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

Prince George’s County Police find themselves in the midst of another investigation where a suspect was seriously injured during his arrest.  A man sustained a neck injury during a traffic stop and his family says he is now partially paralyzed.

Chief Prince George’s County Police Chief Hank Stawinski said that this will be documented as a “use of force” investigation and that he will look at the actions of all of the officers on the scene to determine if they conducted themselves within proper procedures.

“It doesn’t matter how someone comes into our custody, this is not an acceptable outcome,” the County Police Chief said.

Prince George’s County Police are investigating an incident that went from a traffic stop to hurting and allegedly partially paralyzing Demonte Ward-Blake, 24. (Courtesy Photo)

In what Stawinski described as a “horrible, horrible accident,” the suspect identified as Demonte Ward-Blake, was critically injured when he allegedly tried to escape while in custody. Authorities said the man they arrested during a traffic stop in Oxon Hill was trying to escape when an officer grabbed his arm and fell to the ground hurting his neck. He complained of pain and an ambulance was called immediately. The suspect underwent surgery at the University of Maryland Shock Trauma Center and was listed in stable condition, according to the PGCPD a press release.

Per a statement from Prince George’s Police, in order to prevent the suspect from striking the officer again, and to prevent him from escaping, the officer grabbed the suspect’s arm as he was fleeing. The suspect fell and landed on the roadway. 

According to police accounts, a car with expired tags was stopped around 5:35 p.m. in the 4700 block of Wheeler Road. Ward-Blake was apparently driving with a young child inside. During the stop, the officer called for backup when the driver ignored repeated commands to place his hands on the steering wheel and kept reaching to the center console. Police also said they found a knife inside the console and approximately 30 grams of marijuana which led to a warrant being issued for Ward-Blake’s arrest.

The officer smelled marijuana coming from the car and saw a child, thought to be about six-years-old, sitting in the back seat, police said. The driver allegedly told the officer he had smoked earlier in the day and he was driving with a learner’s permit. When two additional officers arrived, Ward-Blake was asked to exit the vehicle and handcuffed. He was then escorted away from his car as the child was then turned over to another adult who arrived on the scene.  

As the officers proceeded to search him, Ward-Blake allegedly struck an officer in the head with his elbow and tried to run away.  At that point one of the officers initiated a “takedown procedure” to stop him from escaping. PGCPD spokeswoman Jennifer Donelan said during a press conference.

The department launched an internal investigation into the case and has placed one of the officers from the scene on administrative leave although he has retained his police authority.  Officers were not wearing body cameras at the time and the arrest took place outside of dashcam view, Donelan added.    

Meanwhile, Ward-Blake’s mother, Renee Ward, told D.C.’s NBC-4 that the 24-year-old suspect had recently picked up his girlfriend’s child and was taking her home when the police stopped him.  

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) is already challenging the department’s accounts of a fatal shooting involving a New Carrollton man who appeared to be dealing with mental health issues Sept. 26 Leonard Shand, 49, was shot to death after officers spent 28 minutes trying to bring the incident to a non lethal conclusion. He appeared to be disoriented when confronted by police in the incident that was caught on social media video.