The traffic stop started with a missed turn signal and ended in mayhem.
Baltimore Police Sgt. Kenneth Ramberg can’t remember portions of June 28, 2022, when he pulled over a car for a routine traffic violation, spotted a gun on the floor and soon felt his body being dragged up Park Heights Avenue.
He also didn’t recall screaming “stop” over and over at the driver until the footage of his body worn camera played for a Baltimore City jury Wednesday morning.
The “nerve-wracking” incident left him with a traumatic brain injury and reliant on a blue cane to walk.
The man behind the wheel, Joseph Black, also took the stand during his trial Wednesday to fill in the gaps of what he said took place outside of the body worn camera’s view. Black said he sold drugs for Ramberg and owed him money. When Ramberg and another detective pulled him over, he testified, he feared for his life and panicked — but never intended to harm the sergeant.
A jury is now deliberating whether Black is guilty of first- and second-degree attempted murder and assault charges as well as several firearm charges. Both Ramberg and Black testified that the incident quickly escalated to chaos.
Shortly after Ramberg took the stand, the 52-year-old grew visibly emotional as footage from his body worn camera played on screens around the courtroom. He put his head in his hands and took multiple deep breaths.
In the video, Ramberg can be heard asking Black to step out of the car. The driver hesitates before abruptly shifting the car into drive. Ramberg reaches into the open driver side window and struggles with Black over the steering wheel as the car takes off.
“Dude, stop,” Ramberg shouts. “Stop, bro.”
The footage shows Ramberg hitting the pavement and erupting into screams for the next several minutes until losing consciousness as first responders worked on him. The officer testified the incident is now hard to talk about. He said he’d never seen Black before the incident and was attempting to de-escalate the situation when he noticed the gun in the vehicle.
Later in the trial, Black testified that officers from the beginning of the stop pretended not to know him and that he had no idea there was a gun in the car. He said the other detective with Ramberg pointed his service weapon at him, a moment that wasn’t captured on the footage played in court. He testified he suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder and called the incident “frightening.”
Black also said he didn’t realize Ramberg was hanging off the side of his vehicle as he sped away.
During closing arguments, Assistant State’s Attorney Twila Driggins told the jury that parts of Black’s story didn’t make sense. Neither the police officers nor Black showed any signs in the footage of recognizing each other. She conceded Black was scared — but said it was because the officers had spotted a handgun on the floor of the vehicle, and he knew he was in trouble. Driggins also said Black had time to stop the vehicle but continued to drive despite the officer’s cries.
Assistant Public Defender Isabel Lipman, who represents Black, said the incident was a terrible accident.
Black, she said, was minding his business when police zeroed in on him. He didn’t reach for the gun in the vehicle because he never intended to hurt anyone. Black also notably shifted the car into drive before Ramberg ever reached into the window. The officer, she said, behaved recklessly despite already having Black’s license and registration.
The jury is set to resume deliberations Thursday morning. Black is being held without bail.