Family of man left paralyzed after traffic stop files $75 million lawsuit

Demonte Ward-Blake suffered "intense and immeasurable pain" for over a year before dying as a result of his injuries, his family's lawsuit said.

The family of a Black man left paralyzed from the chest down over two years ago after a violent encounter with a Prince George’s County, Maryland police officer has filed a $75 million lawsuit against the local government.

The federal civil rights lawsuit requests damages for Rena Ward, the mother of Demonte Ward-Blake, the 26-year-old man who died on Aug. 1, 2021, as a result of the many injuries he suffered at the hands of Prince George’s County Police Department Corporal Bryant W. Strong, according to the lawsuit filed on Monday.

Family and loved ones of Demonte Ward-Blake gather during an afternoon press conference after filing a $75 million lawsuit against Prince George’s County on Monday. (Photo: Facebook/Coalition of Concerned Mothers)

“For the next [653] days, Demonte’s life was a living hell,” the lawsuit stated. “Then, because he was so injured, he ultimately died.”

A September 2020 grand jury indicted Strong for second-degree assault, misconduct in office and reckless endangerment charges, according to The Washington Post. His criminal trial is scheduled to begin in May.

Ward’s complaint, obtained by theGrio, lists Strong as a co-defendant along with Prince George’s County. It accuses the officer of “intentionally and viciously” slamming her son on his face during an Oct. 17, 2019 traffic stop.

In this photograph included with his family’s federal lawsuit, Demonte Ward-Blake is shown hospitalized months after his violent October 2019 encounter with a Prince George’s County police officer. Ward-Blake died in August 2021.

Police pulled Ward-Blake over that day for driving a vehicle with expired tags, per The Washington Post. Officials said Ward-Blake became agitated during the encounter and tried to flee the scene, the newspaper reported.

Strong “slammed” Ward-Blake to the ground on his face after Ward-Blake was handcuffed with his hands behind his back, according to the lawsuit. The assault broke multiple vertebrae in Ward-Blake’s neck and spine, according to his family’s attorney and their lawsuit.

Ward-Blake suffered “multiple cervical fractures,” a broken nose, three herniated discs and cervical ligament tears that caused “spinal detachment” as a result of Strong’s actions, the lawsuit claims.

Ward-Blake spent more than 18 months in “intense and immeasurable pain,” according to the complaint, before dying as a result of the injuries he received.

“He couldn’t eat. He couldn’t feed himself. He couldn’t drink on his own,” one of Ward-Blake’s loved ones said during a Monday afternoon press conference. ” He could barely express himself. Crying, depressed.”

The lawsuit also accuses Prince George’s County of condoning misconduct by “repeatedly failing to stop or correct the widespread pattern of unconstitutional uses of force and seizures,” citing a pattern of abuse incidents that took place over the course of several years.

“The county, through specific intent or deliberate indifference, failed to correct and otherwise hold Strong and other PGPD police officers accountable for their abuse of police powers,” the complaint stated, “and continued and repeated unconstitutional uses of force and unlawful seizures.”

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