2021 | Police & Fire

UPDATED: In video, officers seen surveying home where SWAT team member fatally shot man in Potomac

Footage released by county does not capture shooting or raid

This story was updated at 10 a.m. on Jan. 13, 2021, to include a statement from Rene Sandler, an attorney who represents the Lemp family

Newly released body-worn camera footage shows Montgomery County police officers surveying the Potomac home after one officer fatally shot a man inside. But the footage does not capture the shooting or the raid leading up to it.

Members of the department’s SWAT team went to the home of Duncan Socrates Lemp, 21, in the 12200 block of Saint James Road on March 12, 2020, using a no-knock warrant to raid his family’s home.

Police have said that when Lemp pointed a rifle at one officer, the officer shot and killed him, thinking that Lemp would have killed him first.

The officer who shot Lemp was cleared of wrongdoing last month by the Howard County State’s Attorney’s Office, which reviewed the shooting under a reciprocal agreement with Montgomery County. Police and prosecutors have repeatedly declined to identify the officer.

Officer Rick Goodale, a Montgomery County police spokesman, told Bethesda Beat Tuesday afternoon that there is no body camera footage of the raid or the shooting on March 12.

Goodale, in a separate text message, wrote that SWAT team officers are not currently required to wear body cameras. The department is working on changing the policy, and a new policy is expected to be implemented early this year, he wrote.

The Montgomery County Attorney’s Office released three videos of body-worn camera footage to Bethesda Beat Tuesday morning, a day after The Washington Post obtained it.

The videos, which are a combined seven and a half minutes, only show officers reviewing Lemp’s home after the shooting — mostly to document items in his bedroom, including guns and ammunition.

The first video, about three and a half minutes, shows officers walking through the Lemp family home telling multiple people they are “being audio and video recorded,” and surveying the scene in multiple rooms.

In the second, roughly the same length, the officer filming talks with another officer in Lemp’s bedroom, where the shooting took place. Multiple guns can be seen in the room.

At one point, an officer explains that a trip wire attached to a door of Lemp’s bedroom, leading outside, is a “shotgun shell.” The officer tells another officer that the shell is designed to explode in someone’s face when they open the door. One officer also remarks that there is ammunition in Lemp’s closet.

The third video is about 30 seconds and also takes place in Lemp’s bedroom. One officer says he counted five weapons there.

Rene Sandler, an attorney who represents the Lemp family, wrote in an email to Bethesda Beat on Wednesday that “the body camera video from 7 minutes after Duncan was killed was available to police 7 minutes earlier to document the raid and Duncan’s murder.”
 
“The police made a choice not to use video during the raid,” she wrote. “It took a lawsuit and almost a year to release the after the fact video which revealed a murder scene not preserved, Duncan’s body had been moved and evidence was not in its original location. We must have transparency and truth in policing.”

According to a report released last month by the Montgomery County State’s Attorney’s Office that details the findings of Howard County’s investigation, prosecutors reviewed body-worn camera footage as part of the investigation.

“Once the house was secured, it appears that a police officer, using body worn camera equipment, entered the house and went from room to room in order to document the scene. Investigators determined that very little evidentiary value could be obtained from this recording as it was conducted after the raid was over,” the report stated.

The report notes that the investigation included a review of interviews police conducted with the officer who shot Lemp and Lemp’s girlfriend, Kasey Robinson, finding that their statements “to a certain degree, corroborated each other.”

“In this case, although body [worn] cameras (had they been used) may have shed better light on this incident, prosecutors were able to review very detailed statements by the two individuals who were in the best position to witness the circumstances surrounding Mr. Lemp’s death,” the report stated.

Dan Schere can be reached at daniel.schere@bethesdamagazine.com