Maryland cop pulls out taser and gun, pepper sprays uniformed black embassy officer before arresting him for impersonation

Steven Alexander was returning home with groceries after a night shift as the Qatar Embassy’s special police officer in 2018 when a Taser-wielding Maryland police officer approached him and asked him to show his references.

When Alexander refused, the officer pointed his gun at him and demanded that he lie down on the ground. Once on the ground, the officer doused Alexander with pepper spray before handcuffing him, according to a lawsuit obtained by Atlanta Black Star.

Former Qatar embassy special officer Steven Alexander tries to open his eyes after he was pepper sprayed by a Maryland police officer while walking in a national park in 2018. (Photo courtesy of Steven Alexander)

Former Qatar embassy special officer Steven Alexander tries to open his eyes after he was pepper sprayed by a Maryland police officer while walking in a national park in 2018. (Photo courtesy of Steven Alexander)

As a result, Alexander lost his job, faced criminal charges and suffered years of emotional distress, his lawyers said. He is suing the Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission police and the police officer for violation of his rights and excessive force.

Hannah Nallo, one of Alexander’s lawyers, said he suffered from post-traumatic stress due to what his client calls a “life or death scenario”.

“This incident really changed the course of Steven’s entire life,” Nallo said. “He has a hard time talking about how the officers really came close to taking his life. Even though it was a few years ago, now he remembers it very well when he tells you about it, it’s like it just happened.

M-NCPPC police officer Mel Proctor said he saw Alexander walk through a parking lot in the park wearing a hat that read “Special Police” on it. Proctor accosted Alexander, who told Proctor he had no reason to stop him and continued walking.

“Subject continued to refuse my orders to stop even after I told him he was now being held for investigation,” Proctor wrote in the police report.

Proctor then asked for his credentials, he wrote. The officer said he took out his Taser because Alexander was wearing a ballistic vest and “something around his waist with pockets.” He pulled out his gun because he noticed Alexander had a gun holster on his hip “protruding from under his coat”.

“What are you going to do, shoot me?” Proctor said Alexander asked him.

Alexander’s lawyers said the man begged for his life.

The officer put that gun back in the holster, and he sprayed Alexander in his eyes because he started unzipping his coat after Proctor told him not to, he wrote. He did not have his camera worn on his body during the interaction.

Alexander’s lawyers said he was wearing his work uniform, which includes a bulletproof vest and a badge that reads “Special Police Officer”.

As Alexander dealt with the effects of the pepper spray, Proctor tackled him to the ground by the hood of his coat, put his knee into the man’s back, handcuffed him and sprayed him in the face, according to the trial.

After detaining Alexander, the lawsuit says Proctor found Alexander’s “valid” work ID and badge proving his special offer status at the Embassy in Washington, DC.

He saw Alexander’s badge hanging around his neck, according to the lawsuit, and police badges on his shirt.

Proctor wrote in his report that Alexander had “numerous expired Special Constable IDs and one presumed current.”

“Attempted to get in touch with people he would work for only to get voicemails for people other than the name he gave,” Proctor wrote.

Alexander was charged with resisting arrest, obstructing a police officer, failing to obey a reasonable and lawful order given by a law enforcement officer to prevent disturbing the public peace and pretending to be a policeman. He spent 10 hours in jail.

Nallo said Proctor went to great lengths to ensure Alexander was fired from his job, where she said he had a “stellar” record for nine years. Alexander’s supervisor told him he could come back when he solved the case, Nallo said.

On May 11, 2018, Prince George District Court Judge Bryon Bereano dropped all charges against Alexander and criticized the prosecutor for pursuing the case.

Bereano said there was no one else present during the arrest, so no one was really bothered. Bereano also noted that although Alexander initially disobeyed orders, he never attempted to run and try to remove or hide the hat.

Bereano said Proctor also testified that Alexander offered to give him the credentials after asking repeatedly, but the policeman told him it was too late.

“On all four counts: the court finds that even looking at the light most favorable to the state, what the court is supposed to do right now, that frankly, Mr. State, don’t take this personally , this is not a case that should have gone forward,” Bereano told the prosecutor.

“It’s questionable at best, a legal stoppage. Mr. Alexander has done nothing wrong other than walking in a park after working a long, hard day, carrying his things from work and carrying his groceries, and a A police officer who did not follow protocol only exacerbated the situation by making it worse, and this is clear from his own testimony.

Alexander was never allowed to return to work. The Qatari embassy did not respond to requests for comment from Atlanta Black Star.

Alexander wanted the incident never to happen. He was afraid to go public with the story lest it traumatize his family.

In his lawsuit, he seeks monetary damages. A jury must decide how much Alexander would be rewarded. The state allows Alexander to recover up to $400,000 in damages from a police officer. Lawmakers raised the cap to $600,000 starting in October 2021, but Alexander filed his case before the threshold was raised.

Prince George Police Division M-NCPPC spokesperson LaKeisha Robinson said the agency could not comment on the ongoing litigation. Records show Proctor received a commendable service award in 2020.

Alexander’s lawyer, Jay Holland, said the case was an example of the lack of accountability and broken culture in policing that would allow an officer to attack a citizen who was following his daily life. The legal team hopes that Alexander’s case and others like it will bring about institutional change in all police departments.

M-NCPPC police are also at the center of another lawsuit that provides insight into the culture of the department. In the trial also obtained by Atlanta Black Star, a black M-NCPPC police officer details incidents of racism and humiliation he suffered at the hands of his superiors, who also spoke of incitement to race wars and the murder of Black Lives Matter protesters.

“You don’t leave that at the door when you go out on the pitch. These are police officers who come into contact with us as citizens and come into contact with Mr. Alexander, ”said lawyer Veronica Nannis.

“I think it may have to do with the environment they find themselves in and what is not only tolerated but encouraged, apparently, at Park and Planning.”

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