PRINCE GEORGE’S COUNTY, Md. (WJLA/CNN) - A Maryland police department has launched an internal affairs investigation after a 24-year-old traffic stop suspect suffered a spinal injury while allegedly resisting arrest.
Demonte Ward-Blake, 24, remains in the hospital after undergoing surgery for what is believed to be a critical spinal cord injury, one that he sustained during arrest. His family says he is partially paralyzed.
According to authorities, an officer with the Prince George’s County Police Department pulled Ward-Blake over Thursday evening for reportedly having expired tags. The officer says he smelled marijuana, and he soon learned Ward-Blake was on probation for a suspended driver’s license.
Police say the officer called for backup when the suspect reportedly became belligerent. He is accused of later attempting escape when officers went to arrest him.
At some point during the arrest, an officer grabbed Ward-Blake, who fell to the ground and hit his neck.
“The suspect then, is now trying to get away, while trying to hit the officer with his elbow and the forward motion. The officer now does a takedown procedure. At that point, the suspect, in his effort to escape, hits his neck on the roadway,” said police spokesperson Jennifer Donelan.
The police department has launched an internal affairs investigation. At least one officer is on administrative leave during the investigation, which is standard department policy.
Police Chief Hank Stawinski spoke out Saturday about the takedown technique used on the suspect.
“We are deeply concerned because it doesn’t matter how someone comes into our custody: this is not an acceptable outcome,” he said.
Still, Stawinski says he doesn’t believe the incident was malicious or intended to hurt Ward-Blake.
"I have no information that leads me to believe that these officers acted to harm this individual intentionally, no information that leads me to believe that these acts were malicious, and I have no information that leads me to believe that this is anything other than a horrible, horrible accident,” he said.
The officer who made the initial stop activated his cruiser’s dash camera. However, the takedown maneuver occurred outside of the camera’s frame. Police have not released the video, which shows other parts of the arrest.