By Mark F. Gray
AFRO Staff Writer
mgray@afro.com

Corporal Stephen Downey of the Prince George’s County Police Department was sentenced to five years in jail, but will serve only six months for his role in aggressively putting a suspect in custody during an incident in October 2018. 

Downey, 32, was convicted of second-degree assault for his role in an incident that transpired when he reportedly became over zealous while assisting a group of officers making an arrest during a robbery attempt at a CVS Pharmacy in Temple Hills, Md. The suspect was subdued and reportedly had already been cuffed with hands behind his back when the convicted officer apparently assaulted him.

Corporal Stephen Downey of the Prince Geoge’s County Police Department was sentenced to five years in jail, but will serve only six months for punching an already subdued suspect in custody in October 2018. (Courtesy Photo)

According to a press release from the office of Prince George’s County State’s Attorney Aisha Braveboy, during the incident on Oct. 29, 2018, police officers responded to a call for service at the pharmacy in Temple Hills. One of the officers placed a man under arrest, handcuffed him behind his back, and secured him with a seat belt in the front seat of the officer’s cruiser.

Downey was reportedly one of several officers who responded to the incident. His attorney argued that the suspect at the time, Andre Verdier, was agitated and aggressive. The claim was also that Downey, who had been with the department for eight years, was concerned about being butted in the head. Verdier testified at Downey’s trial, thanking God and the prosecutors in the Prince George’s County State’s Attorney’s Office. 

Verdier was detained in the police cruiser when Corporal Downey reportedly punched him in the face several times to the point where he needed medical attention. Afterwards the victim was taken  to a local hospital where he was treated for the injuries he sustained from this incident.

Authorities say Downey punched Verdier in the face several times after the suspect turned victim complained that his handcuffs were too tight.  There were other officers on the scene who corroborated the incident and Downey was subsequently indicted by a Grand Jury.

Prosecutors dropped a burglary charge against Verdier a month later.

“Cases like these are especially concerning because police officers are sworn to protect the public,” said State’s Attorney Aisha Braveboy. 

“When the public’s trust is violated our community suffers. In every case, no matter the position or status of the defendant, we will prosecute and seek justice for victims.”

On Aug. 8 Corporal Downey was found guilty of second degree assault and misconduct. Judge Ingrid M. Turner levied the sentence nearly three months after she found Downey guilty of second-degree assault and misconduct in office – which are considered misdemeanors – returning a guilty verdict following the three day bench trial.

After he is released, Downey will be on supervised probation for three years. The corporal must also complete anger management and perform 100 hours of community service. However, his status within the department remains murky. Prince George’s County Police Chief Hank Stawinski previously said that once the criminal phase ended with the sentencing, the department would begin considering internal action on Corporal Downey’s job status that could mean termination. Downey had been reportedly suspended with pay because the charges were misdemeanors.  

“In keeping with our demonstrated commitment to accountability and the public trust, this is another instance where the Department identified the criminal misconduct, investigated, notified and then collaborated with the Office of the State’s Attorney for prosecution,” Stawinski said in a statement. “This individual failed to meet our standards and does not represent our officers.”