Jury awards $75,000 to man sprayed, yanked down by Baltimore police during riots

A jury awarded $75,000 Wednesday to Larry Lomax, the 26-year-old who was doused with a spray canister and yanked down by two Baltimore police officers.

Lomax’s arrest in May 2015 was captured on video and became an enduring scene from the riots that engulfed the city after the death of Freddie Gray.

“I’m very happy. Justice has been served in the City of Baltimore,” Lomax said on the line with his attorney after the verdict. He did not take questions.

Lomax had sued Lt. Christopher O’Ree and Sgt. Keith Gladstone in Baltimore Circuit Court, accusing them of battery and acting with excessive force. In the video, he strides toward police officers, his hands balled, shouting, “Arrest me! Arrest me! I’m right here.”

O’Ree doused him with the spray canister. The chemical blinded Lomax, filling his mouth and nose, and the burn lingered for 21 days while he was jailed, his attorney said during the five-day trial. It wasn’t mere pepper spray, his attorney argued, but tear gas intended to disperse crowds from 18 feet away.

An attorney for the officers disputed the claim.

Then Gladstone stepped behind Lomax and yanked him down — either by his long hair or shirt collar — before arresting him. Gladstone has since retired from the department. The jurors were asked to decide whether the officers acted within reason.

The officers’ attorney, Neil Duke, described Lomax’s actions as a provocation, saying the 5-foot-5, 230-pound man advanced on the police with a “look of fury.” Duke declined to comment on the verdict.

A jury acquitted Lomax of disorderly conduct five months after his arrest. He had pleaded guilty to the one charge, but appealed to the Circuit Court. Prosecutors dropped additional charges against him.

“A lot of credit goes to Larry Lomax for standing up for his rights,” his attorney, Wylie Stecklow, said.

Wednesday’s verdict brought the first victory for several men who have sued Baltimore police after their arrests in the riots. The men have said officers caused them abrasions, contusions, nerve damage, swelling and internal injuries. Hundreds of people were arrested during the unrest and the curfew, but many were released without charges. Many others saw their charges dropped.

tprudente@baltsun.com

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