Four Montgomery County, Maryland, police officers involved in the fatal shooting of a man who pointed a gun at them during a traffic stop in downtown Silver Spring late last year will not face charges.
The officers had stopped a white Mercedes connected to a shooting outside a Silver Spring restaurant in the early morning hours of Dec. 29, 2021, when Osman Sesay, 27, climbed out of the back seat against officers’ commands and pointed a Glock handgun at them, according to an investigation carried out by the Independent Investigations Divisions of the Maryland Attorney General’s office. The unit investigates Maryland deaths at the hands of the police.
The shooting was captured on a body-worn camera.
The Howard County State’s Attorney’s Office said it will not file charges against any of the officers.
“Based upon a thorough review of the report it is the opinion of the Howard County State’s Attorney’s Office that the actions of the shooting officers on December 29, 2021 were reasonable under the circumstances,” according to a statement attached to the report. “Accordingly, the Office of the State’s Attorney for Howard County declines to file charges against the involved officers.”
As part of an agreement between the two counties, the state’s attorneys in Howard and Montgomery County review fatal police shootings in each other’s jurisdictions.
The events leading up to the shooting began unfolding shortly after 4 a.m. on Dec. 29, when a fight broke out at the Sweet Sweet Kitchen on Bonifant Avenue in Silver Spring.
An off-duty officer who happened to be picking up something to eat saw a commotion and radioed for additional police. At some point in the “chaotic scene,” a gunshot was fired, and a man was wounded.
Bystanders told the off-duty officer the gunshot came from a white Mercedes, which fled the scene, according to the report.
Shortly before 4:30 a.m., officers spotted the Mercedes in the area of Wayne Avenue and Dartmouth Avenue — about a half-mile away from the restaurant.
After one officer initiated the stop, additional backup units arrived until there were four officers at the scene. Using the public address system, one of the officers instructed the car’s occupants to put their hands out the windows. At that moment, the rear passenger side suddenly opened, and Sesay stepped out and pointed the Glock in the direction of the officers.
Four officers opened fire, firing more than 30 rounds. Sesay was struck three times, according to the report.
From the body-worn camera footage, it’s unclear whether Sesay ever fired his gun after pointing it at officers, but the report said it is unlikely since no cartridge casings linked to the Glock were found at the scene and it was found to be jammed with a live round, which would have prevented it from firing.
Investigators were, however, able to link Sesay’s Glock to the shooting at the Sweet Sweet Kitchen, suggesting it became jammed after that.
The other passenger in the white Mercedes told investigators that after being pulled over, Sesay wanted them to drive away from police and said multiple times that he could not go back to jail, according to a summary of her interview included in the report. Sesay then said, “I love you guys” and got out of the back seat.
The four officers who fired their weapons were all members of the 3rd District’s midnight shift. They were identified as:
- Officer Karli Dorsey, who was hired in 2020;
- Officer Eric Kessler, who was hired in 2014;
- Officer Nathan Lenhart, who was hired in 2013; and
- Officer Dennis Tejada, who was hired in 2006.
All of the officers are white and Sesay was Black.
The attorney general’s report doesn’t make recommendations on prosecuting officers but said it would have been difficult to prove second-degree murder, voluntary manslaughter or misconduct in office charges against any of the officers given the circumstances.
“In this case, based on the available evidence, it would be difficult for the State to prove that the involved officers did not act in self-defense or pursuant to law-enforcement justification,” the report stated. “The available evidence shows that Mr. Sesay refused to comply with officer instructions during the traffic stop by exiting the car, and that he raised and aimed a firearm directly at officers. Mr. Sesay’s actions are visible on BWC, and the loaded firearm found near his body had Mr. Sesay’s DNA on it. Even if Mr. Sesay did not actually fire his firearm … the very act of pointing the gun at officers threatened them with serious bodily harm. Mr. Sesay was the initial aggressor, and officers had no lesser level of force available that would have been appropriate.”
The report concluded: “The available evidence suggests that the involved officers’ use of lethal force was consistent with departmental policy and otherwise reasonable under the circumstances.”