2019 | Police & Fire

County Police Review Clears Officer in Silver Spring Fatal Shooting

Findings say ‘use of deadly force was lawful and justified,’ mirroring a separate investigation

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Police investigate the scene of the officer-involved shooting in Silver Spring last summer.

Jana Owens

A Montgomery County Police internal review of the 2018 fatal shooting of a man in Silver Spring during a violent confrontation with a policeman has cleared the officer and determined the use of force was legal.

In a memo released Wednesday, the department said its review of facts “demonstrate that the use of deadly force was lawful and justified.”

The findings mirror those in a separate investigation conducted last year by the Howard County prosecutor’s office — which has an agreement to investigate incidents involving Montgomery police — that determined the shooting was justified.

The shooting death of Robert White, who confronted Officer Anand Badgujar, sparked protests and was a catalyst for legislation now before the County Council that would require greater scrutiny of police-involved killings.

In the March 26 memo, sent by former Police Chief J. Thomas Manger to County Executive Marc Elrich, the facts of the case are detailed and use-of-force explained.

On June 11, 2018, Badgujar saw White walking near Three Oaks Drive and Sligo Creek Parkway in Silver Spring and tried to talk with him.

The officer’s “attention was drawn to Robert White as he observed that he had a large rip in the fabric on the upper back of his outer garment,” Badgujar told Howard County investigators in a statement through his attorney. “As Officer Badgujar passed Three Oaks Drive, Robert White continued to stare at the marked police vehicle as it traveled on Sligo Creek Pkwy.”

The officer’s observations of White’s movements provided “reasonable justification” to speak with him, the memo stated, along with the belief White was armed.

“Robert White bladed his right side away from Officer Badgujar and thrust his right hand into his right jacket pocket while raising his right shoulder,” Badgujar’s attorney told Howard County investigators.

White refused to stop when Badgujar called to him, then charged the officer and made physical contact, changing the incident into an arrest situation, the county police memo stated.

Badgujar then used pepper spray on White, who struck him again. The department found this course of action was justified, and his choice to wait for backup and keep White at a distance “was prudent.”

Badgujar was concerned White may have mental health issues and could be initiating a fight with the officer in a “suicide-by-cop” scenario, according to audio from the officer’s body-worn camera cited in the memo.

As another officer arrived, White moved quickly toward Badgujar and assaulted him. The officer fired one round, and both men fell to the ground. White got up and stood over Badgujar, and is seen on the backup officer’s body-worn camera video holding him down and punching him in the head. Badgujar believed his life was in danger, according to the investigation.

“The [body camera] video of two officers shows Mr. White’s actions escalated the situation by attacking Officer Badgujar and putting him in grave danger,” the memo stated. “The facts and circumstances of the encounter between Officer Badgujar and Mr. White demonstrate that the use of deadly force was lawful and justified.”

Badgujar will not be commenting on the case, a police spokesman said Wednesday. He remains an active member of the force, though the department would not comment on where he is assigned.

At-large County council member Will Jawando is sponsoring a bill that would require an independent review of any officer-involved shooting. The review could be conducted either by a neighboring jurisdiction, or by an outside law enforcement agency such as the FBI. The bill is currently in the council’s Public Safety Committee, with a work session scheduled for April 12, said Jawando’s Chief of Staff Cecily Thorne. The bill is likely to go before the full council later this month, or in early May.

“I am deeply disturbed by the report Chief Manger issued to County Executive Elrich regarding the police involved death of Robert White, which found no fault with the officers’ actions,” Jawando said in a statement. “This underscores why we need to enact legislation to safeguard the lives of our residents, to hold police accountable, and to increase transparency.”