Baltimore County police officer James D. Laboard, 33 (pictured right), was found not guilty of choking unarmed teen, Christopher Brown, 17 (pictured left), to death on June 12 while allegedly trying to arrest him, reports the Baltimore Sun.
Brown was with a group of boys who allegedly threw a rock at the door to Laboard’s home. The officer gave chase, and without cuffs or a gun, felt that putting the teen in a chokehold was the only way to restrain him.
It killed him instead.
“There is no evidence that Laboard intended to kill,” attorney Ezra S. Gollogly, said in court. “What the state is doing in this case is 20/20 hindsight.”
Brown’s mother and sister wept in the courtroom, while Laboard was “visibly relieved.”
State’s Attorney Scott D. Shellenberger said the state agreed with Brown’s family that Laboard had used excessive force, but the jury had the ultimate decision.
“This was an incredibly tragic case,” Shellenberger said. “Obviously we in the state’s attorney’s office felt a crime had been committed.”
Brown’s attorney, Russell A. Neverdon, said he has notified the Baltimore County Police Department that he intends a civil suit over the incident, an action he said would also target Laboard.
Neverdon said he felt the state did not emphasize to jurors that Laboard gave chase and then confronted the teen. He said Brown ran from Laboard and then hid in some bushes, and thus was not an aggressive suspect.
In closing arguments, Deputy State’s Attorney Robin Coffin told jurors that Laboard had been enraged when he went after Brown, and had used a neck restraint that was inappropriate for police action. Baltimore County does not train officers in neck restraints, a police academy instructor testified.
“These are not the actions of a well-trained police officer,” Coffin said, noting that he had nine years of police training in which he would have been faced with similar, high-stress situations. “He has a right to be angry but not to kill.”
Though Laboard claimed to responding officers that Brown attempted to hit him, the medical examiner’s officer does not agree. According to them, scratches on Brown’s arms were consistent with the teen struggling to pull Laboard’s arms from around his throat.
Brown’s death by asphyxiation was officially ruled a homocide. Laboard, who was charged with manslaughter, was facing up to 10 years in prison.