Robert A. Jones alleges in his lawsuit that former sheriff’s deputy Michael Armstrong not only used excessive force, but that his actions were maliciously motivated.
On October 31, 2012, Jones says he was burning leaves in his fire pit, something he claims to have been doing for the last 50 years. Jones has lived in the same home for over 56 years and has been on social security disability since 1982.
He says there was more smoke than usual because the leaves we a bit damp. As the fire began to die down, Jones says he went to the front of his house to meet people who wanted to buy a car that he had for sale.
He was then approached by Armstrong, who claimed that he “saw a fire about two miles away.” Jones insisted that this was not possible, and that the deputy was simply seeing smoke due to the wetness of the leaves.
Armstrong reportedly interrogated Jones about fire safety, to which Jones explained that he had hoses as well as other options to douse the fire.
At this point Jones asked the officer why his white neighbors could burn leaves before 4 pm without receiving “this type of treatment.” The question reportedly outraged the deputy, who insisted it was not a black and white thing.
The officer began to demand ID and told Jones that he had three seconds to get his identification before he would be arrested. Jones alleges that as he was pulling it out of his pocket the officer quickly counted to three and shoved him.
The complaint states that after pushing Jones, Armstrong continued to punch him in the face, knee him in the sides of his body and back, and spray him in the face with pepper spray six times as he was on the ground, SoMD News reported.
The disabled man says that he believed that he was going to die and could not breathe.
Jones was ultimately charged with six crimes, including two counts of assault on a police officer, but the only count on which he was found guilty was failure to obey an order, which he appealed and won.
A statement released from the department regarding the lawsuit states that the incident occurred prior to the current administration and that the deputy involved was no longer employed at the department. They also claim that no formal complaint was filed other than a notice that a lawsuit may be filed in April of 2013.
“The Charles County sheriff’s department is going to learn through this lawsuit,” Jones’ attorney Jimmy A. Bell told SoMD News. “Hunting is not fun when the rabbit has the gun, and the gun we’re using is the legal process and the bullets are going to be the jury verdict.”