A circuit judge has found a Prince George’s County, Maryland, police officer guilty of second-degree assault, misconduct and reckless endangerment over an October 2019 traffic stop that left a man paralyzed.
It’s a case that has since led to a $75 million lawsuit against both that officer and the county.
Police Sgt. Bryant Strong was among the officers who responded as backup to the stop of Demonte Ward-Blake in Oxon Hill. The 24-year-old from District Heights had been pulled over for having expired tags on his car.
According to the state’s attorney’s office, he “became verbally agitated” after an officer unholstered his weapon, but complied with that officer before backup arrived.
Ward-Blake was placed under arrest and handcuffed, and according to the prosecutor, per a statement issued Wednesday …
Strong stood Ward-Blake up near the passenger side of the police cruiser to conduct a search of Ward-Blake’s person. During the search, Ward-Blake turned his body towards Strong, at which time Strong pushed Ward-Blake against the cruiser to continue the search and then took Ward-Blake to the ground. As a result, Ward-Blake sustained serious injuries that left him paralyzed from the chest down.
The right side of his C-4 vertebrae had been severed. His nose was also broken.
Shortly after it all happened, police contended that Ward-Blake’s injury was due to falling while trying to get away.
But testimony in the trial from Ward-Blake’s girlfriend and another officer on the scene called that account into question, said attorney Malcolm Ruff, who is helping represent Ward-Blake’s family in a lawsuit against both Strong and the county. That suit alleges systemic federal civil rights violations.
And testimony from the officer and girlfriend, Ruff said, will be critical in the family’s civil case.
“We are thankful and appreciative and grateful to the court for seeing this for what it is … utter police brutality that never should have happened,” Ruff said. “Now is the time for the county to make this family whole.”
Ward-Blake died last year from injuries he suffered in a 2020 shooting, and the family says that the 2019 incident which paralyzed him made recovery from that shooting even more difficult.
Strong “abused his position, violated the rights of a citizen he was sworn to protect and caused him to sustain severe life-altering injuries for the remainder of his life,” State’s Attorney Aisha Braveboy said in a statement Wednesday.
“He will now have to face the consequences for his actions.”
Strong faces up to 10 years in prison. He’ll be sentenced in July.