For months, state officials said they couldn’t discuss anything about an incident in which a state police officer had used a Taser on a child, citing a state law requiring secrecy in incidents involving juveniles.
But another law, designed to make police disciplinary files accessible to the public, proved effective at eking out more transparency regarding the incident. The Baltimore Banner obtained more than 100 pages of records from the internal investigative file, including the officer’s claim that he fired two Taser prongs into the boy by accident.
Redactions, however, still abound: Maryland Capitol Police either did not interview the youth or fully redacted the account of it, and also redacted the account of the only other nonpolice witness. They won’t even provide the boy’s age, but The Banner received a document from a source identifying him as an 11-year-old.
Some lawmakers say the law protecting juvenile information was not intended to be a blackout on disclosing crimes or police conduct, and should be revisited. Baltimore County Del. Jon S. Cardin, a Democrat, said he was “both surprised and frustrated by the inflexibility in the law that prohibits law enforcement from revealing non-personal information about an interaction” with a youth. Sen. Jill Carter, a Baltimore Democrat, said the intent of the law was to prevent minors accused of crimes from having their information “spread throughout the public sphere in perpetuity unless they were adjudicated as an adult,” and may need to be tweaked.
But other police departments say they think the law still gives them room to provide basic information. Baltimore County Police say they “cannot release any record concerning a child” but “will provide details of an incident, as long as the information will not reasonably lead to the identification of the involved child.”
Anne Arundel County Police Lt. Jacklyn Davis said the department’s stance is that the law pertains to a record itself, not all information contained within it.
“It is the opinion of the AACoPD that we have an obligation to inform the public of events,” Davis said. “We plan on continuing to operate how we have by acknowledging incidents, but protecting the identity of the juvenile and protecting the records themselves.”
The Department of General Services, which oversees the Capitol Police force, initially would not provide any information about the Taser incident, saying it was under investigation. They later acknowledged that a juvenile, whose age they would not provide, was arrested on charges they declined to disclose. They would not say why the officer had engaged the youth but said the case was “concluded.”
The agency, acting on advice from the Maryland Office of the Attorney General, said that it couldn’t provide information because the arrest involved a juvenile.
“A police record concerning a child is confidential and shall be maintained separate from those of adults. Its contents may not be divulged, by subpoena or otherwise, except by order of the court upon good cause shown or as otherwise provided in § 7–303 of the Education Article,” the law says.
The Banner continued to seek information. The department disclosed May 31 in response to a Public Information Act request that a state charging committee found the officer, then-Sgt. Carlos Gomez, had used unnecessary force, and recommended two days loss of leave. Gomez accepted the punishment, the records show.
The Banner next requested the internal disciplinary file — legislation known as Anton’s Law passed in 2021 made internal affairs files public for the first time — and received more than 100 pages from the investigation including accounts of the incident from Gomez and other police officers. Investigators concluded that the Taser discharge “was unintentional and occurred not due to malicious intent, but due to training issues that need to be addressed.”
Gomez’ own written report of the incident is completely redacted with the exception of the date, time and location, even though his interview with investigators and account of the incident was largely unredacted.
The documents say that Gomez had gone to a courtyard at 301 W. Preston St. for a call of subjects damaging property. A group of males took off running, and Gomez attempted to pursue them after a supervisor, Lt. Matthew Warehime, told him over the radio to take them into custody. He eventually located the boy hiding behind bushes, and approached with his Taser drawn.
Gomez told investigators that he had been “unable to perceive the subject’s age” and that the boy “exhibited flight and concealment” that fell under the use of force continuum that dictates when officers may deploy force.
Gomez said he ordered the boy to stop and get on the ground or he would be tased. The boy complied with his command and went to the ground, he said.
When Gomez attempted to handcuff the boy, with his Taser still in his hand, he said he accidentally set it off.
Warehime, his supervisor, told investigators that he was first to arrive on the scene and Gomez told him the Taser deployment was an accident. He said Gomez “seemed very upset that his Taser had discharged ... made immediate notification to dispatch to send medics to the scene, expressed concern for the juvenile and was calm.”
Another officer interviewed, Andre Robinson, said Gomez “appeared exhausted, shocked, and very disappointed in himself.”
While very little of Robinson’s interview is redacted, the majority of the account from Sgt. Shanell Johnson is redacted.
There’s only one nonpolice witness — an employee with the Department of Budget and Management — whose account appears in the report, and police redacted it.
It’s unclear from the documents whether the youth was interviewed. The documents say the complaint was generated internally, by Lt. David Lewis.
One page from the file containing a witness interview is completely redacted, including the person’s name, presumably because it documents their interaction with the boy. But the agency wouldn’t say one way or the other, as well as why the state employee’s observations would reveal identifying information about the youth. The Banner asked the agency to reconsider its stance.
Christian Skipper, DGS director of records, said the redacted information was “withheld from disclosure because they contain reference to minors and facts that might help identify the specific minors involved in the incident.”
“Consequently, DGS’ original redactions to these records will remain unmodified,” he said.
In the records, Warehime told investigators that a Taser should be deployed from 7 to 9 feet away, and not closer than that, to achieve incapacitation and that the device’s internal records showed it was fired in quick succession as if by accident. He also said that someone struck with one instead of two prongs would not feel an electric shock. That, collectively, caused investigators to conclude the firing was indeed an accident as Gomez had asserted.
Since the incident, Gomez has been promoted to lieutenant, the agency confirmed. DGS spokesman Nick Cavey said Gomez had been recommended for promotion in October 2022, and “reclassified” in July.
“The Department of General Services is in the process of reviewing promotional procedures to ensure alignment with the Moore-Miller administration’s goals and values,” Cavey said.