Monday, December 21, 2009

Officer Draws Gun at Snowball Fight

Officer involved is on "non-contact" status

WASHINGTON - A veteran D.C. Police detective has been assigned to desk duty, his police powers revoked after video footage clearly shows him pulling a gun during a snowball fight.

Sources have identified the officer as Detective Michael Baylor, a man with more than 25 years on the force including at least ten on the homicide squad. D.C. Police Chief Cathy Lanier called the detective’s actions ”totally inappropriate."

Detective Baylor was off duty driving his Hummer through the snow Saturday when police say his vehicle was hit by snowballs. Obviously enraged, you can see on the tape, the officer gets out of the car and pulls his gun.

As he’s standing next to the car talking on a two-way radio a snowball hits him in the head. The narrator on the video can be heard saying, "He's got a gun in his hand. He's driving a Hummer and people are throwing snowballs at him."

At one point, the crowd begins to chant, "Don't bring a gun to a snowball fight… Don’t bring a gun to a snowball fight."

Police initially said the detective didn’t pull his gun, but that was based on the first video they saw.

"With our training that we have on the Metropolitan Police Department, our training would not provide for you to pull your weapon during a snowball fight,” said Assistant Chief Peter Newsham in a news conference outside police headquarters. ”When you are using your weapon, it's for deadly force."

In a written statement, D.C. Police Chief Cathy Lanier called Detective Baylor's actions “totally inappropriate.”

The confrontation with the crowd went on for quite some time. At one point, the detective can be seen pushing a man. Later, he rushes into the crowd, apparently after a man he believes hit him with a snowball.

"I think the way it's been portrayed and many have seen the video-- it does bring a negative light upon the Metropolitan Police Department," said Assistant Chief Newsham.

Police praised the officers who responded to the incident, saying their professional actions deescalated a tense situation.

Sources familiar with Chief Lanier’s thinking say she is leaning towards firing the officer.

Statement from Chief Cathy L. Lanier, (MPD) DC Police

As Chief of Police, I wanted to respond to the many messages received to our police listserv groups last night in reference to the off-duty police officer’s actions on last Saturday.

I have reviewed the video clips and heard from the public.
It is very obvious to me that the officer pulled his service weapon in response to the snowballs hitting his vehicle.
I have no doubt about this, nor has the officer denied the accusations.

Let me be very clear in stating that I believe the actions of the officer were totally inappropriate!
In no way, should he have handled the situation in this manner.

We have taken swift action by placing him on non-contact status until all the facts are gathered and discipline is handed down.

This officer’s conduct, in no way, reflects the training and the standards we hold each officer to at the Metropolitan Police Department.

During the course of this horrendous snow storm, our officers worked hard and made many significant arrests for drug and burglary crimes, as well as gun recoveries.

What is so disturbing is that, up until this incident, I had received several messages of thanks from the many people our officers assisted when their cars became disabled in the blizzard conditions.

So it does not sit well with me that the negative actions of one officer has become “viral” during a time when so many officers have done so much good.

I can assure you that we do take this matter very seriously and will handle it appropriately.

The video clips and the number of witnesses willing to come forward have proven a point I have reiterated, you are the additional eyes and ears in the community and your feedback in solving criminal complaints is crucial.
My office is receptive to this kind of information.

I encourage all residents to remain active in our fight against crime and to know that at MPD, we believe no one is above the law.

Cathy Lanier Chief of Police
Metropolitan Police Department Washington, DC


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