Ocean City To Pay $45K After Losing Police Excessive Force Civil Suit

OCEAN CITY — The verdict in an excessive force and brutality civil suit filed by a Severn man against an Ocean City police officer went against the defendant after a three-day trial this week, resulting in an award for the plaintiff totaling $45,000.

In March 2013, attorneys for Branden Thomas, then 26, filed suit in U.S. District Court against Ocean City Police Pfc. Ryan Flanagan accusing the officer of an unprovoked attack against Thomas outside a midtown nightclub in August 2012. The suit sought an undisclosed amount of damages to be determined at trial for several charges against the officer including assault and battery, false arrest, false imprisonment, malicious prosecution and violations of his Fourth and Fourteenth Amendment rights to freedom from seizure.

For over two years, the civil suit plodded through the U.S. District Court system, but the jury trial finally began on Monday. On Wednesday, the jury returned with a verdict in favor of Thomas and awarded the plaintiff $45,000 in damages.

“I’m disappointed in the verdict against Flanagan,” Ocean City Solicitor Guy Ayres said yesterday. “We thought we had a good case going in.”

Despite the verdict against the OCPD officer, Ayres said there was some measure of satisfaction with the monetary award. Thomas was awarded $45,000, but the demand at settlement was $400,000. Ayres said he took the settlement officer to the Mayor and Council, which rejected the offer and sent the case to trial.

According to the complaint, Thomas, and two other companions were leaving Seacrets on Aug. 16, 2012 and were walking through the parking lot en route to their hotel when they came upon a scene involving Ocean City Police officers arresting a man for assaulting a female. The female was injured and was bleeding from the nose when Thomas and his companions asked what had happened.

Thomas and his companions were informed the female victim had been assaulted by the male and the suspect was being arrested. Thomas and his friends expressed some verbal disdain as they continued walking about the assault on the female and subsequent arrest of the suspect when Flanagan allegedly told them to “shut up or be arrested.”

According to the complaint, Thomas and his group continued to walk when Flanagan yelled for them to stop. Flanagan then closed the distance between he and Thomas and allegedly struck Thomas in the back left side of his head, near his neck, with a closed fist. Flanagan then pushed Thomas, causing him to fall to the ground and strike his head on the concrete.

About The Author: Shawn Soper

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Shawn Soper has been with The Dispatch since 2000. He began as a staff writer covering various local government beats and general stories. His current positions include managing editor and sports editor. Growing up in Baltimore before moving to Ocean City full time three decades ago, Soper graduated from Loch Raven High School in 1981 and from Towson University in 1985 with degrees in mass communications with a journalism concentration and history.