Attorneys representing the family of Demonte Ward-Blake, who became severely injured after a traffic stop in October 2019, announced the filing of a lawsuit Monday, Feb. 21, against Prince George’s County and the officer who injured him.
Attorney William Murphy, who spoke across the street from the Wayne K. Curry Administration Building in Largo, said the federal civil rights lawsuit seeks $75 million in damages.
“This lawsuit is a comprehensive indictment of the brutal, unlawful, racist practices of the Prince George’s County police department. This is a problem that we are targeting so that cancer in these police departments across the country is removed surgically,” Murphy said. “That knife comes from this lawsuit. This is the surgical tool that will enable us to excise the cancer in this police department.”
A county executive spokesperson said in a text message Monday, “The County does not comment on pending litigation.”
The lawsuit summarizes misconduct against former police Cpl. Bryant J. Strong, who slammed then 24-year-old Ward-Blake on the ground head-first into a sidewalk while handcuffed. At the time of the traffic stop in Oxon Hill for allegedly driving with a suspended license, Ward-Blake’s goddaughter sat in the vehicle.
A grand jury indicted Strong in September 2020 for second degree assault, reckless endangerment and misconduct in office. He remains in jail.
Two months later in November 2020, Ward-Blake suffered injuries from a shooting in District Heights. He died nine months later in August 2021.
Murphy summarized how Ward-Blake’s “653 days of living hell…confined to a wheelchair” affected his life after the excessive force used against him by the police.
Ward-Blake’s aunt Rashawnda Blake said he needed supervision and care.
For instance, he needed help to sit up in bed, assistance to brush his teeth, change his diapers and simply sought “somebody to love him.”
“Oct. 17, 2019, changed our lives forever,” she said. “The inability to understand that the power of a badge does not equate to the physical abuse of citizens. Left my nephew paralyzed.”
Malcolm Ruff, an attorney at Murphy’s firm based in Baltimore, said Strong’s next court appearance has been scheduled in May.
Ruff encouraged residents to attend the hearing as a show of solidarity to not only support the Ward-Blake family, but also speak out against police brutality.
Friends and loved ones who also experienced police brutality joined the family and attorneys in Largo.
The parents of former Prince George’s County Det. Jacai Colson traveled from Pennsylvania to offer their support. They are being represented by Murphy’s firm of Murphy, Falcon & Murphy. Colson got shot and killed during a police ambush at a police station in 2016 by a former fellow police officer who said he accidentally mistook Colson as one of the shooters.
The firm also helped reach a $20 million settlement on behalf of the family of William Green Jr., who was shot and killed by a former Prince George’s police officer in January 2020 while handcuffed in a police cruiser. The firm also helped reached a $20 million lawsuit on behalf of the family of William Green Jr.
Green’s cousin Nikki Owens said the Ward-Blake family must receive community support.
“We cannot let this family stand alone. We have to show up,” she said. “They need all of us to stand up here to say what happened to Demonte was wrong. I couldn’t have fought for my cousin without the people behind me.”