A man who stabbed an off-duty deputy during a bar fight in Prince George's County, Maryland, is suing the county police department, saying its investigation was unfair and didn't take into account critical details of what happened.
In December of 2018, Christopher Dewitt says he was having a drink inside Sunnybrook Tavern in Fort Washington, Maryland, when he was approached by someone he didn't know. Dewitt said the man threw food in front of him at the bar and called him a racial slur.
"I was like, 'Who are you talking to?' like, 'I'm talking to you.' So, we got in a physical altercation," Dewitt said.
The man who approached Dewitt was off-duty Charles County Deputy Robert Smith, according to an arrest report obtained by News4.
The report indicates that Smith placed his unfinished food in front of Dewitt, but doesn't confirm the alleged racist slur Dewitt says he made. The report describes an altercation, and appears to paint Dewitt as the aggressor.
Dewitt admits that he stabbed Smith with a pocket knife he was carrying. He said it was in self-defense because he felt threatened and outnumbered.
"We got to fighting. So, then his brother and his father came along and it was like they were trying to jump me. So at that point, when his brother pushed me up against the wall, I reached in my pocket, grabbed my knife and I stabbed him," Dewitt said.
Surveillance video shows that Smith then pulls out what the Charles County Sheriff's Office says was his personal firearm.
People inside the tavern taking cover as Smith's brother appears to calm him down. Some people called 911.
Both the Prince George's County Police Department and Charles County Sheriff's office published press releases detailing the stabbing and Dewitt's arrest, but Dewitt's attorney says they left out critical information.
"We definitely think there were gaps and that's part of the reason Prince George's County itself is a defendant in this lawsuit," attorney Brandon Burrell said.
According to medical records obtained by Dewitt's attorneys, Smith was drunk when he first approached Dewitt and when he pulled his gun.
"He's armed with a firearm. He's four-times the legal limit to drive. … He pulls his firearm out into a crowded bar," Burrell said.
In the police report, Prince George's officers say Smith "advised that his recollection was not clear due to the amount of alcohol that he had consumed."
The Charles County Sheriff's Office's statement on the incident mentioned that an off-duty deputy would be investigated, but did not release Smith’s name and did not mention that he had been drinking while handling a firearm, a violation of the department's policies.
A spokesperson for the sheriff's office says Smith was disciplined but did not release details due to state personnel laws that protect officers.
Dewitt, on the other hand, spent 30 days in jail after initially being denied bail.
The Prince George's County State's Attorney's Office confirms that it did not prosecute Dewitt after reviewing the video and other evidence. His assault and reckless endangerment charges were dropped. Dewitt says he's still dealing with what unfolded in the tavern.
"I lost my job pertaining to this situation. I mean, I lost all the way around the board," Dewitt said.
News4's request for an interview with Smith or his attorney was denied.