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Among GTTF settlements, $1 million for recovery from ‘trauma by cop’ | COMMENTARY

A page from the lawsuit filed on his behalf describes the harm to Bernard Gough who, in 2007, was shot by a Baltimore police officer assigned to the disbanded Gun Trace Task Force.
A page from the lawsuit filed on his behalf describes the harm to Bernard Gough who, in 2007, was shot by a Baltimore police officer assigned to the disbanded Gun Trace Task Force. (D’Alesandro & Miliman, P.A.)

I refer to Baltimore as Our City of Perpetual Recovery because that’s how I see it — a city in long recovery from the loss of industry and population, with so many of our fellow citizens trying to move beyond poverty, drug addiction or mental illness, unfinished education, criminality and incarceration.

And in recent years we’ve added “trauma by cop” to that list.

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The city under multiple mayors has paid out millions of dollars to settle lawsuits against police officers for using excessive force or violating the civil rights of Baltimore citizens. This week we had another $10 million added to the taxpayer tab. The settlements of lawsuits stemming from the Gun Trace Task Force closes the door — is it safe to say that? — on one of the worst police scandals in the city’s history.

Among victims of this band of corrupt cops was a man named Bernard Gough, and his story is one of the most disturbing.

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I don’t know Gough. But I’ve learned about him from court records and his attorney. He turned 40 years old this year, and he’s been permanently and physically scarred by his experience with a police officer from the GTTF.

This story goes back 13 years, to an evening in October 2007, and to Woodmont Avenue in Northeast Baltimore.

Gough, who was then 27 and employed as a construction foreman, was driving his sport utility vehicle, a Ford Explorer. A friend was in the passenger seat. As he slowed down for a speed bump, Gough noticed in his rearview mirror a man running toward his car and pointing a gun at it. According to the lawsuit Gough later filed against the city, the man was in plainclothes, and he did not identify himself as he came upon the SUV.

Gough’s instinct was to get away. (Mine and yours would be, too.)

But the man with the gun, later identified as Officer Jemell Rayam, caught up with the SUV.

At that point, Gough’s lawsuit says, Rayam, without warning, fired a shot through the driver-side window. The bullet went through Gough’s neck and his mouth, shattering teeth before lodging in his right arm. Gough passed out and the car crashed.

He was behind the wheel and bleeding when Rayam’s partner, also in plainclothes, reached the vehicle.

“Rayam did not call for help,” the lawsuit says. “He did not render aid. Instead, he ran around the corner and disappeared for 12 minutes, all while [Gough] remained unconscious and nearly bleeding to death in his vehicle.”

An emergency crew transported Gough to Johns Hopkins Hospital where doctors and nurses pulled him from the edge of death. (No exaggeration that, based on the lawsuit; Gough was pronounced dead on arrival, the suit says, but was then resuscitated.)

When Gough awoke in a hospital bed, he was unable to speak. The bullet had hit his voice box, causing a doctor to perform a tracheotomy. Gough’s jaw had been shattered, a metal plate had been implanted in his face, and his mouth had been wired shut.

A police officer handcuffed Gough to his bed because he was under arrest. Police hit him with 10 charges stemming from the incident, including assault on an officer.

In his report, Rayam claimed he had attempted a lawful stop of a vehicle that had been reported stolen.

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That was a lie, according to the lawsuit. Gough’s vehicle did not match the description of the one Rayam should have been looking for that night.

It needs to be noted that, on Oct. 12, 2007, The Sun published a report of the incident that reflected Rayam’s lies. Our story was based on what a police spokesman told us at the time, as is normally the case in the immediate aftermath of such an incident. So we reported that the officer involved in the incident had identified himself to the driver, that the driver had sped off and that the officer had become “caught in the vehicle and was dragged several hundred feet before firing his gun and grazing Gough in the neck.”

Grazing him in the neck?

For that “graze” Gough spent the next year getting medical treatment, his lawsuit says. His right teeth are gone and can’t be replaced because of the metal plate in his face. His lawsuit describes a “hole on the floor of his mouth” that makes eating difficult. Gough lost 80 pounds, suffered nerve damage in the shooting, is frequently in pain and has a limited ability to work. (Attorney Mandy Miliman, who with her father, Howard Miliman, represented Gough, says he no longer works in construction but does odd jobs from time to time.)

There’s more.

Gough could not shake the charges stemming from the incident, though his defense attorney at the time pointed out flaws in the case to prosecutors. Facing possible felony convictions, in spite of his innocence, Gough made a deal to enter a guilty plea on lesser counts. He ended up spending 18 months behind bars because he feared Rayam would testify falsely against him.

Some 13 years later, it’s Rayam who is locked up. He was sentenced in May 2019 to 12 years in federal prison for crimes related to the GTTF. Gough’s 2007 conviction has since been vacated.

The other day, the Baltimore’s Board of Estimates approved more settlements of GTTF lawsuits, with $1 million going to Bernard Gough and his long recovery from trauma by cop.

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