Baltimore police investigating arrest after video lands online

18-year-old's arrest at his own home, caught on video, sparks police investigation

The arrest of an 18-year-old in the doorway of his East Baltimore home on Saturday — which prosecutors have determined was unwarranted — is under investigation by the Baltimore Police Department after video of the incident was posted online.

The video shows Tionne Jones, who was charged with disorderly conduct, telling a lieutenant blocking the front door of the home to leave, noting that he lives at the home and the lieutenant didn't have a warrant. The lieutenant can be heard telling Jones he is "not the property owner," and asking to speak with the owner.

The video, shot from inside the home, then shows a second officer arrive in a patrol car, come up the stairs to the doorway, grab Jones and pull him down the stairs before wrestling him to the ground.

Just before he is grabbed, Jones can be heard in the video saying, "This is my house." The officer who grabs him says, "That don't matter."

T.J. Smith, a police spokesman, said the department's "executive team met to discuss this issue and the circumstances surrounding the arrest," and determined that criminal charges against Jones "were not appropriate in this situation." It contacted the Baltimore state's attorney's office to share that assessment, while continuing its internal review of the actions of the lieutenant and officer, who were not identified.

Rochelle Ritchie, a spokeswoman for State's Attorney Marilyn J. Mosby, said Monday that after "a careful review of the incident," prosecutors agreed with police "that it was not appropriate to bring charges in this matter."

Smith said the incident began after officers had "received calls from the community about issues surrounding activity" in the home in the 1800 block of Barclay St. in the city's Greenmount West neighborhood, including complaints about "large numbers of people entering and exiting throughout the day and night" and "possible drug activity." No drug charges have been filed.

On Saturday, the first officer on the scene, a lieutenant, had "observed a person knocking on a door and then a window and then trying to get into the home through the window," Smith said. The officer "approached the home in an attempt to speak with the leaseholder" before the argument with Jones began.

"During the lieutenant's attempt to gather more information and confirm that the individual had legal access to the residence, he called for additional officers to respond to the scene," Smith said in a subsequent statement.

India Epps, Jones' mother, said Monday she could not discuss the incident. "I can't make any statements at the moment because I am speaking with my attorney," she said.

Antonio McLaurin, an 18-year-old student at Youth Opportunity Academy who filmed the video, said it shows how police "treat us for nothing."

McLaurin's mother, Tawanda McLaurin — a retired Baltimore police officer — said she watched the video and was "very disappointed in Baltimore City" and "ashamed" that she was once part of the same police organization.

She said she teaches her son to respect the police and what officers do for the community, and would come down hard on him if he were in the wrong. But from what she saw in the video, she said, it was the police officers who mishandled the situation.

"I wore the uniform, I did this job, but I treated people as humans," she said. "I'm hurt. It's hard to describe."

She said her son came home "hurt and humiliated" after the incident.

"He said to me, 'This could have been another Freddie Gray incident,'" she said. "You know, as a retired officer, how that made me feel?"

Gray, 25, died last year after suffering severe neck injuries while in police custody. His death touched off widespread protests, followed by a night of rioting, looting and arson.

McLaurin's son said he hopes the video he shot makes a difference in how the incident is handled by the department.

"I just hope the officers get what they deserve, fired or anything," he said. "It's just crazy."

David Rocah, senior staff attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union of Maryland, said the decision to drop the charges against Jones "seems more than warranted," given what is shown in the video.

If officers want to enter a home without consent, they must have a warrant or be able to identify "one of the recognized and limited exceptions to the warrant requirement," such as immediate danger in an emergency, Rocah said — and no such circumstances seemed present.

"What stands out to me is how difficult it is, in the moment, to assert your legitimate rights to police, how dangerous it is, and how variable the police response is, depending on who you are and where you live," Rocah said.

At "Know Your Rights" seminars that the ACLU provides for local residents, "one of the things we have to tell people is that asserting your rights can be dangerous," Rocah said, "and this video is evidence of that."

krector@baltsun.com

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