Wilson & Parlett Earn a Positive Appeal Verdict Against Prince George’s County Police Officers and the County in a Police Shooting Case

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A jury verdict against two Prince George's County police officers and Prince George's County has been upheld on appeal. The original lawsuit alleged that the officers assaulted, unlawfully detained and violated the constitutional rights of the plaintiff, and a six-figure compensation was awarded in early October.

Police Assault Verdict Upheld

Local law firm, Wilson & Parlett, announced today that a jury verdict against two Prince George’s County police officers and Prince George’s County has been upheld on Appeal. The lawsuit alleged that the police officers assaulted, unlawfully detained and violated the Constitutional rights of Plaintiff, Donte Guzman, on the night of December 30, 2007.

According to the court records, on December 30, 2007, two Prince George’s County officers were working as security at the Knights of Columbus Hall in Oxon Hill, Maryland where there was a party celebrating the life of Mike Brown who had recently died. As the party was letting out, there was a fatal shooting in the parking lot. The officers responded to the shooting incident and alleged that they witnessed Donte Guzman shoot the decedent and then turn his firearm on them immediately thereafter, firing multiple shots at them while running across the parking lot. The officers shot Donte Guzman twice in the leg.

After arresting Mr. Guzman, the officers searched Mr. Guzman for a gun, but found none. Mr. Guzman also was not found to have anything else on or about his body suggestive of having discharged a firearm. Mr. Guzman vehemently denied having anything to do with the shooting death of the decedent or firing at the officers.

Initially, the officers alleged that bullet holes in the wall of the Knights of Columbus Hall behind them were evidence of Mr. Guzman’s firing at the officers. Further analysis, however, revealed that the holes were of a smaller caliber weapon than what was used to shoot the decedent and thus could not be evidence of shots being fired at the officers. Investigation further revealed that the caliber of weapon used to kill decedent was likely a revolver holding six rounds, with five rounds having been discharged either into the decedent or his vehicle, leaving only one round still left to fire. Despite this fact, the officers alleged that Mr. Guzman, after firing into the vehicle at the decedent, turned towards them and engaged them in a gun battle as he ran across the parking lot. Lastly, testimony from the officers revealed that an unknown SUV passed by the decedent in the moments around the shooting and was seen fleeing the scene.

Despite this evidence, the State prosecuted Mr. Guzman for the murder of the decedent. A Prince George’s County jury acquitted Mr. Guzman of all charges and the civil suit followed (Guzman vs. Sanders, CAL10-35180).

After a four day long jury trial in front of the Honorable Beverly Woodard, a Prince George’s County jury returned a verdict against Prince George’s County and the officers in the amount of $216,131.05.

Mr. Guzman alleged during the lawsuit that the business entity that owned the Knights of Columbus Hall and hired the officers to work as security at the party should also be liable for their actions as the officers’ co-employer with the County. Judge Woodard granted a motion filed by the alleged employer finding as a matter of law that the entity was not an employer of the officers and thus not liable for the officers’ actions. The County never filed a cross-claim against the alleged employer nor did it oppose the Motion. Following the jury verdict entered against the officers and the County, the officers and the County appealed the granting of summary judgment in favor of the alleged co-employer.

That Appeal was recently decided against the County by the Maryland Court of Special Appeals- Prince George’s County, Maryland v. Columcille Building Corporation, No. 2355, August 29, 2014. The case is now concluded.

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Ryan Ritchie
since: 06/2013
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Wilson & Parlett
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