Activists Call for Charges in Man’s Police Custody Death
December 17, 2012
Activists gathered in front of a downtown Baltimore courthouse Monday, calling for State’s Attorney Gregg L. Bernstein to bring charges against officers being investigated in the death of an East Baltimore man during an arrest.
It has been more than a month since prosecutors were handed the police investigation into the death of 46-year-old Anthony Anderson, who was thrown to the ground during a drug arrest on Sept. 21. Police initially said it was believed Anderson died after ingesting or choking on drugs, but an autopsy ruled that the death was a homicide caused by blunt force trauma. His family said they saw him thrown to the ground.
Prosecutors must determine whether to bring criminal charges against the officers, Todd A. Strohman, Gregg Boyd and Michael Vodarick. Lawyers for the men have said they did nothing improper.
Those who spoke focused much of their frustration on what they called a “double standard” when police are investigated for crimes. “If it were me, it’d be open and shut,” said the Rev. C.D. “Cortly” Witherspoon, who has been speaking out alongside Anderson’s family. “They’d charge first and ask questions later.”
Anderson’s mother and son appeared at the rally, where protesters held signs that said “Indict Killer Police.” “This is not fair to us, at all,” said Edith Fletcher, speaking into a bullhorn with sheriff’s deputies wearing bulletproof vests lined up in front of the courthouse. “I watched them kill my son. I saw the whole thing. … Something should be done now.”
A spokesman for the state’s attorney’s office said the case remains under investigation. “Our office has been moving forward diligently with these investigations in an effort to be as complete and thorough as possible,” said spokesman Mark Cheshire. “Because every investigation is different, every investigation varies in the amount of time needed to reach a determination.”
Decisions in such cases often take months. Bernstein’s office took eight months to decide not to bring charges in the Select Lounge police-involved shooting, while his predecessor took almost a year to the day to bring charges against officers who were accused of kidnapping a teenage boy and leaving him in a state park in Howard County.
Two officers were convicted of misconduct in that case, and another was acquitted.
But every day that passes without a decision in the Anderson case raises questions, activists said Monday. They also complained about other police-involved shootings in which prosecutors have not decided whether to bring charges.
“People are angry in this neighborhood,” she said, referring to Anderson’s, where activists have been canvassing for petition signatures. She said organizers may plan an “occupation” of the state’s attorney’s office if charges aren’t filed.