No charges for officers who killed Leonard Shand

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Michael Theis/Route 1 Reporter

A Hyattsville City Police Department vehicle sits outside of Hyattsville City Hall.

Upper Marlboro – A Prince George’s County grand jury has declined to indict any of the police officers who killed Leonard Shand after a half-hour standoff in Hyattsville last year. The announcement was made by Prince George’s County States Attorney Aisha Braveboy during a Sept. 10, 2020, news conference. A report on the incident prepared by an outside use-of-force expert, Baltimore resident and former FBI agent Tyrone Powers, came to the conclusion that Shand’s killing was ultimately justified because he posed a potentially lethal threat to officers.

But Powers said the report made several critiques of the police response on the day Shand was killed. Specifically, Powers said the use of a “flash-bang” grenade to try to disorient Shand was “problematic” and may have confused other officers on the scene who opened fire afterwards. Powers also said the report critiqued how police used less-than-lethal weapons, such as tasers and pepper spray. Powers also said police response to the incident was poorly coordinated among the three departments that sent officers to the scene, resulting in a situation where an agitated Shand was receiving a confusing stream of shouted commands from several officers at once. In a more ideal situation, communication with a suspect in a standoff should be managed by a single officer or negotiator.

“Prince George’s is a unique situation. You have a lot of police departments here and when you have an incident like this, a lot of them are going to respond,” said Powers. “But they need coordination, because then you have officers hurt or you can have less than ideal situations communicating with people in distress, as we saw with Mr. Shand.”

Jack Inman, an attorney representing Shand’s family, said the report was flawed. Inman had not yet read the report in its entirety, but said he was briefed on its findings Sept. 10, 2020.

“The report looks only to the seconds the officers decided to fire rather than everything that led up – and in my view caused – Leonard to run forward,” said Inman. “In other words, the report treats the flash bang being thrown at him and the bean bag shotgun as irrelevant. We disagree because we believe using the weapons created the situation where Leonard was on the move, and ultimately shot.”

Shand, a 49-year-old man whose last known address was in New Carrollton, was killed Sept. 26, 2019. Videos and eyewitness accounts of the incident posted by bystanders to social media sparked outrage almost immediately afterwards, and the American Civil Liberties Union has criticized police handling of the situation. Police officials said Shand was killed because, with his final lunge toward police, he posed a lethal threat by virtue of the knives in his possession. Police said 10 officers discharged their weapons during the shooting.

Three days before he was killed, police said Shand assaulted an employee at a Starbucks near the intersection of Belcrest Road and East-West Highway, striking them in the head with a metal pole. Police were unable to arrest Shand for the earlier incident. According to Hyattsville’s chief of police Amal Awad, the events leading to Shand’s death began at 7:14 a.m. at that same Starbucks. 

Hyattsville police officers, soon followed by officers from Prince George’s County and the Mount Rainier police departments, arrived at around 7:18 a.m. and confronted Shand, ordering him to drop his weapons. From here, Shand began walking north on Belcrest Road toward Toledo Road. Over the course of the next half-hour police attempted three times to use tasers on Shand to bring him into custody. Police said the tasers did not have an effect on Shand. 

At one point police tried to use pepper spray to disable Shand. Police said it had no apparent effect. Later, a Hyattsville city police supervisor arrived on scene armed with a shotgun that fires beanbags. According to Awad, police planned to use a flashbang grenade, an explosive device designed to disorient, in conjunction with the beanbag shotgun to disable Shand and bring him into custody. Awad said Shand was heard to say “I embrace death” and made threats to the officer holding the shotgun.

The Hyattsville officers involved in the incident were Corporal Jerry McCauley, Acting Lieutenant Zach Nemser, Acting Corporal Chris Evans, Private First Class Michael McQuade, Private First Class Scott Hall, Private First Class Mitchell Lowery, Detective and Private First Class Katelyn Koslosky, and Private First Class Kelly Hernandez. 

The Prince George’s County Police officers involved in this incident were Sergeant David Cheatham, Officer Dario Daniel and Officer Kesha Nsiah-Ababio.

The Mount Rainier officer involved in the shooting was Officer Damien Graham.

All the involved officers were initially placed on administrative leave as police officials investigated the shooting. However, Hyattsville re-instated its officers involved in the incident earlier this year, citing staffing shortfallls caused by the coronavirus as the reason.

The investigation was led by the Prince George’s County Police Department’s Special Investigative Response Team. 

Editor’s note: Route 1 Reporter is – normally – a subscriber-supported local news website. In the interest of the public discourse, this article is available for free. If you like the reporting, please support Route 1 Reporter on Patreon.

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