This image shows Officer Leon Riley laying on top of 23-year- old David Dixon using what prosecutors allege were “overly aggressive tactics.” (Screenshot of Youtube video)

By Stephen Janis
Special to the AFRO

A Baltimore police officer who was captured on video lying atop of a man who said he couldn’t breathe, has been charged with multiple counts of assault, perjury and misconduct. 

Officer Leon Riley faces charges based upon two arrests which occurred last year. The charges stem from what prosecutors allege were overly aggressive tactics.

The video, which went viral in December of last year, shows Riley on top of 23-year old David Dixon. During the encounter Dixon can be heard saying “You choking me, sir!” Prosecutors allege in the indictment handed down last week that Riley’s actions lead to a “substantial risk of death.” 

Police initially charged Dixon with drug possession and trespassing, but prosecutors dropped the charges shortly after the video emerged.   

Prosecutors also allege that Riley assaulted Baltimore residents Stephon Martin and Sterlyn Butcher in April of 2019. The charges from that arrest include allegations that Riley lied about what happened and tried to conceal his wrongdoing.

“My office will continue to pursue one standard of justice in the City of Baltimore regardless of your race, religion or occupation,” State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby said in a written statement.  

“Police accountability is something we take very seriously because it’s an honor and a privilege to put on a uniform and wear a badge in order to serve and protect the citizens of this city. If and when you violate that trust, you will be held accountable.”

The Baltimore Police Department also weighed in, acknowledging that Riley had been suspended without pay because the charges include felonies. 

“Detective Riley, who had his police powers suspended immediately when this investigation began in April 2020, will now be suspended without pay pending the outcome of this case,” Baltimore City Police Spokesperson said. “This type of conduct, if proven, will not be condoned.” 

The charges are yet another black eye on a department that is under federal consent decree with the US Department of Justice. Since the city entered in an agreement to reform the department, a myriad of scandals have rocked the beleaguered agency, including the notorious Gun Trace Task Force (GTTF) which robbed residents, dealt drugs and stole overtime.

State Senator Jill P. Carter says the ongoing series of arrests point to a deeper issue: the broken system of accountability that has consistently proven to be ineffective.  

“Officer Riley’s behavior should have been caught sooner,” Carter told the {AFRO}. “He should have been investigated in April when the first incident occurred,” she added. “My question is, why wasn’t the department on top of this?”