A source close to the investigation has told the Sentinel that the encounter that led to the June 11 officer-involved shooting was initiated by Montgomery County Police Officer Anand Badgujar.
On June 11, Badgujar, 32, shot and killed 41-year-old Robert Lawrence White, an unarmed African-American man from Silver Spring. Badgujar was responding to a separate 911 call when he saw and approached White.
While police released some details of the incident, Montgomery County Police have not answered questions about some of the other details, and have refused to release the 911-call and body-camera footage.
The incident began when Badgujar approached White near the 9200 block of Three Oaks Drive, a source close to the investigation told the Sentinel. After Badgujar approached White, White charged and attempted to hit Badgujar, but White’s punch did not land. That led to Badgujar's attempt to pepper spray White, but he missed.
Badgujar then called for backup and kept his distance from White, even saying on his radio, “I’m keeping him from a distance,” a source close to the investigation told the Sentinel. White eventually managed to move between Badgujar and the squad car, telling the officer “I got your car now.”
Badgujar then ran toward his police car, causing White to back off, running away from the car and the officer. As Badgujar reached to turn off the ignition in his car and a second police officer arrived on the scene, White came up and hit Badgujar while his back was turned. Badgujar then fell into a sitting position, a source close to the investigation told the Sentinel.
It was around this time that the officer fired his first shot, hitting White in the upper leg and knocking him down as White had his hands extended approaching the officer.
At some point during the altercation, Badgujar said over the radio that “I think this guy is trying to commit suicide by police officer,” a source close to the investigation told the Sentinel.
White then got up and hit Badgujar two or three times on the side of the head, which led to Badgujar to firing multiple shots, at least five. Some or all of the shots hit White in the torso, a source close to the investigation told the Sentinel. White was later pronounced dead.
One woman who asked to remain unidentified said she witnessed the shooting from her home, and that 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.
While there are two separate police body-camera videos of the incident, and a third video recorded by a bystander that partially captures it, all the videos have yet to be released, as the Howard County State’s Attorney’s Office are still reviewing the incident.
Representatives from Montgomery County Police and the Howard County State’s Attorney’s Office will meet on June 25 about the investigation, where they will discuss releasing the body-camera footage of the incident. If charges are filed against Badgujar, he will likely be prosecuted in Montgomery County, by representatives from the Howard County State’s Attorney's Office.
So far, Badgujar, who has been placed on administrative leave, has declined to be interviewed by investigators about the incident, but if he is cleared of criminal charges, he will be compelled to speak in a Montgomery County Police internal investigation about his conduct.
Council member Marc Elrich (D-at large) said he asked to see the body-camera footage, but police told him they cannot give him access to it. Elrich said the County will have some type of public meeting about the issue, saying it is unclear what changes, if any, will result from the incident.
“Until I see the video it's really hard to assess what happened from beginning to end,” Elrich said.
White, who lived in a nearby neighborhood, was as recently as November 2015 committed by a local district court 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.
Several of White’s neighbors said they believed he had mental health issues and would frequently go on walks as a way to cope with his problems.