A police chase led to the death of a Baltimore man. Now the city is poised to pay a $6 million settlement to his family.

Baltimore’s Board of Estimates is poised to approve a $6 million settlement with the family of a man killed during a police chase by Gun Trace Task Force members, an amount that, if approved, would become one of the most substantial settlements related to the rogue police force to date.

The lawsuit, filed by Shirley Johnson, stems from a crash more than a decade ago that claimed the life of her father Elbert Davis Sr. Davis and his partner Phosa Cain were driving in the Grove Park neighborhood of West Baltimore on April 28, 2010 when their car was hit by two men fleeing city police.


A federal lawsuit, filed in 2018, alleges police did not render aid or call for an ambulance when they came upon the crash, but instead “worked to cover their tracks” by planting heroin in the car they had chased.

The case was slated for trial last year, but online court records show it was dismissed in January because the parties had reached a tentative agreement. The family originally sought $25 million in damages.


Johnson said in 2018 she gets “angry all over again” every time she speaks about her father’s death.

The funeral program for Elbert Davis

“The lying went on for so long. It was over seven years before we found out what really happened to my dad,” Johnson said at the time. “It shouldn’t have happened, and my father would be here today if it wasn’t for [the officers’] actions on that day.”

Cain has since passed away, unrelated to the collision, according to the Board of Estimates agenda.

More than a dozen officers have been charged and convicted in connection with the Gun Trace Task Force, a corrupt unit of the city’s police force that routinely violated people’s rights and stole drugs and money using the authority of their badge. Hundreds of criminal cases brought by the officers have been dropped or vacated, and the city has paid out millions in settlements to people who say they were wrongfully imprisoned by the unit’s actions.

If the Board of Estimates approves the proposed settlement, the total paid out by the city connected to GTTF officers will be $22 million, according to the city comptroller’s office.

The largest of those settlements — nearly $8 million — was paid to Umar Burley who was behind the wheel of the vehicle chased by officers during the 2010 crash as well as his passenger Brent Matthews. Then-BPD officers Wayne Jenkins, Sean Suiter and a third officer tried to box in the car, saying they’d seen a drug transaction.

Burley, who said he did not know the men were officers, feared he was being robbed and sped off, colliding with another vehicle. The crash killed Davis, then 86, and injured Cain, then 81.

After a search of Burley’s car revealed nothing illegal, Baltimore Police officers planted more than 25 grams of heroin in the car, and both Burley and Matthews were arrested, convicted, and sentenced for possession with intent to distribute heroin. Burley also was convicted and sentenced on charges of vehicular manslaughter related to the crash. He served seven years in prison after the 2010 drug planting; Matthews, the passenger, served two and a half years. Both saw their convictions vacated in 2017.


Jenkins, who would go on to lead the Gun Trace Task Force, pleaded guilty to civil rights violations for participating in the coverup, but implied at his sentencing hearing that he hadn’t planted the drugs in Burley’s vehicle. He is serving 25 years in prison for crimes including robberies and selling drugs.

Jenkins apologized to Burley and Davis’ family members at that hearing, saying he was “truly sorry for, after finding out what happened with the drugs being planted, I didn’t speak up,” according to a transcript cited in a report examining the origins of the GTTF scandal.

Suiter was fatally shot in the head the day before he was to testify in front of a grand jury about the incident — his death has been ruled a homicide but questions have been raised about whether he committed suicide.

Unrelated to the family’s case against the city, Davis’ 10 children received $1.8 million in a settlement with Burley related to the crash. The payment was covered by Baltimore in its nearly $8 million settlement with Burley, who had been ordered to pay surviving family members $1 million, which grew with interest when he was unable to pay.

One of the Davis family’s attorneys said at the time of Burley’s settlement in 2020 that Baltimore had refused to accept responsibility for Davis’ death and Cain’s injuries.

“The fact that the city has elected to ignore these innocent victims and instead compensate the man who contributed to this terrible incident only adds insult to injury,” said the attorney, John Solter.


Judson Lipowitz, one of the attorneys representing the family, said they would have no comment until the Board of Estimates has voted on the settlement.

In their lawsuit, the plaintiffs argued Davis’ killing and Cain’s injuries were the result of the illegal stop, pursuit and framing of Burley and Matthews by plainclothes officers — part of what the lawsuit called a “longstanding, flagrant and persistent pattern of illegal conduct” by officers. It claimed the police department showed “deliberate indifference” to the unlawful conduct.

The complaint said police followed Burley and Matthews in two unmarked vehicles, running five stop signs at high speeds. The two men said police didn’t turn on emergency sirens or lights.

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Davis and Cain, his “lifelong partner,” were driving around 11:49 a.m. at the intersection of Gwynn Oak Avenue and Belle Avenue, an intersection with four stop signs. Davis stopped, then entered the intersection. Without warning, the complaint said, Burley ran a stop sign and struck Davis’ vehicle.

The 86-year-old motorist was trapped in his vehicle with Cain and died later that day, the lawsuit said. Cain was hospitalized from her injuries.

The lawsuit goes on to describe what it says is the police department’s widespread practice of illegal pursuits and stops, prior complaints against officers in plainclothes units and supervisors’ alleged “tacit authorization” of misconduct.


The officers and police department, it said, caused Davis’ death, severe physical and emotional pain to him and Cain, and “extensive damages” to their family members, who lost companionship, comfort, protection, parental care and attention.

“On that day, instead of attending my father who was trapped in a car, they were busy trying to plant drugs on Umar Burley,” said Davis’ daughter, Johnson, in 2018.

The officers, she said, “robbed us of good times we spent with our father: birthdays, holidays, special occasions, they robbed us of that.”

The $6 million settlement expected to be approved for Davis and Cain’s family members is a little less than the $6.4 million that Baltimore paid out to Freddie Gray’s family in 2015 following the arrest and death of Gray, 25, who suffered a spinal injury while in police custody, triggering days of massive protests.