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Hyattsville city council approved a proposal to purchase novel “BolaWrap” weapons for its police department.
The handheld “less-lethal” weapon fires gunpowder blanks to shoot a length of kevlar tether with weighted barbs that can wrap around the target’s arms, torso and legs to immobilize them. The devices are made by Tempe, Arizona,-based Wrap. Inc., which patented the device in 2018.
Hyattsville officials became interested in the less-lethal weapons following the fatal police shooting of Leonard Shand in 2019. In that incident, police tried to use several less-lethal weapons to arrest Shand, including pepper spray, tasers and bean-bag shotgun rounds, before a line of officers opened fire on Shand as he charged at them while armed with two knives.
In all, the measure approved funding to purchase 10 BolaWrap weapons and 90 rounds of BolaWrap ammunition cartridges. The total cost is slightly more than $12,000.
The measure has enjoyed broad support from Hyattsville’s City Council members, though Councilor Bart Lawrence has cautioned the BolaWrap devices don’t have a long-enough service history to know if the weapons work as intended.
“I appreciate the direction of this motion, but again the only thing I’ve seen from looking around about any pilot studies done with this live in the field was a study in Los Angeles, and nine out of the 10 times it was deployed there it failed,” said Lawrence before the vote. “There is no evidence this works, and at this point I can’t support it.”
Hyattsville City Councilor Robert Croslin said the city needed to at least give the BolaWrap, and other “less-lethal” weapons, a try.
“When we consider all of the events that have been happening around the country, if we can find ‘less-lethal’ methods to deal with crime in our city, I think it’s worth a try,” said Hyattsville City Councilor Robert Croslin before voting on the measure. “If it doesn’t work, it doesn’t work. But when something comes available that’s non-lethal or less-lethal, we have to give it a shot.”
City Council approved the measure by a vote of nine to one, with Lawrence dissenting.
Correction: This story was updated to note that Shand bore two knives his fatal encounter with police. An earlier version of this story said he was armed with one knife. Route 1 Reporter regrets the error.