Mount Rainier City Council appears favorably disposed to make an official request to Hyattsville city officials for body camera footage from the 2019 police shooting that killed Leonard Shand.
During its Aug. 6, 2020, Mount Rainier City Council meeting, Councilor Scott Cecil said he was planning on making a second request for Hyattsville to provide video filmed during the incident from Hyattsville officers’ body cameras. One Mount Rainier police officer, Damien Graham, was on the scene during the incident, along with 10 other officers from Hyattsville and Prince George’s County who opened fire. In his prior request, Cecil said Mount Rainier government officials should have access to the footage to help them better understand an incident that involved on of its officers.
“I am planning on making a second written request to Hyattsville’s mayor and Council asking them to send the body camera footage. I understand there is an investigation happening, but I don’t personally have a ton of faith in the process,” said Cecil during the meeting.
Cecil’s first request was made without Mount Rainier City Council backing.
Protesting the re-instatement of six city police officers who shot and killed Leonard Shand in September 2019, police reform activists staged a drive-in demonstration in front of Hyattsville’s City Administration Building on Gallatin Street May 4, 2020. The event later prompted Hyattsville City Administrator Tracey Dougals to reveal city officials reviewed the events surrounding Shand’s death and found no violations of internal policies.
“Preliminarily, the [city police] command staff conducted an executive review of the unfortunate death of Mr. Shand and determined that the actions were consistent with departmental policy,” said Douglas during Hyattsville’s May 4, 2020 City Council meeting. “While I know that is of little comfort to the Shand family and friends, the chief made the decision to ensure that the residents had uninterrupted law enforcement services.”
Douglas also said the city has begun to research new technology and equipment that could be used when “non-lethal equipment is not as effective.” The comment is notable because, according to narratives put-forth by county and local police officials, Shand was shot after police tried several times to tase him early in the encounter, all unsuccessful.
“We are awaiting the results of the investigation to glean any knowledge or insight from that, but also in conducting our executive review we did look at the type of equipment that we did use and the type of equipment that we could potentially use in the future,” said Awad, following up on Douglas’ comments. The drive-in demonstration was organized by the group Community Justice, which has accused Prince George’s County law enforcement agencies of systematically aggressive policing of minorities and the poor.
Route 1 Reporter did not witness the event in person, but watched live-streamed videos from activists on the scene as they blocked entrances to the parking lot, honked horns, chanted slogans and made brief speeches excoriating city officials for their decision to re-instate the officers. Hyattsville officials announced mid-April six unnamed officers would be re-instated from administrative duty to full-time active duty to shore-up patrol staffing on the city police force during the coronavirus pandemic.
Hyattsville City Administrator Tracey Douglas addressed the full-duty re-activation of several police officers involved in the still-under-investigation fatal shooting of Leonard Shand in 2019. Douglas’ comments, during Hyattsville’s April 22 City Council meeting, came in response to a prompt from Councilor Joseph Solomon to address the decision, which was conveyed to City Council after its April 6 meeting and disclosed to the media in an April 14 press release. “That was a decision that the chief of police made. It was an important decision. It was a very difficult decision that she grappled with.
Six Hyattsville officers who fatally shot Leonard Shand have been placed back into “full-duty” status, despite an ongoing investigation into the events leading up to Shand’s death. Normally, the officers would remain on “administrative leave” until such an investigation is complete. In press releases issued at the time of Shand’s death in late September 2019, Hyattsville officials identified eight city police officers on the scene of the shooting. Three Prince George’s County officers and one Mount Rainier officer were also present. The announcement said, in a statement attributed to Hyattsville Chief of Police Amal Awad, that the department has “been operating with minimum staffing for more than a year.”
Hyattsville city officials say they are open to allowing Mount Rainier city officials to review video from Hyattsville police body cameras showing the events leading up to the fatal police shooting of Leonard Shand. The move comes after Mount Rainier City Councilor Scott Cecil, speaking during public comment at Hyattsville’s Jan. 6, 2019, City Council meeting, complained that Hyattsville officials had not responded to earlier requests from himself and Mount Rainier Chief of Police Anthony Morgan to review the footage, which had already been screened by Hyattsville city officials to members of Hyattsville’s City Council and to the president of the Prince George’s Count NAACP.
“Many local residents were horrified, confused and concerned by this incident. They’re looking for transparency, which is rooted in civilian oversight from each of us,” said Cecil during the meeting. “I’ve reviewed the body camera footage from our officer on two occasions and I’m left with many questions.