Baltimore officer charged in shooting of burglary suspect

BALTIMORE (AP) – A Baltimore police officer who authorities say shot a burglary suspect in the groin at close range after he’d been subdued is being charged with attempted first- and second-degree murder, the city’s top prosecutor announced Wednesday.

State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby announced the charges against Officer Wesley Cagle on the same day that news emerged of a lawsuit against the police department claiming abuse in a separate case. That suit was filed on behalf of a client by the lawyer who also represents Freddie Gray’s family.

The latest problems to affect the troubled police department come just three-and-half months after six police officers were indicted in connection to the death of Gray, a 25-year-old black man who died a week after suffering a critical spinal injury in the back of a police transport van. Gray’s death prompted near-daily protests in Baltimore, and served as a catalyst for the U.S. Department of Justice to launch an investigation into whether the department’s officers routinely use excessive force and participate in illegal arrests.

According to the statement of probable cause, Cagle and three other police officers responded to a report of a commercial burglary on Dec. 28, 2014. As the suspect – Michael Johansen, who has also been charged – tried to leave the building, two of the officers stopped him and told him to show his hands. When Johansen reached downward, the two officers fired their service weapons, striking Johansen multiple times and causing him to collapse on the floor. That’s when Cagle approached Johansen with his gun drawn, the statement said. According to charging documents, Johansen asked the officers whether what they had fired at him had been bullets or beanbags.

“No, a .40-caliber, you piece of s—,” the documents quote Cagle as saying to Johansen before firing one shot, striking him in the groin.

Johansen was transported to Johns Hopkins Hospital for treatment, and survived his injuries. No weapon was recovered from Johansen, Mosby said. The three other officers involved were cleared of any wrongdoing.

In addition to the attempted-murder charges, Cagle faces charges of first- and second-degree assault and use of a handgun in a crime of violence.

“No police officer, no police chief, likes to report that one of our own engaged in criminal misconduct,” said Interim Commissioner Kevin Davis at the news conference Wednesday. “That’s a punch in the gut. It doesn’t make me feel very good at all. It doesn’t make police officers feel very good. But what’s important here is that the integrity of our profession and the integrity of our agency wins out.”

According to police, Cagle is a 14-year veteran of the department, assigned to the Eastern District. Cagle was placed on routine administrative leave following the incident in December of 2014 and in early January, his police powers were suspended. As of Wednesday, Cagle had been suspended without pay.

When asked if firing one shot at a suspect’s groin warranted an attempted-murder charge, Mosby said she would “let justice run its course.”

“It will be up to a judge and a jury to determine.”

Last week, 24-year-old Cierra Brooks filed a lawsuit against the Baltimore Police Department alleging that while she was waiting for a ride outside a nightclub on Aug. 21, 2012, a police officer threw her to the ground and dragged her through the street, causing head and facial injuries. The lawsuit alleges that the officer then tossed her inside a police van and handcuffed her but did not put a seatbelt on her. As a result, the suit alleges, Brooks “was thrown about and injured as the wagon was driven.”

The suit says Brooks was taken to a hospital for treatment and detained for several hours without being notified of any charges against her. It also says that Brooks was released without charging papers and later received a letter from the police department informing her that all records of her arrest had been expunged.

The lawsuit was first reported Wednesday by the Daily Record.

Representing Brooks is Billy Murphy, who also is representing Gray’s family.

The police department did not return an email seeking comment on Wednesday.

(Copyright 2015 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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