Questions Linger After County Releases Body-Camera Video from Fatal Police Shooting in Silver Spring
Officer appeared to fire several shots in separate bursts
Montgomery County police released Wednesday evening the body-camera footage from the June 11 fatal officer-involved shooting of Robert White in a Silver Spring neighborhood.
The video appears to show several shots, possibly ten, fired in three different bursts by Officer Anand Badgujar as White assaulted him. Badgujar is subject to an ongoing internal affairs investigation by the police department.
The Howard County State’s Attorney’s Office, which conducted a criminal investigation of the shooting, concluded earlier this week that no charges should be filed and the officer’s actions were justified in the shooting of White, 41, of Dearborn Avenue in Silver Spring. By agreement, Howard County prosecutors investigate shootings involving Montgomery County police and vice versa.
Police released the 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.
The family, who live in North Carolina and were visited by representatives from the police department earlier this week, declined to watch the footage, he said.
A video posted to YouTube on Wednesday afternoon includes segments of video from Badgujar’s camera and a 30-second segment of video from the camera of a backup officer who arrived just before the shots were fired in the townhouse community on Three Oaks Drive off Sligo Creek Parkway.
In response to the footage, a coalition of community groups has planned a Sunday rally in downtown Silver Spring.
Organizers for the Demonstration for Justice in Our Backyard wrote on Facebook that the body-camera recording showed Badgujar “chasing Robert White … through his own neighborhood.”
“He was deemed suspicious because he was wearing a ripped hoodie,” the organizers wrote.
The 5:02 video includes slowed-down portions of footage from both officers just before the shooting occurred. There is no audio on the backup officer’s camera footage.
Starks said the video begins when Badgujar turned on his camera, as he was first approaching White in the neighborhood of Three Oaks Drive. Police have previously said Badgujar was finishing a different call in the area when he spotted White and began investigating him as a suspicious person.
Badgujar’s video starts with the officer walking through a wooded walkway between Three Oaks Drive and Melbourne Avenue. White is seen walking in the road a short distance ahead.
“Hey big man, you need to stop,” the officer says, beginning to run toward White. A weapon is already drawn, the video shows.
“Do it, do it,” White shouts in response, running toward the officer. The officer runs on to a lawn and White is next shown walking away.
Badgujar continues to pursue White while he walks and then runs back to the walkway. Parts of the interaction are obscured by the officer’s body movements.
At one point, White knocks away Badgujar’s outstretched arm. The officer attempted to use pepper spray on White around this time, police have said.
“He’s got his hands in his pocket. Might be a suicide-by-cop-type thing,” Badgujar says into a radio a short time later, according to the audio portion of the video.
White seems to challenge the officer’s attempt to stop him, though the audio is not clear. Multiple times during the interaction, Badgujar says, “I don’t want to shoot you.”
When White and Badgujar reach the officer’s squad car parked on Three Oaks Drive, a physical altercation begins.
Badgujar turns off the car’s ignition before White begins running toward him.
White is quickly shot as the video shows him reaching out with both arms toward the officer.
“Do it again,” White said, running back toward the officer.
The video then appears to show several shots fired in three different bursts, ending with White on the ground.
The backup officer’s camera footage shows the final 30 seconds of the interaction from a distance and includes no audio.
White, who lived in the 300 block of Dearborn Avenue about a mile from the shooting, died after being taken to a local hospital.
After the release of the video on Wednesday evening, Starks said he could not provide answers to several questions about the interaction, citing the ongoing internal affairs investigation.
“We understand that there may be some speculation,” Starks said. “…We understand that there are different opinions, there are some concerns, but from the beginning we wanted to remain as transparent as we can.”
He said the release of the videos was “a positive thing to do” in light of demands from community members for the tape’s release.
After watching the footage, White’s longtime friend Alex Villars said in his estimation, the officer could’ve done more to calm the situation.
While Badgujar did give White warnings, Villars said his friend—who suffered from mental health issues—seemed to grow increasingly distressed as the officer followed him through the Silver Spring neighborhood.
“With what we know about Rob, the mental issues that he has, I just feel that he probably felt he was put into a corner,” Villars said.
Villars, who lives in the Four Corners neighborhood, was also troubled by the portion of the recording in which Badgujar speculates White is looking to commit suicide-by-cop.
“That kind of statement already kind of puts him in the mindset that, ‘I’m probably going to have to use lethal force,’ ” Villars said.
He added that officers should have known White, who was a familiar sight in the community because of his daily walks through Silver Spring.
“Where’s the community policing?” Villars said. “That familiarity with your community was definitely something lacking in this situation, specifically for this officer. Everyone knows Rob as the ‘walking guy.’ ”
Quentin Nardi, White’s neighbor on Dearborn Avenue, said the video did not provide a justification for why the officer began trailing White in the first place.
“Robert clearly wanted to be left alone,” she said. “I’m outraged that the cop didn’t wait for backup. I’m outraged that it took a gun to solve this problem. …There was no problem, and a man is dead.”
Shayla Davis, a Takoma Park resident who advocates on criminal justice issues, said Badgujar appeared to be in a “heightened state” when he entered the interaction with White.
“It was obvious from his voice that his adrenaline was pumping,” said Davis, leader of Takoma Park Mobilization’s work group on ending mass incarceration. “He could’ve tried to talk to him [White], but he seemed more concerned about pursuing him as opposed to figuring out if he had any connection to a crime or perhaps he was suffering from mental illness.”
Davis’ community advocacy group helped coordinate a downtown Silver Spring rally that pressured police to release the body-camera footage from White’s shooting. Davis said the department took far too long to make the recording public.
She was also dissatisfied that the body-camera video seemed to begin after Badgujar had already started following White
Her group, Takoma Park Mobilization, is among those organizing Sunday’s event.
The Demonstration for Justice in Our Backyard will begin in front of the Silver Spring Civic Building at about 6 p.m. and continue with a march down Wayne Avenue and Sligo Creek Parkway toward Three Oaks Drive, the organizers wrote on Facebook.
At the end of the roughly 1.5-mile walk, the group will hold a candlelight vigil and hear from speakers.
Starks said the department may release additional information at the conclusion of the internal affairs investigation, which is examining whether Badgujar acted within the department’s rules and policies.
Badgujar, a patrol officer of Indian descent who is assigned to the police department’s Third District station in Silver Spring, has been placed on administrative leave as is protocol, according to authorities. Before becoming a Montgomery County officer, he worked at the Baltimore Police Department from 2011 to 2016, leaving the agency as a sergeant.
Also on Wednesday, Montgomery County police released some of the responses that Badgujar’s attorney gave the Howard County State’s Attorney’s Office representatives during the criminal investigation. Here is what was released:
Question: “What drew Officer Badgujar’s attention to Robert White?”
Attorney’s response: “As he [Officer Badgujar] drove in his car past Three Oaks Drive he observed Robert White walking north on the right side of Three Oaks Drive. His attention was drawn to Robert White as he observed that Robert White had a large rip in the fabric on the upper back of his outer garment, and because he abruptly moved his right hand to the right side of his body. As Officer Badgujar passed Three Oaks Drive, Robert White continued to stare at the marked police vehicle as it traveled on Sligo Creek Parkway.”
Additional response: “Officer Badgujar observed that Robert White was appearing as if he was going to continue straight on foot passed the dead-end on Three Oaks Drive. As Robert White observed Officer Badgujar’s police presence he abruptly turned right while in the middle of the intersection towards a foot path which appeared to go to a different neighborhood. Robert White bladed his right side away from Officer Badgujar and thrust his right hand into his right jacket/hoodie pocket while raising his right shoulder. Robert White quickened his pace and began to walk toward the footpath while looking over his shoulder at Officer Badgujar. These actions in their totality (based on his training and experiences), made Officer Badgujar believe that Robert White was armed.”
Question: “As Robert White advanced on Officer Badgujar, why did Officer Badgujar fire his gun instead of using his ASP baton to repel the attack?”
Attorney’s response: “As Robert White made contact he attempted to grab Officer Badgujar’s firearm while yelling, ‘DO IT!’ Officer Badgujar believed that Robert White was attempting to take the firearm so he [Robert White] could use it against him [Officer Badgujar]. Officer Badgujar believed that Robert White was actively attempting to take control of his firearm, not by mistake or accident; White was committed to his actions.”
Question: “After the first shot and after [Officer Badgujar] fell to the ground, why did Officer Badgujar continue firing his gun?”
Attorney’s response: “The first shot was not effective. Officer Badgujar struck the ground and was still attempting to move backwards away from Robert White. Robert White yelled, ‘DO IT AGAIN!’ Robert White continued to press on and Officer Badgujar believed that he [Robert White] was still trying to come after his firearm to use it against him. Officer Badgujar continued to fire his gun until the threat was stopped.”
County police warned viewers that the camera footage is graphic and advised viewer discretion. The video was uploaded at https://youtu.be/UgPIE467Uww.