Baltimore ignores Supreme Court, charges officer for not defending “victim” attacked by other man

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BALTIMORE, MD – According to reports, a Baltimore Police officer has been charged with reckless endangerment and misconduct in office regarding an August 2020 incident where the officer allegedly failed to protect an unresponsive victim from an assault launched by another individual.

However, the charges against the officer raise serious questions based upon conflicts with established SCOTUS rulings and has attracted the scrutiny of the Fraternal Order of Police Lodge No. 3 president.

On August 12th, 2020, 25-year-old Baltimore Police Officer Christopher Nguyen was responding to an assault call within the 4200 block of Kolb Avenue.

According to the Baltimore State’s Attorney’s Office, Officer Nguyen encountered and was interviewing 40-year-old Kenneth Somers, the man suspected of assaulting a man who was laid out on the sidewalk at the time and was unresponsive, while another officer on scene tended to the victim.

The victim had apparently stolen Somers truck on August 8th, which Somers tracked the vehicle down using a GPS system and pulled the victim out of the truck and commenced the beating that left him unconscious.

Reports indicate that the victim was also stabbed three times – once in the eye, side of his head, and forehead – which this occurred prior to police arriving on the scene.

The Baltimore State’s Attorney’s Office alleges that Officer Nguyen “failed to secure or properly detain the suspect to protect the victim from any further injury as he investigated the assault.” With Somers freely able to move, officials say that Somers walked over to where the unresponsive man was and hovered over him, saying:

“Hey, can you see that? Can you see? So you can remember me.”

Somers then allegedly kicked the unresponsive man in the head after saying the aforementioned.

Officer Nguyen’s partner reportedly drew a taser on Somers and ordered him to place his hands on his head, which Somers complied and was taken into custody and has since been charged with attempted murder.

But according to prosecutors, Officer Nguyen not placing Somers into custody before the victim being kicked in the head by Somers effectively “created a substantial risk of death or serious physical injury to the victim.”

Baltimore State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby applauded the work of prosecutors bringing forth charges against Officer Nguyen, saying:

“Our Public Trust and Police Integrity Unit continues to hold law enforcement accountable for their actions just as any other prosecutor in our office does when a criminal act is alleged in the community. I am proud of the Unit’s work as they ensure accountability, professionalism, and integrity of the badge.”

However, not everyone is thrilled about these charges.

A letter from Fraternal Order of Police Lodge No. 3 President Sgt. Mike Mancuso that was distributed to members referred to State’s Attorney Mosby as a “social activist State’s Attorney” and that these charges send mixed messages to police in Baltimore:

“My answer is that we no longer know what we can and can’t do. In either case, you may be criminally charged for nothing more than what you have been trained to do within the law.”

Another area that raises questions are the charges that Officer Nguyen was hit with regarding this August 2020 incident.

According to Maryland Code § 3-204 – Reckless Endangerment, the law is defined as follows:

“(a) Prohibited. — A person may not recklessly:

(1) engage in conduct that creates a substantial risk of death or serious physical injury to another; or

(2) discharge a firearm from a motor vehicle in a manner that creates a substantial risk of death or serious physical injury to another.

(b) Penalty. — A person who violates this section is guilty of the misdemeanor of reckless endangerment and on conviction is subject to imprisonment not exceeding 5 years or a fine not exceeding $ 5,000 or both.”

What this means is that the state is alleging that Officer Nguyen not detaining and/or actively protecting the victim that was kicked by Somers within his purview is the “conduct” that created “a substantial risk of death or serious physical injury”.

Yet, there are instances of case law that notes state agencies and police officers don’t exactly have a firm duty to protect private citizens, such as DeShaney vs. Winnebago and Town of Castle Rock vs. Gonzales, where the Supreme Court ruled that the inaction of a state/local agency that results in injury or death doesn’t always mean someone’s rights were violated.

Both cases noted that a duty to protect only exists when a potential victim is in the custody of an agency whose inaction then led to injury or death. Whether or not these cases will be raised in Officer Nguyen’s defense remains to be seen.

As for the misconduct in office charge that Officer Nguyen faces, it’s a Common Law misdemeanor that doesn’t have an exact definition under the Maryland Criminal Code. Baltimore-based Herbst Firm offers the best explanation of how cases involving misconduct in office are approached:

“Misconduct in office in Maryland is defined as corrupt behavior by a public officer while in the exercise of official duties or while acting under color of law.  The state must prove three basic elements to convict a defendant; the first element of misconduct in office is establishing that the defendant was a public officer.”

The Herbst Firm explains that a public officer can be anyone that is “employed by or holding appointment under the government”, which includes police officers.

Once that is established, the state would have to prove that Officer Nguyen used his role as a police officer in a corrupt manner to somehow benefit him:

“If prosecutors establish the public official element, they must then prove the defendant acted in his or her official capacity or took advantage of his or her office.  Under this element the defendant does not actually have to be on duty or working, but rather held out his or her role in government for some sort of gain.”

“The third and final element is that the defendant corruptly did an act or failed to do an act required by their role.  This basically means the defendant received an improper benefit from another person by doing something or neglecting to do something.  The caselaw does not require that the defendant received money or any other specific type of gain, but rather that there was the broad term of ‘corruption’ involved.”

Whether or not the state can effectively prove that Officer Nguyen’s alleged inaction was tantamount to corruption is anyone’s guess, as John R. LEOPOLD v. STATE of Maryland even found in the 2014 decision that “What corruptly means in this context has not been well defined.”

This is an ongoing investigation.

Please follow Law Enforcement Today as we continue to gather further insight on this developing case.

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Baltimore emergency responder staffing and equipment shortages put public at risk: ‘Your safety is in jeopardy!’

(Published August 10th, 2021)

BALTIMORE, MD – As violent crime surges through the city, Baltimore EMS and police are struggling to provide services to residents in the face of staffing shortages and budget shortfalls.

Recently, a 12-year-old Baltimore resident was struck by a car, and forced to wait nearly an hour for ambulance transport.

Firefighter Rich Langford, president of the Baltimore City Fire Local 734 union, told Fox News in an interview that firefighters were able to respond “within minutes” and render aid, but staff and unit shortages led to the delay in transport.

He said:

“Baltimore, we are one of the busiest E.M.S./fire department systems in the country. 

“We are simply overwhelmed with calls. We have staff shortages. We have unit shortages. 

“It just took an obscene amount of time to get a transport unit to the scene to help this little boy get to the hospital.”

According to Fox, Langford also stated that EMS is “losing a lot of members right now.”

And yet, the call volume is massive.  Langford told Fox that “the workload is ‘overwhelming, with 345,000 calls last year.’”

He added:

“Our department needs help. 

“We need more money to help us get through this. We have been understaffed for years now. 

“It’s finally caught up to us. We have over 40 vacancies in our E.M.S. division alone.”

A recent tweet by Baltimore firefighters on the little boy’s situation drove home the point of unit and staff shortages. 

It read:

“Yesterday a 12 year old in SE Baltimore had to wait 58 minutes…!

“But closing 4 #BCFDEMS Ambulances won’t cause delays right?!

“Want to buy some magic beans?”

It is not only EMS and firefighters that are struggling with staffing and budget shortfalls in Baltimore.

Baltimore police, who are still reeling from the effects of defunding last year by $22 million, are spread paper-thin. 

Fox 45 News reports that, as a result of police staffing shortages, “public safety is beginning to be at risk.”

For example, a recent block party gone wild in North Baltimore left residents shaken and emphasized the safety risk to citizens when officers were “both outmanned and outgunned.”

At this event, hundreds of people converged on a neighborhood park one early Sunday morning in July.

One local resident told Fox:

“I don’t know how it started, but they were both shooting and fighting.”

Officers arrived to find an “out-of-control scene.”  

One officer, who “urgently called for back-up,” radioed:

“There’s only two of us, and there’s probably 500 people out here at Greenmount and 24th.”

Other audio from the chaotic scene was heard to say:

“Yeah, they stomped the crap out of this guy….

“The individual in the middle looks like he has a firearm in the front of his pants….

“Hold the line at 23rd!  Hold the line at 23rd!”

According to a tweet from the Baltimore Fraternal Order of Police, that night “[t]here were 1/2 as many police on the scene and working the entire city last night as there would have been 10 years ago!”

Retired city police officer Daryl Buhrman told Fox that, 30 years ago when the homicide rate was “significantly less,” there were three times as many police officers patrolling the streets as there are now.

As it stands now, according to CBS Baltimore, the city is “on track” to tally 300 homicides for the seventh year in a row.

Also, 1000 shootings in the city are expected by the end of 2021.

In addition, Neighborhood Scout reports that Baltimore residents have a 1 in 53 chance of becoming a victim of a violent crime.

At this time, in the face of widespread violence, Fox Baltimore reports that police are understaffed by 259 to 400 officers, depending on who is sharing the numbers.

Baltimore’s Fraternal Order of Police has been raising the alarm about how understaffing can affect public safety.

They tweeted in July:

“Last night, the @baltimorepolice Northern District had 7 officers on the street and the other Districts averaged 12 officers. 

“Ten years ago the average was 20 officers/shift. YOUR SAFETY IS IN JEOPARDY!”

Former Baltimore Deputy Police Commissioner Jason Johnson told Fox Baltimore that that number of officers was definitely not enough.  

He said:

“For any district in the City of Baltimore to be staffed with seven patrol officers is entirely unacceptable. 

“It’s just not sufficient. It impacts public safety, it impacts officer safety and it’s unacceptable.”

Even though the Baltimore Mayor Brandon Scott has actually increased the police budget by $28 million this year, last year’s defunding effects are evidently still in play.  Fox 45 News asserts that hiring is “made harder in the ‘defund police’ era.”

Former Commissioner Jason Johnson added:

“It’s driving people out of the profession, but it’s also preventing people from wanting to enter the profession.”

Retired officer Buhrman added a sobering prediction to these facts, saying:

“If it continues the way it is, some officer is going to die trying to protect himself and the city of Baltimore.”

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