Advocates Plan Silver Spring Rally in Response to Body-Camera Footage from Police Shooting

Advocates Plan Silver Spring Rally in Response to Body-Camera Footage from Police Shooting

Organizer argues officer could’ve avoided the violent encounter that ended in Robert White’s death

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A group in downtown Silver Spring earlier this year demonstrating in the wake of Robert White's death.

Bethany Rodgers

A coalition of community groups is holding a Sunday demonstration that will begin in downtown Silver Spring and move to a nearby neighborhood where an unarmed black man was shot earlier this year by a Montgomery County police officer.

The law enforcement agency Wednesday released body-camera footage from the June 11 encounter between Officer Anand Badgujar and Robert White in a townhouse development. The recording stirred outrage among some residents and activists, who are responding with this weekend’s demonstration.

“We do not believe that the shooting was justified,” said Laurel Hoa, a core organizer with Showing Up for Racial Justice Montgomery County. White “was just a man out for a walk in his own neighborhood.”

Hoa said White’s sister is traveling from North Carolina to attend the rally, which will begin at 6 p.m. outside the Silver Spring Civic Building. The demonstrators will then march to the scene of the shooting on Three Oaks Drive, where they will hold a candlelight vigil.

The Howard County State’s Attorney’s Office concluded earlier this week that no charges should be filed against Badgujar and found justification for the officer’s decision to shoot White, 41. Montgomery County police released the body-camera video in an attempt to be transparent with the public and after offering White’s family the opportunity to view the footage first, spokesman Capt. Paul Starks said Wednesday evening.

Badgujar came upon White in the 9200 block of Three Oaks Drive and began paying attention to him because he noticed that the man’s jacket was torn, the officer’s attorney said. Based on a subsequent series of movements by White, Badgujar suspected he might be carrying a weapon, said the officer’s attorney, Morgan Blackledge. The interaction escalated over the course of several minutes, and White ultimately charged at the officer and knocked him to the ground, the recording shows. Badgujar fired multiple rounds at White as he was being assaulted, according to the video.

However, members of Hoa’s group, the Silver Spring Justice Coalition, Montgomery County Civil Rights Coalition, Takoma Park Mobilization and other organizations believe White’s death was avoidable. They question why Badgujar felt the need to stop White in the first place and argue he could’ve done more to prevent violence from erupting.

“Having a ripped jacket should not be enough to make someone suspicious,” Hoa said.

Though the audio in parts of the video isn’t clear, White–whose friends believed he suffered from mental issues–seems to challenge the officer’s attempt to stop him, and Hoa said Badgujar should’ve backed off.

But Blackledge said Badgujar was concerned White could be carrying a weapon.

“If an officer has reasonable suspicion as to why he believes a person is armed, then they may do a brief stop-and-frisk to determine whether the person is armed and release them on their way,” she said.

That’s what Badgujar was attempting in this case, the attorney said.

Now that Howard County prosecutors have completed their investigation, the Montgomery County Department of Police will conduct an internal review to figure out whether Badgujar followed the agency’s rules and procedures. Per agreement, Howard County prosecutors investigate shootings involving Montgomery County officers and vice versa.

Hoa said protesters this weekend will call on prosecutors to release the full investigation into the shooting and will make other demands specifically related to White’s death. They will also push for systemic changes, such as a greater emphasis on community policing and more first-responders trained to deal with mental health crises.

Bethany Rodgers can be reached at bethany.rodgers@bethesdamagazine.com.

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