LARGO, Md. - The family of a man paralyzed during a traffic stop is suing Prince George's County and the arresting officer for $75 million, claiming there's a pattern of racist and heavy-handed policing.
Gathered outside a county office building in Largo Monday morning, the family of Demonte Ward-Blake and their attorney, Billy Murphy, announced a federal civil rights lawsuit against the Prince George's County government and Police Corporal Bryant Strong.
The Prince George's County police officer already faces criminal assault and misconduct in office charges related to his arrest of Ward-Blake during a traffic stop in October 2019. A video of the arrest shows the officer viciously slamming a handcuffed Ward-Blake on the ground.
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The incident took place on the 4700 block of Wheeler Road and the traffic stop was based on an expired vehicle registration.
"Prince George's County government is directly responsible for Demonte Ward-Blake's catastrophic injuries because they have consistently and remarkably ignored the widespread use of excessive force by its police officers as far back as any of us can remember," the family's attorney said during the press conference in Largo.
"We don't like to have to file lawsuits to get people to change in fundamental ways. But in this case, we have no choice. Because nothing else has solved the problem."
Ward-Blake was 24 at the time of the incident. He suffered a broken neck and was left paralyzed. He died last summer after suffering gunshot wounds nine months earlier.
He was shot while sitting in a wheelchair outside his home in District Heights.
Murphy says the lawsuit seeks $75 million in damages and is just the beginning of a long legal journey for this family.