A Baltimore Police officer was sentenced on Friday to serve 30 days in jail after accepting responsibility for assaulting two men outside a Popeyes in the Radnor-Winston neighborhood at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic.
In handing down that sentence against Officer Edmond Leamon, Baltimore Circuit Judge Philip S. Jackson lamented that such actions from a public servant have a detrimental effect on the community. He said he felt that incarceration was appropriate to serve as a deterrent to future behavior.
“It just breeds mistrust. And if anybody should be trusted in the system, it should be police officers, who are sworn to uphold the law,” Jackson said. “That is, really, a tragedy, for the city.”
Leamon, 43, of York County, Pennsylvania, must also spend three years on probation. He entered Alford pleas to two counts of second-degree assault as well as one count of misconduct in office. That means he did not admit guilt but acknowledged that prosecutors had enough evidence to obtain a conviction.
Police were called to the Popeyes on York Road near Rossiter Avenue on April 23, 2020, after a manager at the fast-food restaurant reported that two men were eating in the dining room, prosecutors said. Gov. Larry Hogan had issued an executive order closing bars and restaurants for indoor dining in response to the coronavirus pandemic.
When Leamon got out of his patrol vehicle, he stated, “Imma beat ‘em up,” prosecutors said. Law enforcement went inside and ordered Joey Rhodes and Mark McCall to leave, and they agreed.
Later, Rhodes asked Leamon to give him some space. Leamon, prosecutors said, continued to closely follow.
Outside of the restaurant, McCall put himself between Rhodes and Leamon, prosecutors said. Leamon then pushed McCall to the ground and shoved Rhodes into a window of the Popeyes, causing the glass to splinter, according to body camera video.
Leamon put his knee on Rhodes’ back and refused to allow him to sit up, prosecutors said. That’s despite calls from Officer Quanshay McKenzie to let him sit up.
Assistant State’s Attorney Kimberly Rothwell extended a plea agreement that called for a sentence of nine months in jail — plus two years’ probation.
But Leamon rejected that offer and allowed the judge to determine the punishment.
Rothwell said Leamon assaulted the men in violation of police department policy and, more importantly, the law.
“Officer Leamon, he has no record, but he was a police officer. And he was using his authority,” Rothwell said. “He made his intention known when he initially got out of the car — this was before even seeing the two men.”
The men, she said, had preexisting medical conditions. Rhodes was arrested and taken to jail for “nothing, essentially,” at the height of the pandemic, Rothwell said.
Leamon’s attorney, Chaz Ball, argued for probation before judgment, stating that his client had probable cause to arrest Rhodes and McCall on charges including a violation of the executive order, trespassing and disorderly conduct.
Ball said his client has two children, 7 and 10, and no prior criminal record. That’s in addition to working for most of his adult life as a public servant, first as a school safety officer in New York.
Leamon underwent surgery on both shoulders and couldn’t work the streets for about eight years. He unsuccessfully tried to receive disability and had to come back or risk losing his job, Ball said.
He noted that his client did not throw any punches, describing what took place as a “quick interaction.”
“I’ve represented officers criminally, administratively, civilly,” Ball said. “If we were in a different jurisdiction, or a different time, this might not be a charge. But we are here now, and that’s the reality of it.”
Ball said Leamon will experience collateral consequences from his conviction, including coverage from the press. Members of the Baltimore Police Department’s Public Integrity Bureau sat in the courtroom.
Leamon apologized in a brief statement.
“I’m embarrassed by the whole situation,” he said. “That’s all I have to say.”
Rhodes and McCall also addressed the court.
Outside the courtroom, Rhodes said he now sees a psychiatrist and experiences post-traumatic stress disorder.
“It just wasn’t right,” said Rhodes, 43, of Pen Lucy, who worked in home construction. “You’re abusing your power.”
In an interview, McCall said he was already experiencing medical issues before the assault, including a back injury.
McCall, 53, of Pen Lucy, said he was trying to mediate the situation and obey the law. Leamon, he said, came in with an attitude.
“That was just police brutality,” said McCall, a forklift operator who’s out of work. “And I wasn’t breaking no law.”
Leamon is a more than 15-year veteran of the Baltimore Police Department who earned $101,488.66 in fiscal year 2021, according to the city’s salary database. He must surrender to begin serving his sentence on Sept. 9, which he can do on weekends.
This story has been updated.