Friday, December 13, 2013 4:01 AM
Photo by Jim Davis. Sabah Ali pours a beer at the Bladensburg Three Brothers where he has worked as a bartender and manager for 23 years. Ali was awarded $160,000 last week in a civil suit against Prince George’s County Police Department for violating his rights.
Published on: Tuesday, April 16, 2013
By Jim Davis
A jury awarded a Bowie man $160,000 last Wednesday in a civil suit against the Prince George’s County Police Department.
Just before 12:30 a.m. Oct. 6, 2011, Sabah Ali, 54, was driving home from the Bladensburg Three Brothers Italian Restaurant he has managed for 23 years when he noticed a co-worker who had been pulled over by an Edmonston police officer for a headlight infraction.
Wondering if his co-worker needed help, Ali pulled into the empty parking lot of the 7-Eleven store at Kenilworth Avenue and Tilden Street in Bladensburg and was informed by the officer and his co-worker Tim Allen what was happening.
A few minutes later the Edmonston police officer left Ali and Allen in the empty parking lot. Within several minutes, two Prince George’s County cruisers pulled into the parking lot. Ali said Officer Hong Park exited his cruiser and started to yell at the men, “Where are the drugs? I just saw you making a drug deal!”
Ali and Allen attempted to explain to Park what had happened, but Ali said the officer became more aggressive and told him he was under arrest.
“I did not break the law,” Ali said. “I just asked, ‘What did I do?’ and I get treated like a criminal.”
Ali said that he told Park he wanted to speak to his sergeant and attempted to call 911 when Park knocked the phone out of his hand and told him he was not making any phone calls.
“I attempted to make a second call to Bladensburg Police Department when he again knocked the phone out of hand,” Ail said.
A few minutes later, Ali said in an interview with The Sentinel, a Bladensburg police officer arrived on the scene and informed Park and the other officers that he knew Ali and that he is not a criminal.
According to Terry Roberts, Ali’s lawyer, the Bladensburg officer asked Park and the other officers if they had activated their recorder and video cameras in their cruiser. The officers said no and Ali was being arrested because he was going to report Park to his sergeant, said Roberts.
As Ali was sitting in Park’s cruiser, he asked if he could have his license back, at which point Ali said Park looked at him and said, “You don’t know who your f—-ing with.”
Ali was transported to Prince George’s County Police Department in Hyattsville and charged with disorderly conduct, Roberts said.
After spending more than 12 hours sitting on the floor without any food or drink and not allowed to make any phone calls, Ali was released, and all charges were dropped.
Soon after Ali was released, he contacted a lawyer and the internal affairs division of the Prince George’s County Police Department to file a complaint. He said he received a call from an investigator from internal affairs asking him why he didn’t drop the case.
Ali refused. During the trial, Roberts submitted video from the 7-Eleven store that clearly showed there was not a large number of people in the parking lot as Park stated and that Ali was not acting disorderly as Park stated in his charges.
Roberts said that during the trial Park became very unprofessional during his testimony to the point that the judge had to call a short recess.
After two days of testimony from Ali, the Bladensburg police officers and others, the jury found that Ali’s rights were violated and ruled in his favor.
Ali said since this happened, he has had problems sleeping and could not think straight.
“It got the point that I had to see a psychiatrist to help me with my problems,” Ali said.
Lt. Bill Alexander, a spokesman for Prince George’s County Police Department, said, “Officer Park was cleared of any wrongdoing into this matter. Officer Park remains a full time active member of the Prince George’s County Police Department.”
Roberts says there is a bigger issue here.
“We don’t live in a police state,” he said. “Whenever a police officer arrests someone without legal justification ... that’s a very disturbing case to me. It’s unfortunate that it happened, and it shouldn’t be happening in this county.”
Ali said in his job at the restaurant, he has met and befriended scores of police officers over the years. He said most are hardworking and honest and hopes his winning case sends a message to the others and their bosses.