to stop closing the door, and he “physically intervened to ensure” the door wouldn’t close, according to charging documents. Brennan wrote that Floyd approached the doorway “in an aggressive manner,” so he pulled out his taser because he was fearful for his safety. Mellerson was standing between Brennan and Floyd, according to the officer’s report.

Brennan wrote in the charging documents that Floyd tried to close the door on him, so he shouted at her to stop due in part to his foot getting stuck in the door. He then used pepper spray in the doorway and told both women they were under arrest.

Floyd said Brennan then pointed his Taser at Mellerson’s face, fired the Taser and missed.

Brennan made it inside the home and used pepper spray on Floyd when she didn’t remove her hands from her pocket, according to the charging documents.

Floyd then went into a bedroom, and Brennan reported that he removed Mellerson from her home. At that point, a second officer, identified in court documents as “Officer Schmidt,” arrived and took Mellerson “into custody without any further incident or injury.”

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Gordon and the family criticized the portrayal of the incident in the court documents. They pointed out that the report made no mention of how the pepper spray also affected the children present. The children teared up at the news conference as they described the incident.

“The conduct was so sadistic and misogynistic and violent that even Cpl. Brennan admonished police officer Schmidt to take it easy,” Gordon said.

Baltimore County police didn’t respond to requests for comment Wednesday night.

County Police Chief Melissa Hyatt has called video footage of the incident “unsettling.” Baltimore County Executive Johnny Olszewski Jr. echoed Hyatt’s concerns, and said in a statement he spoke with the chief about investigating the incident.

Gordon said they’re “not ruling out anything,” including litigation, in order to hold the police accountable. The county needs to properly train its officers to ensure incidents like this won’t occur again, Gordon said.

“My clients, including the children, are looking for justice, so that nothing like this ever happens again,” Gordon said.

The incident occurred a day after a Randallstown town hall was held by the county’s “Workgroup on Equitable Policing." Olszewski formed the group, in part, to improve relationships between police and the community.

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