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Prosecutors drop charges against 76-year-old woman tackled by Baltimore County police officer

Baltimore County Police body camera footage show a grandmother, Rena Mellerson, and her granddaughter, Cierra Floyd, being arrested.

Charges against a 76-year-old Gwynn Oak woman who was tackled to the ground by a police officer in a viral video in January have been dismissed, according to the Baltimore County State’s Attorney’s Office.

The woman, Rena Mellerson, had been charged with second-degree assault, obstructing and hindering and resisting or interfering with the arrest of her granddaughter, Cierra Floyd, according to police. She could not immediately be reached, but her attorney confirmed the charges against her were dropped.

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A citizen video — and police body-camera footage — of the septuagenarian being thrown to the ground during the arrest drew widespread criticism, including from the county executive and police chief.

J. Wyndal Gordon, her attorney, said the family wants to see “police reform" result from the incident.

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“You shouldn’t have to train an officer not to slam a 76-year-old woman to the ground,” Gordon said.

Officer Jennifer Peach, a Baltimore County police spokeswoman, declined to comment, citing an ongoing internal investigation into the officers’ actions.

Baltimore County State’s Attorney Scott Shellenberger could not immediately be reached for comment.

The arrest, which occurred outside Mellerson’s home in the 7000 block of North Alter St. on the afternoon of Jan. 10, followed an earlier police call to a scene in Windsor Mill, where a woman reported a child was damaging vehicles parked in the block and told police she would use her knife to protect herself and her property if the child caused any more damage.

When police arrived, they asked Floyd whether she was the one who called 911, but she swore at the officers and walked away, according to the body-camera footage. Cpl. Brennan — county police provide only their officers’ last names, per an agreement with the county police union — threatened to arrest her for disorderly conduct, then used the Maryland Motor Vehicle Administration database to identify Floyd and track her to her grandmother’s home, according to charging documents.

Body-camera video released by the county police department captured the ensuing incident.

At the front door, the officer told Mellerson that her granddaughter was under arrest for disorderly conduct, but Floyd stopped Mellerson from opening the door. The officer threatened to arrest them both, as Mellerson tried to persuade Floyd to go with him. After Brennan’s foot got wedged in the door, he called for backup and sprayed pepper spray and his Taser into the crack in the doorway.

When he finally forced his way inside, Brennan sprayed Floyd with pepper spray because she wouldn’t remove her hands from her pockets. The officer can be heard coughing from the irritant.

Brennan pulled Mellerson outside, and a second officer, identified as Officer Schmidt, arrived and threw her to the ground — prompting Brennan to tell him to “be easy with her.”

In Schmidt’s video, he tells Mellerson he responded the way he did because he viewed her as "an immediate threat.” Later, Schmidt tells Mellerson “the reason I put you on the ground, ma’am, is because I saw Taser probes in you,” but Mellerson can be seen disagreeing with his explanation.

Floyd, who was charged with second-degree assault of a police officer, failure to obey, resisting arrest and disorderly conduct, has requested a jury trial, Gordon said. Another attorney, Derrick Hamlin, plans to represent her in the case.

The family is planning to fight Floyd’s charges, Gordon said, adding that Floyd was only exercising her rights under the First Amendment. Additionally, he said, the family is advancing a civil action against the officers involved in the case.

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The family is also seeking civil action against Cpl. Brennan for using pepper spray that affected the children in the house during the incident.

They family wants Officer Schmidt’s job to be terminated, Gordon said, but he called that an “administrative” matter. Although they’re relieved that Mellerson’s case was dropped, Gordon said they’re upset that it took 60 days. He stressed that he hopes the court will also side in Floyd’s favor.

Gordon said he’s glad County Police Chief Melissa Hyatt — who called the videos "unsettling to watch” — realizes the county police department “needs to fix some of our relationships with the community.” He said “some heads have to roll” in order for her to successfully improve police-community relations.

“Today was day one of our pursuit of justice in this case,” Gordon said.

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