Report: Montgomery Co. officer acted reasonably in Gaithersburg shooting

A Montgomery County police officer acted reasonably under the circumstances when he shot and killed a man behaving erratically on a road in Gaithersburg, Maryland, in February, the Howard County State’s Attorney’s Office found.

In a report released Monday, the attorney’s office said it will not charge Deputy Frank Pruitt, who shot 52-year-old Kevin Costlow 12 times on Feb. 6.

According to the report, Montgomery County police responded to a car crash on the 6000 block of Olney Laytonsville Road in Gaithersburg at approximately 8 a.m. on Feb. 6. Witnesses of the crash said a person in a Volkswagen sedan drove erratically and caused one car to swerve off the road into a pole before hitting a second vehicle head-on.

The investigation’s timeline in the report said Pruitt responded to the call. When he arrived, the driver of the Volkswagen, later identified as Costlow, “rushed the deputy and began attacking him with his hands.”

Costlow then picked up a large stick and began hitting Pruitt with it over the head. Pruitt then “gave multiple commands which were disobeyed by the driver and ultimately, the deputy fired multiple rounds striking and killing the driver at the scene.”

In his retelling of events to investigators, Pruitt said after he exited his vehicle, Costlow rushed at him, holding a rosary in his hand, while “yelling something about praying.” The officer said he told Costlow to sit on the curb, but he refused. When Costlow returned to his car, he approached Pruitt with a manila envelope and threw it at him.

Costlow returned to his car as Pruitt tried to approach him again. However, Costlow rushed back at the officer, knocking off his hat and mask.

During their encounter, Pruitt recalls Costlow picking up two sticks and began swinging at him. However, in the conclusion of the report, the attorney’s office found one stick to have been used.

Before shooting Costlow, Pruitt said he attempted to use his taser, but it already been used and no longer an option. Pruitt then said he drew his handgun and told Costlow to drop the stick but he “did not comply,” and continued to swing the sticks.

The officer said Costlow began “growling” and was not using any coherent words before he swung the objects to hit Pruitt again. The officer then shot at Costlow two times.

Following the first shooting, Pruitt said Costlow got a smirk on his face and kept coming at him. Pruitt continued to fire his gun and thought to himself, “why is he still coming?” Pruitt stated it wasn’t until he fired for the 12th time that Costlow “finally fell to the ground,” the report said.

Several witnesses to the incident described Costlow’s behavior as “crazy” and “very agitated.”
Costlow’s brother, Steve Costlow, told investigators he had suffered a “psychotic break.” According to the report, Costlow’s wife, Vera Costlow, was afraid for her safety because of his behavior leading up to the Feb. 6 incident.

“Vera had told Steve that Kevin was home naked on the floor and screaming that he was Jesus and that ‘they are going to crucify me,'” the report said. “Vera further iterated that Kevin called Vera the devil and said he was hearing voices. Vera told Steve that she was afraid for her safety because of Kevin’s behavior.”

Vera Costlow said Costlow had been in a recent car accident and took medication for a previous injury.

The autopsy revealed that Costlow did not have drugs or alcohol in his system.

Pruitt told investigators he attempted to turn on his body camera, but it failed to turn on. Two cell phone videos were taken of the incident.

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