A Montgomery County police officer shot and killed an unarmed man in Silver Spring, Maryland, during a confrontation Monday afternoon, police say.
Robert Lawrence White, who was African American, died after the officer shot him multiple times, police chief Tom Manger said. He was 41 and a resident of Silver Spring.
"The officer attempted to speak with the man, and the man became combative, and a physical altercation occurred," Manger said at a news conference.
According to the preliminary investigation, Officer Anand Badgujar responded to an unrelated 911 hang-up call in the 9100 block of 3 Oaks Drive, off Sligo Creek Parkway. Badgujar cleared the scene and then encountered a "suspicious person" in the 9200 block of 3 Oaks Drive, police said in a statement. He requested assistance as he investigated.
According to police, video from two officers' body cameras shows White persistently attacking Badgujar.
A witness told News4, "I saw a black male taunting a police officer."
"Eventually, I saw the male pull the officer down on the ground," the witness continued.
Police say the officer initially tried to speak with White, but "the man became combative and a physical altercation occurred," the statement said. Badgujar first responded by trying to pepper-spray White, police said.
White began to walk away and Badgujar headed to turn off his car. Police say White then charged at Badgujar, knocking him over. As Badgujar fell, he fired his weapon and White fell to the ground.
Badgujar remained on the ground as White stood up and continued the assault, police say. Badgujar then fired more shots, and White collapsed to the ground, according to police. He was then secured, police say.
"It all started with loud arguing," said Nate Kapler, college student who lives nearby. "Then you just heard a lot of gunshots."
A young woman who lives nearby said she heard five or six shots. Another resident also said he heard the gunfire.
"I heard screams and shots — six or seven shots," he said.
"I looked out my window and I saw a man laying down, and police officers approaching him cautiously at first and then realizing that the man was not moving, and giving him rescue," the neighbor continued.
About two minutes later, an officer who had arrived to help Badgujar used a police radio to report that shots had been fired and medics were needed.
Dramatic cell phone video taken by a witness and obtained by News4 shows one officer held a gun on White as he lay on the ground, wounded but apparently breathing.
A second officer then said, "Turn around. Turn around, man."
The man didn't move, video shows. The officers turned the man around, handcuffed him and performed first aid.
Police were called to the scene, which is about a mile northeast of downtown Silver Spring, about 2:15 p.m.
White was taken to a hospital, where he died.
Some witnesses and neighbors question the circumstances of the shooting.
"He sounded hopeless, honestly. He said 'Don't do it, don't do it.' We heard his last words and that's really, like, shaking," another witness said.
Michael Franz, White's neighbor, said White was never aggressive and would walk around the neighborhood daily for exercise to cope with personal issues.
"It's not impossible to understand how he may have seemed suspicious given that he had no specific business in any of the places through which he was passing on foot," Michael Franz, a neighbor said. "At the same time, none of us ever say any aggresivity on his part."
"He was always very genial and warm," Franz said. "It seems like quite probably a tragic misunderstanding and an exceedingly sad outcome."
Badgujar was not hurt. He was placed on paid administrative leave, police said.
Badgujar is a two-year veteran of the force and was assigned to the 3rd District.
Montgomery County police will investigate. Then, the investigation will be submitted to the Howard County State's Attorney's Office for review, per standard procedure within the Montgomery County Police Department.
Elrich said that the body camera footage will be shown to White's family and later released to the public.
"I understand the anxiety and anger that the shooting of an unarmed black man engenders," Elrich said. "We will thoroughly examine our protocols and procedures in light of this tragedy."
Council president Hans Riemer said in a statement that the Montgomery County Council has requested to see the video.
Anyone with information for police is asked to call 240-773-5070. Callers may remain anonymous.