A Baltimore Police officer was found guilty of reckless endangerment this week after a judge found he failed to intervene and stop an assault during an investigation in 2020.
Officer Christopher Nguyen, 27, was responding to an assault call when prosecutors said he “created a substantial risk of death or serious physical injury to the victim,” charging him last year with reckless endangerment and misconduct in office.
Nguyen “failed to properly supervise, secure or otherwise detain suspect Kenneth Sommers, which created a substantial risk of death or serious physical injury to the victim, Wayne Brown, a physically incapacitated individual at the time,” the state’s attorney’s office said in a statement announcing Tuesday’s verdict.
Body-worn camera footage from the incident showed Nguyen arriving on the scene and speaking to Sommers, who was waiting in the street by his pickup truck. Sommers tells Nguyen that a man stole the vehicle from his business, Crazy Kenny’s Junk Cars in the Belair-Edison neighborhood, and he had tracked the car to Kolb Avenue, where he confronted him.
Sommers pulled the man from the car and beat him up, according to charging documents.
The camera footage showed Brown lying in the grass nearby, outside the sedan he allegedly took from Sommers. Sommers is then seen walking up to the victim, leaning over him and talking to him as Nguyen moves closer.
“Hey, can you see that? Can you see? So you can remember me,” said Sommers, before kicking the man in the head in a brief interaction.
Sommers was criminally charged and has been convicted of first-degree assault and reckless endangerment, according to online court records.
In a statement, Baltimore State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby praised her office’s Public Trust and Police Integrity Unit “for holding Officer Nguyen accountable for his failure to protect the victim in this case. The citizens of Baltimore deserve to feel protected in the presence of a police officer and not fearful that they will stand idly by while an unrestrained suspect attacks them.”
When charges were filed against Nguyen, city police union leaders criticized the state’s attorney’s office for pursuing the case. Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 3 President Sgt. Mike Mancuso questioned why Nguyen was charged, and said the charges were the latest example of officers being discouraged from doing their jobs.
Mancuso also said last year that department leadership had been increasingly instructing officers to follow “least intrusive policing” policies while the agency undergoes sweeping reforms mandated under a federal consent decree.
Mancuso did not respond to a request for comment on Tuesday’s verdict.
Nguyen’s attorney, Chaz Ball, also did not respond to a request for comment.
Nguyen’s sentencing is scheduled for Oct. 27. He faces up to five years in prison and a fine of up $5,000.