A transgender female inmate currently suing the state of Maryland over an alleged assault while in custody has filed an amended complaint claiming that a correctional officer placed her in a chokehold until she passed out and then dropped her on her face, causing severe injuries.
Amber Canter, a Baltimore resident currently being house at the Western Correctional Institution, in Cumberland, Maryland, claims she was assaulted while in custody at the Baltimore City Central Booking & Intake Center, a state-run prison, in June 2019.
According to Canter’s lawsuit, she had developed a reputation among Central Booking correctional officers as a vocal advocate for transgender rights and frequent critic of some of the facility’s policies prior to the incident, which began as a dispute over Canter being denied recreational time outside of her cell.
Canter claims in her complaint, first filed in August 2019 and most recently amended earlier this month, that an officer, who had been called in as backup for another officer with whom she was arguing, became threatening and abusive towards her after she sat down and refused to move until a supervisor could resolve the issue to her satisfaction, as they had previously promised.
Canter claims the officer in question allegedly placed Canter in a chokehold until she lost consciousness, at which point he and two other officers — also named as defendants — carried her limp body for several feet before dropping her on her face on the concrete floor. The three officers then dragged Canter’s body back to her cell and did not seek medical help for nearly 10 minutes, despite the fact that she had lost consciousness and sustained a serious open head wound.
Canter claims she suffered bone fractures in her face, severe bruising on the left side of her forehead, internal bleeding behind her right eye and pneumocephalus, or the presence of air in the cranial cavity, often as a result of trauma. Her injuries were so severe she was placed in an intensive care unit at Johns Hopkins Hospital, her complaint says.
The three officers have each been charged with two counts of misconduct in office, with the officer accused of choking Canter facing additional assault charges related to the incident, according to the Office of the State’s Attorney for Baltimore City. Those cases are currently working their way through the judicial system.
In her lawsuit, Canter claims the correctional officers, and by extension, higher-ranking prison officials, the secretary of Maryland’s corrections department, and the state of Maryland, violated her rights under both state and federal law, in addition to charges of negligence, assault, and battery. She also claims in her complaint that officers tried to cover up the incident afterwards by falsifying their use-of-force reports.
Canter is asking for a minimum of $75,000 in damages, plus interest and attorneys’ fees, but is requesting that a jury ultimately decide the total amount in damages.
The Maryland Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services is declining to comment on the case, citing the ongoing lawsuit.
Canter’s claims were recently given fuel after her attorney, Malcolm Ruff, released video surveillance footage of the incident to national and local news media. The video appears to show the officers choking out Canter, allowing her body to fall to the floor, face first, and dragging her body back to her cell.
“The video is essential for the public to see what is happening behind the door to the jail,” Ruff told CBS affiliate WJZ-TV in an interview, claiming officers treated his client “like an animal.”
“It is completely egregious for a correctional officer to think that he would get away scot-free with assaulting an inmate in this way,” Ruff added. “The department should take ownership of the culture they created that would even allow a correctional officer to address an inmate in this way.”
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