Police officer placed on leave after 41-year-old with previous mental health issues killed
Montgomery County Police Chief Tom Manger placed Officer Anand Badgujar – a two year police veteran – on paid administrative leave this week after the officer apparently shot and killed an unarmed 41-year-old African American man in Silver Spring Monday afternoon.
Police identified the victim as Robert Lawrence White. As recently as November 2015 a local district court judge committed White to the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene for “examination as to competency to stand trial” in a misdemeanor trespassing case.
The court found “good cause to believe the defendant may be incompetent to stand trial” per an evaluation by the pretrial supervision unit.
The Sentinel has requested a copy of the findings from the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene following the court ordered evaluation. The report was not made available by press time.
Badgujar, 32, is a former sergeant on the Baltimore police force where he served for five years. He is currently assigned to the Montgomery County Police Department’s 3rd District patrol division.
Manger said Badgujar encountered White in the 9200 block of Three Oaks Drive after responding to a 911 call. According to a police spokesman, the 911 operator could not speak with the person placing the call.
The Sentinel requested a copy of the 911 call, but was told the recording is part of the current investigation and won’t be released. Police say Badgujar, upon reaching the scene attempted to talk to White. According to Manger and at least one witness, White became “combative and a physical altercation occurred.”
Police say body camera footage, which The Sentinel also requested and was denied access to, shows White beginning the altercation which led to his death.
One woman who asked to remain unidentified said she witnessed the shooting from her home and the incident began when White started yelling at Badgujar. According to the woman she saw White “aggressively approach” Badgujar, striking him three times, while Badgujar attempted to use his hands to cover himself from the blows.
“The shooting started after the guy [White] attacked the police officer,” the witness said. She said she also spoke with police regarding the shooting.
After White apparently struck Badgujar, the officer attempted to pepper-spray White and then requested assistance from other officers, Manger said.
White then walked away, while Badgujar went to his police cruiser to turn off the ignition. According to police, White then turned and ran toward the officer who backpedaled away. White apparently then knocked Badgujar down where upon Badgujar fired his gun at White who then fell, got up again and continued to strike Badgujar while the officer was lying on the ground. Badgujar then fired off several more shots, killing White. Manger said the confrontation between White and Badgujar lasted about two minutes.
The incident occurred less than a mile’s walk from White’s Silver Spring home on the 300 block of Dearborn Avenue.
White’s neighbors described him as friendly, saying he would frequently take walks every day.
“We would see him on almost a daily basis. I work many days out of the house, as does my wife, and he would always greet us quite cheerfully either verbally or with a wave,” said Michael Franz, a neighbor of White’s. Franz also said White routinely walked through the neighborhood to “work off anxiety” issues.
As a result of the shooting, Montgomery County Police have placed Badgujar on administrative leave, while an independent investigation is being conducted by the Howard County State’s Attorney's Office to determine if Badgujar is criminally liable for the shooting. The process is part of an agreement between both counties to have an independent investigation of any officer-involved shooting.
White was previously convicted of second-degree assault and was previously charged with several minor crimes such as failing to identify himself to a police officer, trespassing on school grounds, theft under $1000 and theft under $100.
Franz said he and his neighbors were saddened to hear the news of White’s death, saying he was a beloved member of the neighborhood.
“I would say it was a very consequential loss,” Franz said. “He was someone who was a cheerful member of our community. Someone for whom we all felt quite significant sympathy.”
Justin Fitzgerald, Kathleen Stubbs, Tosin Fakile and Mark Robinson also contributed to this report.