Charges against a Washington, D.C., police officer who allegedly resisted arrest and had an open container of alcohol in public were dropped Wednesday after prosecutors deemed he was not at fault, according to the Prince George’s County state’s attorney’s office.
Richard Anthony Merritt, 47, of Silver Spring is a 23-year veteran with the Metropolitan Police Department who was arrested by two county officers outside a restaurant in Fairmount Heights in September.
His attorney, Jimmy Bell, said Merritt was leaving the restaurant and was speaking with his son on the phone when officers approached Merritt and a group of other men he was standing near and told them to face the wall.
Merritt was charged with having an open alcoholic beverage in public and resisting arrest, according to online court records and charging documents obtained from police.
“This was a District Court case where the Prince George’s County police made an arrest after they determined the defendant was acting in a disorderly fashion and consuming alcohol in public. Further, it appeared to the arresting officer that the defendant had a firearm on him. In fact, the defendant did have a firearm, but it turned out to be his police-issued service weapon,” said Nancy Lineman, a spokeswoman for the state’s attorney’s office. “Based on the totality of the circumstances, our office exercised our discretion and dismissed the charges in this case.”
Charging documents state county officers did not learn of Merritt’s employment with MPD until they discovered his identification card and department-issued handgun. However, Merritt said in October that he immediately identified himself as a police officer and said he was armed when the county officers arrived.
In a $3 million civil suit Merritt filed against the county alleging excessive force and Civil Rights Act violations, he claims he was struck several times with a baton by the arresting officers, even after he identified himself as an officer.
Merritt previously stated he had to seek medical attention after the alleged beating, and X-rays determined he had a broken bone in his leg and was put in a soft walking cast to heal.
Lineman declined to comment on the allegations of excessive force.
“All I can tell you is that the criminal charges were dropped. We do not comment on civil cases,” Lineman said.
Bell said the criminal charges being dropped further validates the civil suit. He said Merritt did not have an open alcoholic container with him and did not resist arrest, and claims that officers falsified the police report.
“This shows that even the prosecutors have seen that the charges were bogus,” he said. “The officers’ actions to my client were illegal and unconstitutional. The hardest thing to fight is a lie, especially one that’s written down by police in a charging document.”
Merritt could not be reached by phone Thursday.
Bell said he expects the civil suit to be tried by a jury in the fall.