(BALTIMORE – March 31, 2016) – Since neither the Baltimore Sun nor few other mainstream news outlets will report on this case the way it deserves, I’ll do it. On Tuesday, March 29, 2016, my former client won a $70,000 civil damages award against Baltimore City Police officers Nathan Ulman, Jorge Bernandez-Ruiz, and Nicholas Chapman in front of a jury in the Circuit Court for police brutality after a five day trial. Fortunately, Jaami Omar Salaam survived the assault without any major physical injuries (scrapes and abrasions), and lived to tell about it. And although, the jury’s verdict amount may not seem like much to some, the message was loud and clear: accountability. Despite being cleared by the Baltimore Police Department administratively for their brutality (BPD is notorious for failing to properly investigate and discipline itself), that jury held them accountable with a judgment as a matter of law.
The events leading to this trial occurred on July 2, 2013, just two weeks, before two of the three officers killed Tawanda Jones’ beloved brother, Tyrone West, (i.e., Jorge Bernandez-Ruiz, Nicholas Chapman), Salaam was subjected to a traffic stop in an alley less than 10 yards from his home with his three year old son properly seat-belted in the backseat. The trio were in the area on a drug and gun detail harassing law abiding citizens who they believed ‘fit the profile.’
Salaam pulled over on the parking pad behind his City row-home a short 10-30 ft from where officers activated their emergency lights. All three got out of their vehicle with extreme aggression, guns drawn and pointed at Salaam and his baby boy while yelling profanities. Officers Ulman, Bernandez-Ruiz, and Chapman physically extracted Salaam from the vehicle, hog-tied his arms and legs behind his back by cuffing his hands, shackling his legs, and connecting the two with a third chain. They beat, kicked, and punched Salaam, compressed his head against the concrete ground with the full weight of their bodies (a la ‘Eric Garner of NY’ style), picked Salaam up then dropped on his head and shoulders while in full restraints. After the vicious attack, the officers took Salaam to jail and falsely charged him with disorderly conduct and resisting arrest. He remained jailed for a day and a half before being released on his own recognizance. I represented Salaam in the criminal matter where we successfully got all of his charges dropped. Salaam immediately retained the attorney I call ‘The “Grand” Father’, A. Dwight Petit, Esq., and filed suit thereafter.
At trial Salaam recounted the events described above. Ulman, Bernandez-Ruiz, and Chapman countered by arguing Salaam led them on a 10-30ft high-speed chase through his back alley and once he pulled over behind his home, he appeared to have been “reaching for a weapon in the center console of his vehicle” when he opened the door then turned to his right to remove his seatbelt and exit his car as the officers ordered. The jury summarily rejected the officers’ version of the events and found Ulman and Bernandez-Ruiz liable for 6 out of 6 remaining counts against them alleging excessive force and related constitutional and common law tort violations, and Chapman liable for 5 of the 6 charges against him.
The disgraceful part is after violating Salaam’s constitutional rights, Chapman and Bernandez-Ruiz who were also involved in the custodial-killing of Tyrone West two-weeks later, still remain on BPD’s police force today and have even been promoted. Commissioner Kevin Davis (who, himself, was found liable for police misconduct and hit with a $90,000 federal jury award while an officer in Prince George’s County in 2002) and the Baltimore City tax payers are footing the bill for their misconduct, and these animals have long returned to patrol the streets of Baltimore and wreak further havoc on the citizenry. Despite the Commish’s rhetoric, BPD is not committed to ridding its force of bad officers; one day these violent repeat offenders, Chapman, Ruiz-Bernandez, and Ulman too will be eligible to become a big city police chief just like Davis. They have earned their stripes by violating the constitutional rights of the citizens and Constitutions they took a solemn oath to serve, protect and uphold. Idiots.