Howard County prosecutors requested Monday Montgomery County Police not release body camera footage from a June 11 officer-involved shooting – a move that has sparked an outcry for transparency from local activists.
Detectives from the Montgomery County Police department met with Howard County Deputy State’s Attorney Mary Murphy Monday about the ongoing investigation into the police shooting of an unarmed black man, Robert Lawrence White.
On June 11, Montgomery County Police Officer Anand Badgujar shot and killed White, after police say White attacked Badgujar.
As per the agreement between the two counties, the Howard County State’s Attorney’s office is conducting the investigation into the shooting. Since the investigation is still ongoing, Murphy asked Montgomery County Police to not release body-camera footage from the shooting, according to T. Wayne Kirwan, a spokesperson for the Howard County State’s Attorney's Office.
“We asked the police to not release the video at this point in the investigation,” Kirwan said.
While Montgomery County Police have published information about the shooting via press releases, activists have demanded that police release more information about the shooting.
“Across the country, black people, as well as those with mental illnesses or developmental disabilities, face significant and often life-threatening risks in encounters with law enforcement officers,” a coalition of advocacy groups wrote in a letter to Montgomery County Police Chief Tom Manger and County Executive Ike Leggett.“ Montgomery County is unique in many ways, but it is by no means an exception to this troubling pattern. This must change.”
On Wednesday, activists from a coalition of civil rights groups, which included Black Lives Matter DC Direct Action Pod, Jews United for Justice, Montgomery County Civil Rights Coalition, Progressive Action Montgomery County and Showing Up for Racial Justice Montgomery County, met with Manger. Among their demands to the police chief were the release of the body-camera footage, de-escalation training, and mandatory implicit-bias training for police officers.
Laurel Hoa, an organizer for SURJ MoCo, said the meeting was prompted after activists and community members met with Third District Commander Will Montgomery.
The shooting happened on June 11, a source close to the investigation of the incident 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.
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, whereupon 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.
Many of White’s neighbors said they believed he suffered from a mental illness and would frequently go on walks to cope with it. In 2015, a 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.
White’s mental health has led many community members to ask questions about what training police officers get to deal with people who have psychiatric conditions.