Dondi Johnson died in a way similar to Freddie Gray‘s death:
Something like what happened in 2005 to another Baltimore man, who also suffered ultimately fatal spinal injuries after being placed in a police van.
In the earlier spinal injury death, 42-year-old Dondi Johnson was arrested for public urination and loaded into a police van similar to the one that would later be used to transport Gray.
“Mr. Johnson got into the back of the van without assistance,” court papers say. “He obeyed the officers’ commands and did not threaten any of the officers or act violently.”
Johnson gave no sign that he was in physical distress when he was locked in the van with his hands cuffed behind his back. Police Officer Nicole Leake would later testify that she failed to put him in a seatbelt as required by Department General Order K-14 because the nature of the charge against him suggested he had a full bladder.
Leake would deny that she gave him what is known in Baltimore as a “rough ride,” where the van is driven in such a fashion as to jounce and jangle the prisoners. She did estimate that she reached a nearby police station in less than half the time it would have taken at the speed limit.
“When she arrived at the District and opened the back door of the van, Mr. Johnson was lying on the floor of the van and could not move,” court papers say.
Leake asked two other officers to take Johnson from the van.
“She did not call for medical assistance because Mr. Johnson did not ask for it, and she thought he was lying,” court papers say.
Police Officer Michael Riser asked Johnson to get up.
“[T]he bitch was driving like an a–hole,” Johnson replied, according to court papers. “I fell and I can’t move.”
Riser would testify that he knew from his training and from responding to car accidents that “if someone has a suspected neck injury, the first thing you do is stabilize that patient…you don’t move that patient.”
But Riser would insist that he also thought Johnson was faking….