Home National Weather Baltimore Police officer accused of choking man in viral video is on trial this week – Baltimore Sun

Baltimore Police officer accused of choking man in viral video is on trial this week – Baltimore Sun

by DrewLUD

A Baltimore Police officer is on trial this week after a widely circulated video was posted to Instagram that prosecutors said showed the officer used an illegal chokehold during an unlawful arrest in late 2019.

During two days of testimony, cellphone video and footage from several officers’ body worn cameras showed the brief exchange between Detective Leon Riley and then-23-year-old David Dixon, and the physical encounter as officers tried to arrest Dixon. The video received widespread attention at the time, including from top Baltimore officials.

Prosecutors argued Riley did not have any reasonable suspicion to stop and search Dixon, and that he used excessive, potentially deadly force when he used a chokehold to restrain him. Riley’s attorney Chaz Ball said in closing that his client was doing “good police work” by working to get guns and drugs off the street. The two men struggled, he said, “because Mr. Dixon was struggling.”

Testimony concluded Wednesday and Circuit Judge Philip S. Jackson is expected to make a ruling in the case Friday morning.

Riley, who was hired by the department in 2012, remains suspended without pay pending the outcome of the case. He is charged with first- and second-degree assault, reckless endangerment and misconduct in office.

Baltimore State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby cited “police accountability” when charges against Riley were filed in August 2020.

“If and when you violate that trust, you will be held accountable,” she said in a statement at the time.

Riley has a second case pending in which he faces charges of assaulting two other men in April 2019 and committing perjury by lying in a statement of probable cause. A trial date for that case has not been set.

The incident involving Dixon occurred on Dec. 2, 2019 when he was outside with other men in the 1600 block of West Lexington Street. The area is known as the “tri-district” where the Southern, Southwestern and Western police districts converge, and has been identified by police as an open-air drug market, according to testimony.

Riley and other officers approach Dixon and other men. Riley then attempted to search Dixon.

Prosecutors have argued that Riley unlawfully grabbed Dixon, picking him out because he was the smallest of the men, and attempted to search him without cause. When Dixon began to resist, the two men fell to the ground and Riley and a second officer tried to handcuff Dixon. Prosecutors said Riley used an illegal chokehold on Dixon that is also against department policy.

Footage played in court, including the Instagram video, appears to show Riley reach around Dixon’s neck with his left arm.

In the video, Dixon can be heard saying, “You choking me. You choking me, sir.”

Ball argued that his client was attempting to quickly secure Dixon, who was actively resisting officers, and officers believed he might have had a gun. In body worn camera videos that showed the initial interactions, Ball said that Dixon can be seen reaching toward his jacket that appeared bulgy in the front. The officers later recovered drugs from him.

Assistant State’s Attorney Ernest Reitz said during closing arguments, however, that Dixon was simply wearing a bulky winter coat, and had been grabbing at his jacket because he was searching for his cellphone. Reitz said that in footage, Dixon can be heard asking another man at the scene about the phone, and once he found it, he stopped grabbing at his jacket. Reitz also said nowhere in any of the police reports did officers write that they believed Dixon was armed.

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“The grabbing of Mr. Dixon was wholly unlawful,” Reitz said.

Testimony from another officer at the scene indicated that Riley and the second officer initially stopped Dixon because he was allegedly trespassing onto steps of a nearby home. But Reitz said body worn camera footage shows Dixon and the other men on a public sidewalk.

“The entire suggestion he was trespassing is a pretext,” and speaks to the officer’s misconduct, Reitz said.

But Ball said arrests are often “dynamic and difficult.” He said that “Detective Riley saw something in Mr. Dixon,” that he had been acting suspiciously, and that caused police to focus on him.

Ball also said that Dixon also had not been treated at the hospital for any injuries to his throat or neck, but was treated after another officer tried to Taser him several times. Riley was treated for bite marks to his hand after Dixon bit him during the scuffle.

Police charged Dixon with with felony drug possession, trespassing and resisting arrest. Prosecutors later dropped the charges against him.

Dixon was later killed in a shooting, in March, in the nearby 1200 block of West Baltimore Street. He did not have any family in the courtroom during the trial.

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Source: Baltimore Sun