Mount Rainier City Councilor Scott Cecil resigned in early October in protest over what he says is a lack of oversight into the Sept. 2019 police shooting of Leonard Shand.
In a long resignation letter, Cecil accused fellow members of Mount Rainier’s City Council, past and present, of “dismissiveness” and “gaslighting” relating to his efforts to push officials in Hyattsville – where the shooting happened – and Prince George’s County to release video of the shooting to the public.
Cecil’s resignation from City Council ends a two-year career in Mount Rainier’s local political discourse. Elected in May 2019, Shand often found himself at odds with his fellow Councilors, and accused Mayor Celina Benitez of stonewalling him.
“Rather than continue to fight this battle from inside of a dysfunctional and inadequately responsive administrative body. I am stepping away,” said Cecil. “My resignation is not the end of my pursuit of justice for Leonard Shand, it’s a continuation of that pursuit”
An investigation into the shooting commissioned by the Prince George’s County State’s Attorney’s Office found police mishandled key aspects of the incident. Ultimately, 10 police officers from departments representing Hyattsville, Prince George’s County, and Mount Rainier shot and killed Shand as he charged toward a line of police officers who had been trying to arrest him as a suspect in an assault several days before. Police and eyewitnesses interviewed in the report said Shand was armed with knives during the encounter, and was holding at least one knife during as he advanced on police. During his final moments, police fired four beanbag rounds, threw a flashbang grenade, and fired a total of 43 bullets at Shand, according to the report.
Among its central findings, the report said the police response to the half-hour walking standoff was poorly managed and uncoordinated. The report noted police failed to request assistance from an available Prince George’s County Mobile Crisis Team. The report also said that communication between Shand and police was “chaotic”, noting up to 12 officers were shouting orders at Shand at various points throughout the incident.
Despite the apparent confusion of the incident, the report ultimately concluded that police were justified when they opened fire on Shand because he was armed as he approached police.
Correction: This story has been updated to properly attribute Cecil’s quote. An earlier version of this article identified the speaker as “Shand”. Route 1 Reporter regrets the error.