Stopping to film Baltimore police officers kicking a handcuffed man, a local woman says she found herself being tasered and arrested while police hurled expletives. She is now suing the department.
Kianga Mwamba, 36, claims she was tasered and arrested by Baltimore Police Department officers in March while filming the arrest of another man on her mobile phone. After she was released, she noticed someone had tampered with her mobile phone – erasing the arrest video. Charges against her were eventually dropped in September, but Mwamba recently served the police department with a lawsuit seeking $7 million.
"I'm in shock for real, like are they really doing this to me," Mwamba, the daughter of a veteran of the Maryland Capitol Police, said as she recalled the arrest in an interview this fall with the Baltimore Sun.
The lawsuit filed with the Circuit Court for Baltimore City last Thursday said the police "attacked" her, "dragged" her from her vehicle, and "threw her onto the street, handcuffed her, tasered her, called her a 'dumb bitch,' and kept her restrained."
The suit alleges the officers arrested Mwamba to "prevent the disclosure of the video taken of them beating a handcuffed man."
Video of the March 30 melee surfaced online this week. Police erased the 135-second recording from Mwamba’s phone, but it was recovered from her cloud account, according to the lawsuit.
Mwamba was driving home from a family gathering in March. Stopped in traffic, she began filming the nearby arrest of a man who she says was kicked by police. On the video we hear the following:
"You telling me I can't record," the woman says on the video as police tell her to move on.
"I'll park. I'll park. I'll park," the woman is heard saying in her own recording.
All of a sudden an officer says, "Out of the car. Out of the car."
After she is reportedly yanked out of her car, the woman is heard screaming, “He burning me. He burning me.”
Mwamba was arrested on charges of assault for allegedly trying to run over two officers. Charges were dropped, and she suffered cuts and bruises.
At the end of the tape, an officer says, "You a dumb bitch, you know that?"
"What did I do?" she asks.
"You just tried to run over an officer," the officer responds.
While in custody, she gave her phone to an officer to show that in the video she didn't try to run over anyone. The video was allegedly erased from the phone in what her attorney, Joshua Insley, described in a telephone interview as a "cover-up."
The police department said in a statement that the language the officer used was "both offensive and unacceptable."
"The video does not capture enough information to draw definitive
conclusions about what transpired before, during, and after the arrest,"
the department said. "What is clear is that the language used is
unacceptable and will not be tolerated."
Meanwhile, the handcuffed man was Cordell Bruce, who faces assault charges on allegations of striking an officer outside a nightclub – charges Bruce denies. The video does not capture him being beaten by police.
The lawsuit comes as the Baltimore Police Department has been undertaking broad reforms due to a pattern of forceful of arrests and complaints. This year, there have been 66 complaints over forceful arrests, compared to 122 in all of 2012. The department has also received 55 notices from lawyers planning to sue police. Those have dropped a third from the number in 2012, the Sun reported.
But the Sun found that some Baltimore officers were involved in multiple lawsuits and there were gaps in monitoring misconduct at the department.
“The police department has asked the U.S. Justice Department to review how the city paid $5.7 million in court judgment and settlements in 102 civil suits alleging police brutality since 2011,” the newspaper reported.