2021 | Police & Fire

UPDATED: Gaithersburg officers who fatally shot man will not be charged 

Police on scene said man had fired in their direction; no casings from his gun were found

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This story was updated at 9:40 p.m. and at 11:30 p.m. Oct. 7, 2021, to include more details. It also was updated at 11:15 a.m. Oct. 9 to include comments from Melody Cooper. It was updated again at 11:30 a.m. Oct. 11 to add details about the shooting of Duncan Lemp.

A Montgomery County grand jury has declined to charge police officers who fatally shot a man on South Frederick Road in Gaithersburg in January. 

The Montgomery County State’s Attorney’s Office released that finding on Thursday night. 

Officers shot and killed Kwamena Ocran, 24, on Jan. 8. At the time, Gaithersburg police said four plain clothes officers with the department’s Street Crimes Unit confronted and chased Ocran after receiving a report that he was armed with a handgun. 

Police said they determined that Ocran was prohibited from possessing a gun after serving a prison term for a robbery conviction, the report says.

The report that Montgomery County prosecutors released Thursday night said officers, in their statements, reported that Ocran fired a gun in their direction, so all of the officers fired back, hitting him multiple times. He died at the scene.

Technicians found 23 shell casings matching the officers’ weapons. According to the report, no casings were found matching Ocran’s 9-millimeter semiautomatic handgun.

The day after the shooting, the department identified the four officers as:
• Sgt. Willie Delgado (17-year veteran)
• Cpl. Larbi Dakkouni (8-year veteran)
• Officer James Doyle (5-year veteran)
• Officer Kyle Khuen (5-year veteran)

The officers remain on administrative leave, Gaithersburg police said Thursday night. An internal investigation is underway to determine if the officers’ actions followed departmental policies.

The officers were not wearing body cameras at the time of the shooting, the report says.

Howard County reviewed the case as part of a reciprocal agreement between the two counties when an officer has shot someone. A Howard County prosecutor presented evidence to a Montgomery County grand jury on Sept. 9, 16 and 30 and Oct. 7, the report says.

The Howard County State’s Attorney’s Office will prepare a grand jury report and release it through the Montgomery County State’s Attorney’s office, according to Gaithersburg police.

The report released Thursday says police received “credible information” on the day of the shooting that Ocran had a handgun that he was trying to sell; officers set out to arrest him. They monitored him at Chelsea Park Apartments at 14 S. Frederick Ave. — at an apartment where his girlfriend lives and as he left and walked about a mile to a shopping complex, according to the report.

As Ocran walked back to the apartment, officers approached him in a parking lot area, the report says. Khuen identified himself and showed his badge, causing Ocran to grab his waistband and run, with all four officers in pursuit, according to the report.

The chase continued through the parking lot to a grassy area between one apartment building and a retaining wall, the report states.

“During the chase, an officer stated Ocran pulled out a handgun, pointed it at the officer and fired,” the report says. “All 4 officers returned fire striking Ocran multiple times which ultimately resulted in his death at the scene.”

An autopsy performed on Jan. 9 indicated eight gunshot wounds, the report says — including two on Ocran’s back, one on his right hip/lower back, two on his left arm, one on his right thigh, one on his left thigh and a graze wound on his penis.

Technicians recovered 17 shell casings on the night of the shooting and six during later searches, for a total of 23. All 23 casings came from the officers’ weapons, the report says.

No shell casings were found matching Ocran’s 9-millimeter semiautomatic handgun, according to the report.

“The gun found next to Ocran was a semi-automatic handgun and would’ve ejected a shell casing if it had been fired,” the report says.

Four bullets were recovered from wounds, the report says — one was matched to Delgado’s gun and the other three could not be matched to a specific weapon. None of the rounds was found to have been fired at close range, meaning within 2 feet.

In a press release on Saturday morning, the Silver Spring Justice Coalition said it is “angered and saddened” that the grand jury did not indict the officers.

It also shared a statement from Ocran’s mother, Melody Cooper, who said police and prosecutors “are responsible for the murder and the lack of accountability in the murder of my son.”

“I demand for this case to be reopened and investigated by the attorney general, which I had demanded at the beginning of this case because I was afraid that police investigating police would yield no accountability. … I will not remain silent because these murders must stop,” her statement said.

Cooper said in the statement that her son — “an artist [who] had just begun recording music in a studio” — was visiting his girlfriend on the day he was killed. When he went outside, police approached him and chased him, and witnesses saw him shot from behind.

“The prosecutor and the police investigators did not ensure that all of the full information was provided …,” her statement said. “The bottom line is: plainclothes police without body cameras murdered my son.”

Other shootings

There have been at least three other shootings by police in Montgomery County this year, resulting in four deaths:

• On April 7, off-duty Pentagon Officer David Hall fatally shot Dominique Williams, 32, of Hyattsville and James Lionel Johnson, 38, of Washington, D.C., in the parking lot of a Takoma Park condominium building. Dixon told authorities that he confronted people trying to break into a vehicle. A surveillance video showed Dixon firing multiple rounds from behind a car as it was heading away from him. Dixon was indicted on charges of murder and attempted murder.

• In June, Sgt. Frank Pruitt of the Montgomery County Sheriff’s Office was cleared of wrongdoing after shooting and killing Kevin Costlow, who attacked him with a large tree branch. That incident occurred on Olney Laytonsville Road on Feb. 6.

• On July 16, Montgomery County police officers shot and killed Ryan Leroux, 21, of Gaithersburg. Leroux had parked his SUV at the drive-through of the McDonald’s on Flower Hill Way. Officers arrived on the scene and there was a standoff, as shown in body-camera footage that police later released. Officers, aware that Leroux had a gun, could be seen shooting him shortly after his seat suddenly changed from reclining to sitting up. Authorities have not released any findings in that case.

Montgomery County police Sgt. David Cohen, who shot Finan Berhe, 30, in 2020, also was cleared of wrongdoing. In a body-camera video police later released, Berhe could be seen with a large kitchen knife, running at Cohen and ignoring the officer’s commands to stay back and drop the knife.

An officer who fatally shot Duncan Lemp, 21, in March 2020, during a raid on his family’s Potomac home, also was cleared and was not charged. Police have said that SWAT team officers went to the home to serve a “high-risk” warrant for illegal firearm possession charges and that Lemp pointed a rifle at an officer during the raid. However, the family, through their attorney, has disputed the official account of what happened that day. Police have declined to identify the officer.

The family of Robert White, 41, who was shot and killed by a Montgomery County police officer in 2018, is suing the county, arguing that the officer could have de-escalated the situation. Officer Anand Badgujar was cleared of wrongdoing after a department internal review and a review by the Howard County State’s Attorney’s Office.

County Executive Marc Elrich said in July that the county would work with the nonprofit Effective Law Enforcement for All to review the use of force in specific cases in which officers fatally shot people, including Leroux.