A D.C. police detective is under fire today after he allegedly pulled his service weapon after kids hit his Hummer with snowballs. In addition, the head of internal investigations for D.C. Assistant Chief Peter Newsham is being criticized for telling the public that the detective never pulled his weapon and only had a cellphone in his hand. However, on the videotape below the detective admits that he pulled his weapon. The officer in the video identifies himself as Detective “Baylor” (spelling?) and, when confronted with the claim that he pulled his gun, says “yes I did because I was hit with snowballs.”
The truth of the story was broken by Jason Cherkis of the CityPaper, who found witnesses and pictures that disprove Newsham’s statements.
According to witnesses, the detective was driving around in his personal Hummer when it was hit by snowballs at the corner of 14th and U NW. He allegedly got out of his car and pulled his gun in front of the crowd — prompting people to call 911. The officer who is shown on the video speaking with the crowd appears professional and measured. The detective in the video on the other hand is still yelling and admits to pulling his gun as justified because he “got his with snowballs.” It appears in Washington snowballs constitute the basis for justified use of lethal force under Tennessee v. Garner.
Here is how the witnesses found by Cherkis described the event to him:
“An hour ago, we showed up to see a snowball fight already in progress. Two factions along 14th Street along the intersection. It was pretty friendly, mostly OK. At one point, there was one interaction with the police that I saw. A cop got stuck in the snow. People stopped and helped him out. A couple moments later, at the intersection, heading west along U was this big maroon Hummer. A small faction of people decided to target it with snowballs. They’re throwing snowballs at the Hummer. It turns out the driver of the Hummer is a detective. He gets out. He’s waving a walkie talkie. It’s not going well. Then he starts waving a gun. He hadn’t identified himself at this point. There was a point where things cooled off a bit, more police showed up, and he identified himself at that point. The name was Det. Baylor. My guess was B-A-Y-L-O-R.”
Witnesses say that Baylor went into the crowd and grabbed the man that he thought threw one of the snowballs. It is not clear what forensic tests might be done since it is not like finding residue powder on a gun suspect.
Assistant Chief Peter Newsham went public to say that the investigation showed that (once again) citizens were mistaken about an officer’s conduct: “There was no police pulling guns on snowball people.”
Here is how Newsham explained the scene to the Washington Post:
At some point, Newsham said, the detective approached the group of snowball fighters and had “some kind of interaction” with them. He said the detective holstered a cellphone, and someone from the crowd called to report a man with a gun.
“He was armed but never pulls his weapon,” Newsham said of the detective. “I think what probably happens is somebody probably saw his gun and called the police.”
Newsham is one of the defendants in the Chang case (World Bank protests) in which I am lead co-counsel (with Daniel Schwartz of the law firm of Bryan Cave). Newsham testified that he gave the order to arrest hundreds of people without probable cause or warnings in Washington. They were later hogtied and left for as much as 19 hours. The case has already cost the city in excess of $15 million in costs and damages. However, Newsham was promoted after the incident and is now in charge of allegations of abuse by other officials.
Newsham’s latest controversy raises the question of whether the detective told him this story and whether Newsham failed to investigate (as in actually speaking with witnesses) before publicly clearing the detective.
We are pressing forward for a trial with Newsham, former chief of police Charles Ramsey and other defendants, here and here. Due to a settlement in another case, we are the only case now proceeding to trial, here. The city, however, is trying to bar any reforms that could be ordered by the court and is accused of destroying critical pieces of evidence.
For the full story, click here.