SNOW HILL – A Berlin man found guilty in January on assault, resisting arrest and disorderly conduct charges stemming from a bizarre incident last summer that included a case of mistaken identity, alleged assault on Ocean City Police Department officers and even accusations of police brutality had the convictions against him reversed on appeal this week in Circuit Court.
Demar Antonio Leonard, 19, of Berlin, who was a juvenile at the time of the incident last July, was with two other men in front of the 7-Eleven on North Division Street in Ocean City last July 15 when the three men were approached by Ocean City Police officers. The police believed Leonard and the two other men matched the description of three suspects wanted in connection with a shoplifting spree at the CVS store on 120th Street days earlier.
The store’s video surveillance system captured still photographs of the three suspects as they made their way through the store and ultimately walked out with over $3,000 in merchandize, and resort police believed they had their suspects when they saw Leonard and the other two men in front of the 7-Eleven days later. Leonard and the other two men were later found not to be the suspects in the CVS case, but not before an ugly scene that started with a verbal and physical altercation and ended with threats of a lawsuit over alleged police brutality in the case.
When the initial officer observed the three suspects at 7-Eleven, he called for back-up because he believed they were the suspects in the CVS thefts. Meanwhile, one of the suspects got in a car and left the scene leaving Leonard and another suspect to face police questioning. The OCPD officers approached the two remaining suspects, asked them for identification and told them they wanted to question them about the CVS incident three days earlier.
The suspects initially refused to provide any identification and told the officers they had just arrived in town that day and could not have had anything to do with the robbery at CVS. Nonetheless, the officers continued to ask for identification several times, and each time, the suspects refused to provide any information. They told police they were from New York and that they didn’t have any identification on them.
After Leonard allegedly ignored the officers’ requests not to reach into his pocket, the officers decided to restrain the suspect for their safety while they continued to attempt to find out who the suspects were. According to police reports, as they attempted to restrain the suspect a struggle ensued, which escalated when four officers attempted to subdue the young man, who became extremely combative.
The suspect was eventually taken into custody, but not before launching a racially charged, expletive laced tirade about his unfair treatment in front of 20 or more people who had gathered at the scene. In the meantime, the suspect’s father, who works for the town of Ocean City, arrived on the scene and urged police to let him take his son home.
However, the police arrested the juvenile and charged him with two counts of second-degree assault, resisting arrest and disorderly conduct. When the juvenile’s parents picked him up after booking, they found he had been badly beaten and required medical attention. The juvenile’s family pursued police brutality charges against the arresting officers and an investigation into the accusations was initiated, but nothing ever came of the brutality claims.
In District Court in January, Leonard was found guilty of two counts of assault, resisting arrest and disorderly conduct. He was sentenced to an unannounced amount of jail time, but his attorneys quickly appealed the verdicts. Last week in Circuit Court, the earlier convictions against Leonard were overturned on appeal.