A Baltimore woman has filed a lawsuit against the city’s police department, mayor and City Council for an incident from March in which she claims officers Tasered her for filming the arrest of a man on a street.
Kianga Mwamba, 36, claimed she was Tasered by police as she filmed a group of officers arresting and beating a man. Footage of the video, which Mwamba captured with her mobile phone on March 30 around 3:15 a.m., surfaced online this week. According to the lawsuit that she filed on Tuesday in a Baltimore court, police erased the two-minute video from her phone. But a storage app on her device allowed her to recover the footage.
Mwamba was reportedly stopped in traffic when she began filming the arrest of the man, later identified as Cordell Bruce. “You telling me I can’t record on my phone?” Mwamba says in the video, as police tell her to continue driving. After she says she will park her vehicle, one of the officers says, “Out of the car.”
“He burning me. He burning me,” the woman says.
At the end of the video, an officer accuses her of trying to run over his colleague with her car. “You a dumb bitch, you know that?” he says.
Police arrested Mwamba on charges of assault for allegedly trying to run over two officers. But prosecutors dropped the charges in September. She is seeking $14 million in her lawsuit against the multiple officers she says were involved in her arrest. She was “brutally attacked” by police, “dragged from her vehicle,” “slammed to the street,” and “was called a ‘dumb bitch,’” according to a copy of the document obtained by msnbc.
J. Shawn Alcarese, one of the three attorneys representing Mwamba, told msnbc he is currently unaware of the identities for each officer involved in her arrest. The attorneys, he added, expect to deliver the details of the lawsuit to the city next week.
After her arrest, Mwamba was placed in a holding cell, where, according to the lawsuit, police mocked and laughed at her for requesting her inhaler, which was still in her vehicle.
The Baltimore Police Department released a statement earlier this week, in which Acting Capt. J. Eric Kowalczyk said the officers’ language during the arrest is “both offensive and unacceptable.”
“The Baltimore Police Department expects and demands that officers treat every citizen with respect, regardless of the situation,” he wrote in the statement, obtained Friday by msnbc. “The video does not capture enough information to draw definitive conclusions about what transpired before and during the arrest. What is clear is that the language used is unacceptable and will not be tolerated.”
The case was presented to the State’s Attorney’s Office for review, and it remains under investigation.
Last week, President Barack Obama took steps toward addressing concerns of police brutality around the country by requesting tens of millions of dollars to purchase as many as 50,000 police body cameras to equip law enforcement officials nationwide. The president also plans to build a task force that will work to reduce crime and build trust among officers and their communities.
The use of force by police has received renewed national attention over the past several months after a string of killings of African-American men by police across the country, which have sparked unrest and protests in many communities. Mwamba’s lawsuit comes on the heels of recent decisions by two grand juries not to indict two white officers in the killings of Michael Brown and Eric Garner, who were both unarmed. In Ohio, the U.S. Department of Justice last week found “reasonable cause” to believe the Cleveland Police Department routinely has used excessive force. In a civil rights investigation launched last year by the DOJ, federal officials examined hundreds of high-profile cases in which officers engaged in unnecessary use of deadly force, including shootings and head strikes. On Nov. 22, officer Timothy Loehmann fatally shot 12-year-old Tamir Rice outside of a recreation center.
In September, Baltimore police suspended officer Vincent Cosom after he was caught on video repeatedly beating a man. Lawyers representing Kollin Truss, 32, said their client exchanged words with Cosom on June 15, just before the cop repeatedly punched him. The attorneys representing Truss previously said their client is the victim of police brutality. The issue recently received national attention in other states, including Ohio, Utah, and Missouri.