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Transgender Inmate Sues Maryland, Alleges Officer Placed Her In Chokehold, Dropped Her On Face At Central Booking

BALTIMORE (WJZ) -- A transgender inmate is suing the state of Maryland after she said she was brutally assaulted by a correctional officer at Baltimore's Central Booking two years ago. She also claims that officers tried to cover it up.

Three officers were later changed. Their criminal cases are still pending in the court system.

Video WJZ obtained shows a correctional officer placing inmate Amber Canter in an apparent chokehold inside of Central Booking, a state-run facility in Baltimore City, in June of 2019.

Two other officers are in the same room at the time.

Canter is led into a common area while two officers are holding her. She said she went unconscious and that she was dropped on the concrete floor on her face.

The video shows officers dragging her limp body. Her lawsuit claims they waited to get her medical treatment and that her injuries were so severe, she was later placed in intensive care at Johns Hopkins Hospital.

"The video is essential for the public to see what is happening behind the door to the jail," her attorney Malcolm Ruff, with Murphy, Falcon and Murphy, told WJZ Investigator Mike Hellgren. "It is completely egregious for a correctional officer to think that he would get away scot-free with assaulting an inmate in this way."

Ruff's federal complaint shows before-and-after pictures of what he claims are Canter's injuries.

"A broken eye socket, broken face bones, broken sinus bones, serious bleeding in her head," Ruff said. "Nobody deserves to be treated like that. She was treated like an animal."

Ruff said his client was a thorn in the side of officers and jail administrators for persistently advocating for transgender inmates' rights.

He said what lead to this video was her own protest of her treatment—that she sat on the floor demanding a supervisor.

She also claimed officers falsified their use-of-force reports.

"The department should take ownership of the culture they created that would even allow a correctional officer to address an inmate in this way," Ruff told Hellgren.

The Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services told WJZ they cannot comment and cited the pending litigation as the reason. Governor Larry Hogan told us Friday that he was unaware of the incident.

Canter was moved to a correctional facility in Western Maryland where she alleges continued discrimination because she is transgender.

The officer seen placing her in that apparent chokehold at Central Booking has been fired by the state according to Canter's lawyer. That officer faces felony assault and misconduct in office charges.

The other two officers face misconduct in office charges. Their cases are moving slowly, with court hearings scheduled for March.

Ruff called the civil lawsuit "a watershed moment for transgender inmates in the state of Maryland."

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