Police in Prince George’s County, Maryland, are investigating how a video showing a former NBA player in handcuffs was released on social media after they learned that an officer had recorded it.
The person in the video has been identified as Delonte West, who played for the Boston Celtics, Seattle SuperSonics, Cleveland Cavaliers and Dallas Mavericks.
Prince George’s County police Chief Hank Stawinski said he believes the video was shot using a cellphone, but he is not yet sure if it was a personal phone. The officer who took the video has been suspended as police conduct an internal investigation.
“It’s irresponsible for (the video) taken by a Prince George’s County police officer to be in the public’s hands. In my view, I own that, this department owns that,” Stawinski said in a news conference Tuesday.
In a since-deleted tweet, the video shows West sitting on the curb in handcuffs after he was involved in a fight with another man. He responds to a person asking him what happened and says that he was walking down the street when a man with a gun approached him. Police did not find a weapon. West, who is shirtless in the video, continues talking, using many expletives.
Stawinski, who did not name West, said the video was evidence, and it was irresponsible for it to be in the hands of the public, particularly if the individuals being identified are still subject to an investigation.
It all started around 9:45 a.m. Monday, when police responded to a report of a fight between two men in the 6700 block of Oxon Hill Road in Oxon Hill, Maryland.
By the time police arrived, the men had already separated and were no longer fighting. Police saw that one of the men was bleeding from the face, and an officer handcuffed the second man while police investigated the scene.
Police spoke to both men and a witness. The witness said that she saw both men fighting and told police that the man who was handcuffed hit the other man first with a glass bottle several times. The other man then struck back.
The men knew each other, police said, and they had been involved in a separate dispute earlier that day.
Another video taken by a witness shows the two men fighting. Stawinski said that what is shown in the witness video did not match the statement of a witness, who said that the man in handcuffs started the fight.
Stawinski said that police were unable to determine who was responsible for the fight after interviewing the two men and an independent witness.
Both men refused medical help, and they did not want to be taken to a hospital. They also refused to press charges against each other. Stawinski characterized them as “uncooperative with the investigation.” They were then both released from the scene.
Stawinski said that the on-scene supervisor could not substantiate that the handcuffed man was a threat to himself or to others, which is why he was not taken into custody or to a medical facility for emergency evaluation.
He said that the officer’s video was taken when police first arrived, and by the end of the 45-minute investigation, the man in handcuffs was “lucid, calm, communicating and able to answer questions.”
Stawinski said that he has asked investigators to re-engage with the two men to get their perspective on the fight.
West, an Eleanor Roosevelt High School alum, was last with the Dallas Mavericks for the 2011-12 season. He told The Washington Post that he was diagnosed with bipolar disorder in 2008. In 2009, he was arrested on gun and traffic charges in Prince George’s County.
WTOP’s Dick Uliano contributed to this story.
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