More than a week after police released the body-camera footage showing the June 11 police shooting of Robert White, activists have more questions about what happened.
While the State's Attorney for Howard County, who conducted the investigation of Montgomery County Police Officer Anand Badgujar, concluded that the shooting was “justified” and that he would not pursue criminal charges against the officer, activists are now questioning the events of June 11.
Laurel Hoa, an activist with Standing Up for Racial Justice, said the shooting could have been prevented if the officer had never approached White to begin with.
“I do not believe the shooting was justified; we do not believe Officer Badgujar should have approached Robert White in the first place,” Hoa said.
The video that police released last week show the interaction between Badgujar and White. In the video, Badgujar is shown approaching White and telling him, “Hey, big man, you need to stop.”
White then turns and runs towards Badgujar, who then first runs and then attempts to pepper spray white. During the next few minutes of the video, Badgujar follows White through the neighborhood in the 9200 block of Three Oaks Drive in Silver Spring.
Eventually White charges Badgujar again, and Badgujar shoots him more than five times, killing him.
For activists, the video raises more concerns. While the criminal investigation is over and Montgomery County Police began an internal review of the incident to determine whether Badgujar followed proper protocol, activists are saying the video is evidence of a wider issue in America concerning police brutality.
“He had no reason, no solid evidence, no probable cause that Mr. White was doing anything wrong, and yet he followed him around,” said Sue Udry, co-founder of the Montgomery County Civil Rights Coalition.
Badgujar, through his attorney, said he approached White because he noticed White had a large rip in the back of his jacket. He then noticed White putting his right hand into his pocket, as if to conceal something, and turned his body away from the officer – which prompted him to approach White, Badgujar said.
But some activists said the explanation does not hold up.
Joanna Silver, a member of the Silver Spring Justice Coalition and a public defender, said the stop may have been illegal.
Silver said a police officer needs “reasonable suspicion” to stop somebody and that Badgujar’s explanation does not hold up, in her eyes.
“Based on the evidence that has been released so far, there doesn't sound like there was reasonable suspicion,” Silver said.
While some activists said they wanted Badgujar to be charged with a crime, Silver conceded that based on her review of the video, the decision by the Howard County State’s Attorney to not pursue charges against Badgujar was the right legal decision.
Udry said the hastily assembled activist groups, dubbed the Silver Spring Justice Coalition, are now seeking changes in the law to hopefully prevent another shooting. Udry said she supports the County setting up a civilian trial board, which would review police conduct.
Two years ago, the General Assembly passed a bill giving local jurisdictions the authority to set up a civilian trial board. Udry is urging the County Council to pass a bill that would set up a civilian trial board in Montgomery County.