DC Residents Say MPD Ignored Complaints Against Special Police Officer - NBC4 Washington
Working 4 You

SEND TIPS202-885-4444

DC Residents Say MPD Ignored Complaints Against Special Police Officer

    processing...

    NEWSLETTERS

    DC Residents Say Complaints About Security Officer Went Nowhere

    Almost four months after an I-Team Freedom of Information request, D.C. police still hasn't revealed how many complaints it has on a special police officer. Jodie Fleischer reports residents say they were turned away when they tried to complain. (Published Monday, April 1, 2019)

    Parts of the videos are disturbing to watch. They all feature encounters with the same special police officer, and the D.C. residents he arrested say they are still struggling with the impacts months and years later.

    The special police officer, John Simon, had all three individuals arrested and charged with assaulting him. Prosecutors later dismissed all of those cases.

    But all three residents told the News4 I-Team when they went to file a complaint against the officer, the Metropolitan Police Department turned them away.

    Special police officers are similar to security guards, and there are currently more than 7,500 licensed in the District. They are allowed to make arrests while on the property they're assigned to protect.

    In 2017 and 2018, Simon was assigned to the Frederick Douglass Garden Apartments in Southeast D.C.

    Anton Reid was one of those he arrested.

    "His interaction with me wasn't good," Reid told the I-Team. "Nobody should have been treated that way."

    No Complaints, No Records

    Reid says it all started when he and his girlfriend, who lives in that complex, were walking to her apartment with groceries to make dinner. They were talking about her new job as a security officer, and Reid made a negative comment about Simon, who overheard him.

    "He approached me and told me to get off the property. Pushed me; shoved me," Reid said.

    Resident's Boyfriend Says He Was Assaulted, Maced and Handcuffed After Being Ordered Off the PropertyResident's Boyfriend Says He Was Assaulted, Maced and Handcuffed After Being Ordered Off the Property

    Anton Reid accuses the special police officer of ordering him off the property, then assaulting, macing and handcuffing him after Reid made a negative comment about the officer to his girlfriend, who lives at the complex. D.C. police have not provided records on the officer, saying the I-Team's Freedom of Information request is still under review.

    (Published Monday, April 1, 2019)

    His girlfriend grabbed her cellphone and started recording as Reid cried out in pain. In the video, you can see him on the ground face down with his hand handcuffed behind his back.

    "I can't feel my wrist! I can't feel my wrist! My hand is turning numb," Reid yelled.

    Simon replied, "You want to push me?"

    Reid's girlfriend, who witnessed the entire incident, replied to the officer, "No. You pushed him. He didn't touch you."

    Simon can also be heard threatening to arrest Reid's girlfriend for disorderly conduct while she recorded the incident.

    Simon arrested Reid for assault and unlawful entry. Prosecutors dismissed his charges 10 days later.

    But Reid told the I-Team he still has nerve damage in his hand — he's had surgery and therapy — and he wanted to press criminal charges.

    "[The] officer at the front desk told me you can't file any charges — nothing," Reid said.

    Next, he says he went to MPD's Security Officers Management Branch (SOMB) and filed a complaint. But when he tried to get a copy of it months later, he says officers told him there was no record of it.

    "I call back to follow up — no answers," Reid said.

    The I-Team tried to get answers, too, filing a Freedom of Information request in December.

    But nearly four months later, MPD has provided no records — not on Simon, the company he worked for or even the total number of complaints the agency has handled, telling the I-Team the request is still "under review."

    Arrested While Trying to Complain

    "I couldn't file a complaint. I couldn't make nothing because I got arrested. So basically, I looked like the guilty one," said Tawonna Bunn, who has lived in the Frederick Douglass Garden Apartments for eight years.

    Simon accused her of assault in 2017 after an encounter in the doorway of her own apartment.

    Resident Accused Special Police Officer of Arresting Her When She Complained to Management About HimResident Accused Special Police Officer of Arresting Her When She Complained to Management About Him

    Tawonna Bunn accuses the special police officer of arresting her when she tried to complain to management about his conduct. D.C. police have not provided records on the officer, saying the I-Team's Freedom of Information request is still under review.

    (Published Monday, April 1, 2019)

    "I mean, like banging on the door and kicking it, hitting it with the baton, like, open up the door. And I'm just like, what's going on?" Bunn told the I-Team.

    Simon was actually trying to remove Bunn's girlfriend, Nicole Lucas, from the property. She says the incident started downstairs after she interrupted the officer's questioning of their son, who has special needs.

    Lucas told the I-Team the officer followed her upstairs to Bunn's apartment, but he didn't end up arresting Lucas, only Bunn.

    "We were scared. We were crying," Lucas said.

    Bunn says her mother made a brief recording on her cellphone after Simon deployed pepper spray into the apartment.

    Bunn says Simon arrested her later, after the incident had ended, when she went downstairs to the management office to complain about him.

    "I didn't do anything. I'm the victim," Bunn told the I-Team, adding that she also tried to complain to MPD but was told she couldn't while her charge was pending.

    Once prosecutors dismissed the charge, she says MPD told her too much time had passed to file a complaint.

    Lucas also contacted the Security Officer Management Branch (SOMB) to file a complaint. She got a voicemail back from an MPD sergeant, which she shared with the I-Team.

    "We did get the information in reference to Officer Simon and the use of OC [pepper] spray, and that's already being investigated," the sergeant is heard saying on the recording.

    He adds, "But also I need you to make your actual complaint to A&D Security."

    'They Have to Answer'

    A&D Security Consultants Inc., which employed Simon at the time of the incidents, is owned by retired MPD officers, including a former sergeant, lieutenant and assistant chief.

    "A&D security has to answer," Lucas told the I-Team. "The apartment complex and they have to answer."

    The I-Team tried to get answers as well, visiting the Frederick Douglass apartment complex office; its property manager, Edgewood Management; and the offices of A&D Security, where one of the owners, Benjamin Ashe, failed to show up for a scheduled interview.

    Even after emailing the videos of the incidents with Simon, Ashe refused to comment on them.

    By phone, a representative from Edgewood Management told the I-Team it replaced A&D with another security company last August but would not say whether these incidents had anything to do with that decision. That representative asked for copies of the videos but did not offer any further comment or return subsequent phone calls.

    "He's very aggressive and he's not a person you want to run across," said Amin Wilson, who grew up at the apartment complex and still has many friends who live there, including his girlfriend and child.

    Wilson still has trouble talking about his encounter with Simon in August 2017, captured on video by a family friend.

    Man Says He Was Stopped at Gunpoint, Pepper-Sprayed, Dragged From His Car and BeatenMan Says He Was Stopped at Gunpoint, Pepper-Sprayed, Dragged From His Car and Beaten

    Amin Wilson, who had been removed from the property before, accuses the special police officer of pulling a gun on him, pepper-spraying him, dragging him from his car and beating him with a baton. D.C. police have not provided records on the officer, saying the I-Team's Freedom of Information request is still under review.

    (Published Monday, April 1, 2019)

    Wilson had been removed from the complex before, and Simon had spotted him there again. Wilson says he was in the alley next to the complex and leaving when Simon caught up to him.

    "He jumped in front of my car and pulled a gun out and the only thing I just realized it was like I couldn't do nothing," Wilson said. "I put my hands up and I thought he was about to kill me."

    Wilson says Simon and another officer pepper-sprayed him and dragged him from his car.

    "I just remember looking up at the sky and telling God, like, please help me," Wilson said.

    Wilson admits he was trying to break free from the officers' grip but says that he was trying to wipe his eyes from the pepper spray while Simon kept hitting him with the baton.

    Shortly before the video ends, Simon can be seen punching Wilson in the side with his fist while Wilson is face down on the ground with Simon on top of him.

    "I blacked out and then I woke back up I'm in the ambulance. I just kept saying let me go. I just want to go home," Wilson said.

    Instead he went to jail, charged with assaulting Simon and unlawful entry of the property. Prosecutors later dropped those charges, too.

    But just like the others, Wilson told the I-Team he was turned away when he tried to complain to MPD.

    "You just need to listen to the person, hear both sides, but it's like they don't do that," Wilson said.

    'This Security Badge Is Really Saving Him'

    MPD declined the I-Team's request for an on-camera interview but said it disciplined more than 100 special police officers last year.

    The head of that division said, "SOMB does not prohibit citizens from filing a complaint."

    He was unaware of the incidents above and retired the day after he answered the I-Team's questions.

    After leaving messages for Simon at the security company, the I-Team found him outside in the parking lot and attempted to ask him about the incidents.

    He drove away without rolling down the window.

    Ashe initially told the I-Team, by phone, that Simon briefly stopped working for him last year but returned and was currently working at A&D this year. In a later phone conversation, Ashe said Simon was no longer "working under him" and was instead working for a company called PChange Protective Services, which occupies a neighboring office in the same building and is owned by Ashe's son, according to his LinkedIn profile.

    PChange told the I-Team it had no officer named John Simon.

    Since the I-Team started asking about his license, it has been switched to an inactive status, meaning he can't work in D.C. until he officially affiliates with a security company.

    However, the I-Team spotted him in the parking lot of the A&D/PChange building in what appeared to be a uniform and carrying a lunch box after the security companies were removed from his license.

    MPD has not said whether Simon has ever been disciplined.

    "I feel like this security badge is really saving him, and it's not fair. It's not fair at all," Lucas said.

    The residents have retained a lawyer and are considering legal action.

    Reported by Jodie Fleischer, produced by Rick Yarborough, shot by Steve Jones and Jeff Piper, and edited by Jeff Piper.

    Watch NBC4 and get the latest news anytime, anywhere. Check here for TV listings.