Judson Lipowitz, John Solter and Jonathan Azrael, partners at Azrael, Franz, Schwab & Lipowitz, represent the Davis family in a wrongful death case involving 86-year-old Elbert Lee Davis Sr., the victim in a fatal car crash. The driver who struck Davis, Umar Burley, recently had his sentence vacated after an investigation of the Baltimore City Police Department (“BPD”) uncovered evidence of widespread corruption within the Gun Trace Task Force, a special police unit in Baltimore City. Here, the attorneys at Azrael, Franz, Schwab & Lipowitz provide details regarding the case.
In April 2010, BPD officer Wayne Jenkins, a member of the Gun Trace Task Force, and two other BPD officers falsely claimed they witnessed Burley conducting a drug transaction. When officers approached and surrounded Burley, he fled the scene in his vehicle at high speed. The pursuit ended when Burley ran a stop sign and crashed into another vehicle, killing Elbert Davis and severely injuring Davis’ wife, Phosa Cain.
The corruption investigation revealed that after the crash, Jenkins planted a large quantity of heroin in Burley’s vehicle to justify the wrongful BPD actions which resulted in the death of Mr. Davis. Jenkins and his accomplices also falsified police reports to cover their tracks.
Following the crash, Burley pleaded guilty to manslaughter in state court, as well as federal drug charges, and was sentenced to serve fifteen years in prison. As a result of the corruption investigation, Burley’s case was reopened, and both his state and federal convictions were vacated.
Jenkins pleaded guilty to his role in the events of April 2010 and to various other crimes including robbery, drug distribution, and falsification of police reports. Jenkins is to be sentenced in June. Other members of the corrupt BPD Gun Trace Task Force have also pleaded guilty to various crimes, while others were convicted of widespread criminal activity by a jury in federal court.
A court order revealed that abusive policing tactics including “door-popping” (i.e. driving up to unsuspecting black men and jumping out with guns drawn in hopes that the men would flee) was a regular accepted practice of the BPD and the Gun Trace task force. AFSL partner, Judson Lipowitz said, “door-popping” was a known practice in the Baltimore Police Department. It reportedly happened 10-20 times on a slow night and more than 50 times on busier nights. While acting under color of law this outrageous pattern and practice of illegal police behavior endangered lives. As a consequence, Mr. Davis was deprived of his life, and his family lost their patriarch.”
AFSL attorneys filed a civil suit on behalf of the Davis Family and obtained a judgment against Umar Burley in excess of $1 million.
The Davis family has also filed a claim against the Baltimore Police Department and the Mayor and City Council of Baltimore. AFSL partner, John Solter said, “The Baltimore Police Department is partly responsible for the death of Elbert Davis Sr. and it must be held accountable. The City needs to take responsibility for allowing these dirty cops to terrorize the citizens of Baltimore. The police put in motion the chain of events that ultimately led to the death of Mr. Davis, and the entire chain of command is implicated in his death,” he said.
Azrael, Franz, Schwab & Lipowitz is dedicated to defending the rights of victims and their families in matters of wrongful death and serious personal injury. To learn more about the firm’s commitment to victim advocacy, click here.