Four Montgomery County police officers—three with guns drawn and another holding a Taser—entered Chelsea Manning’s Bethesda apartment for a welfare check late last month, according to a video published by The Intercept on Tuesday.
The video depicts police officers pointing guns as they responded to Manning’s home after she posted what appeared to be two suicidal tweets on her Twitter account on May 27. Manning, a 30-year-old whistleblower and U.S. Senate candidate in Maryland, was out of the country and the apartment was unoccupied at the time.
Capt. Paul Starks, a police spokesman, said Wednesday the video is accurate and declined to comment on The Intercept article. He said the police department is “still looking at the body camera footage.”
Starks said police frequently get calls for checking on a person’s welfare and that the response came after multiple calls about Manning’s tweets. A friend posting on her account reported later that night that Manning was safe.
“More than one person called the Bethesda station, the 2nd District station, and expressed concerns of the Twitter post on that person’s Twitter feed, and officers responded to check the welfare of that person,” Starks said.
The Montgomery County police department has guidelines for checking a residence but not necessarily specific guidelines for welfare checks, Starks said. The officers who responded holding their weapons “were acting within departmental guidelines and rules,” he said.
“It’s up to the individual officer to decide when a weapon may be unholstered based on the specific circumstances that the officer is involved in in that moment,” Starks said. “The fact that a weapon has been unholstered in no way means it will be used.”
Starks said the department responds to hundreds of thousands of calls every year, and officers often do not know the circumstances they will be responding to.
In interviews with The Intercept, Manning criticized the police response, and an ACLU attorney questioned the practice of police responding to calls about mental health emergencies.
“This is what a police state looks like,” Manning told The Intercept. “Guns drawn during a ‘wellness’ check.”
Manning did not immediately reply to a request for further comment.
Starks said officers entered Manning’s unit using a passkey. Once officers were inside, they determined Manning was not there and that the residence didn’t match a photo posted to Twitter. The officers attempted to call Manning’s cellphone, but the phone was powered off. The Intercept reported police had attempted to locate Manning by her phone, but Starks said he wasn’t aware that police did anything beyond calling her phone.
The police department documented the event but no report was generated, Starks said.
While working as an intelligence analyst for the U.S. Army, Manning leaked hundreds of thousands of military documents to WikiLeaks. She was imprisoned from 2010 to 2017. Since her release, Manning has advocated for progressive causes and announced in January she would run for Senate, challenging incumbent Sen. Ben Cardin.